PHOENIX — With Election Day less than one week away, Phoenix Mayor Ryan Wood will contend for his office against village trustee Caleb Sweet, Wood’s first challenger since first elected in 2015.
Occupying just over a square mile inside the town of Schroeppel, the village of Phoenix’s roughly 2,400 residents elect their mayor and two trustees every two years, except in the event of a special election. The village contains Lock 1 of the Oswego Canal along the Oswego River and has been an important and historic port along the waterway.
Wood, a 30-year-old teacher at the Center for Instruction, Technology and Innovation in Mexico, said he’s “hopeful” about his chances defending his seat, bringing a message to voters about his continued efforts to lower property taxes and beautify the area with recreational and commercial spaces.
“We’ve done pretty good job the last couple years of stabilizing taxes — we don’t want [residents] to pay more than they have to,” Wood said in an interview Monday. “Land is also a big part of it too, in that we have quite a few parks throughout the village.”
Sweet, 57, is running on the independent “Phoenix First” ballot line and says he’s received support during the petitioning process as an “active public figure in the village,” a frequent patron of local business and former planning board chairman. Sweet is the owner and founder of Sweet Home Improvements, a contracting company.
“The mayor needs to have a face for the public,” Sweet, the grandson of early 20th century Republican congressman Thaddeus C. Sweet, said. “I’m not saying [Wood] does not, but when I was out getting signatures, a lot of people told me they didn’t even know who the mayor was.”
Wood and Sweet previously faced off in 2015 when Sweet ran as a write-in mayoral contender, according the Oswego County Board of Elections, in a three-way race also featuring Democrat Anthony Fratto.
Wood was re-elected unopposed in 2017 and will again appear on the “People’s Choice” independent ballot line. Sweet in 2017 also ran unopposed for village trustee.
Aside from his four years as the village’s elected executive, Wood’s resume includes five years as a village trustee, a role that gave him extensive experience in municipal leadership, he said.
“Everything is not going to get done in a couple years, but we need to have a game plan for moving forward,” he said. “I believe I bring that kind of game plan to the table.”
Creation of a new mixed-use district is on the horizon, Wood said, which he said has been in the “paperwork part” of the project for the past six years, receiving financial support from Canal Core and approval from the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
Emulating waterfront revitalization projects of the cities of Oswego and Fulton, the “Phoenix marina project” includes plans for the construction of a residential and marina district along State Street north-northwest and east of the village wastewater treatment facility totaling an approximated 30 acres, according to the village’s 2017 feasibility study. Wood also advocated for a walking trail around the nearby wetlands.
The village’s feasibility study says “the intent of this project would be to provide an additional a canal-based economic development resource for the community” with the aim to “increase the attractiveness of the village” for entrepreneurs and residents and provide additional opportunities for boaters.
“It would be massively good for the community,” Wood said. “It’s going to take us being creative and creating something that would enhance the property. That’s the long-term goal.”
One of four village trustees, Sweet played a crucial role drafting the marina plan, saying it will bring new economic incentives to the village and alleviate the tax burden imposed on residents.
“We have projects in the works that will beautify the village projects and alleviate the tax base,” Sweet said. "[Phoenix] is a lovely little place, but it’s been abandoned over the years, but I love it.”
Phoenix village elections will be held on next Tuesday, March 19 at the Enterprise Fire Company #1 at 457 Main St. in Phoenix at the rear entrance. Polls will be open from noon until 9 p.m., according to village officials.