Water quality is a high priority for Melissa Jenkin if she's elected to the Cayuga County Legislature. It's such an important issue for her that she created a ballot line to advocate for safe drinking water.
Jenkin, 39, will appear on the Democratic and Lake party lines in the District 5 race. The incumbent is Legislator Paul Pinckney, a Republican, who is seeking a third four-year term.
The district is comprised of Aurelius and Fleming. The towns are located on or near two Finger Lakes: Owasco, which provides drinking water to 50,000 residents in the Auburn area, and Cayuga. Both lakes have been affected by water quality issues, such as blue-green algae and the invasive weed hydrilla.
Jenkin believes there needs to be more education and outreach about how the county, especially local residents, can help improve water quality.
"Most people do not even know that there is already rules and regulations for the watershed, but then what are they?" she said. "Most people don't dive into these big documents that have all these rules and regulations."
There are other items on Jenkin's agenda if she's elected. Infrastructure and roads are a priority. She wants to implement a strategic plan to improve the county's highways and fund water and sewer infrastructure improvements.
She also wants to keep taxes down and support economic development efforts. The county, using revenue from the Oneida Indian Nation's exclusive gaming zone, provides funding to the Cayuga Economic Development Agency. She wants that aid to continue.
Jenkin is a political newcomer. She has been employed as a program coordinator for the Central Southern Tier Regional Adult Education Network at Cayuga Community College. The agency oversees 23 adult education programs in central New York.
She detailed her work in a candidate questionnaire submitted to The Citizen. The programs help adults obtain the necessary education and training for careers and provide employers with skilled workers.
"It is through this experience that I have an intimate knowledge of the importance of maintaining a skilled workforce for our local businesses, providing education and training to high-risk, at-need populations in our communities, as well as the detailed workings of grant writing and meeting funding requirements," she wrote.
If elected to the county Legislature, she said her biggest motivation would be her son, Rielly. She wants to ensure that he can live and work in Cayuga County when he is an adult. Having a young child, she said, changed her perspective.
She's also motivated to give back by serving in county government.
"We're all in this together. We're a community," she said. "My neighbors and friends, you look at these people every day and you don't want them to move away because they have nowhere to work or they can't drink the water."