Gary Kutcher

Gary Kutcher

Gary Kutcher, a longtime community activist who in 2011 returned to Woodstock, where he grew up, after residing for more than three decades in Oregon, announced this week that he will seek a seat on the Town Board in the fall election.

Kutcher’s candidacy creates — for the time being, at least — a three-way race for two upcoming vacancies on the council. The other declared candidates are incumbent Town Board members Cathy Magarelli and Bill McKenna, whose current terms expire at the end of the year.

All three candidates are enrolled Democrats who plan to compete in the party’s primary on September 10. The Woodstock Republican Committee will choose its party’s nominees for local office at a caucus; the date has yet to be announced. The general election is scheduled to take place on November 5.

In a May 14 interview Kutcher, 58, cited his strong opposition to three proposed actions related to energy development and the environment — hydrofracking; the acquisition of Central Hudson by a Canadian utility company, Fortis Inc.; and a renewal of the operating license for the Indian Point nuclear plant — as pillars of his campaign platform. Kutcher, who produces a weekly program on Woodstock’s public access TV channel, would also seek to stimulate participation in community television, as he previously did in Eugene, Ore.

The candidate graduated from Onteora High School in 1973 before leaving to attend Reed College, in Portland, Ore. He returned to Woodstock in 1975 and remained until 1979, working for a year at the Catskill Center for Photography, as it was then known, under the federal CETA program. He subsequently settled in Oregon, moving to Eugene from Portland in 1981.

A journalist, photographer, and video producer who is currently serving as his mother’s full-time caregiver, Kutcher worked in Oregon as a community organizer in support of affordable utility rates; as the executive director of the Sustainable Forestry Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the state’s forests and wildlife; and as a volunteer with various civic groups. He ran, unsuccessfully, for public office on five occasions, including a 1996 race for the U.S. Senate as the nominee of the Pacific Green Party.

 

Father’s influence

Kutcher credited his father, Mike, with inspiring his own activism. Mike Kutcher, a longtime Woodstock resident who died in 2001, had a prominent role in various local affairs, including the debate that accompanied the installation of the town’s sewer system in the 1980s. As a teenager, said Gary, his political jousts with Mike invariably ended with a paternal challenge: It’s fine to talk, but what are you going to do about the problem?