Who will be the new mayor of Saranac Lake? | News, Sports, Jobs
SARANAC LAKE – So far two candidates have thrown their hats into the ring to run for mayor of Saranac Lake – current board member and deputy mayor Melinda Little and CEO of the Development Agency Franklin County industrialist, Jeremy Evans.
The candidates have a lot in common. They both moved to Saranac Lake a few years ago, fell in love and made it their home. both see the village at one “crossroads” which must be carefully navigated to head in the best direction; both are very involved volunteers who spend their free time studying community issues; both are members of the village housing task force; both see housing as one of their main problems; both want to revamp the way the village interacts with the public; and both admit that it’s kind of crazy to want to run for mayor right now.
They have past experiences, views on current village government, and different approaches to what it means to be mayor.
The election is March 15.
Little said she had thought about running for a year. She wants to finish what she started and believes that leading the village will allow her to complete these projects.
By running for mayor, she leaves an opportunity to stand for re-election to the village council. If she is not elected mayor, she will have to leave the village government. Little has been asked what makes him want to take this risk.
“Because I think I can be effective as a leader” she said. “This is going to sound really stupid, but I really, really love this community.
“At this time in the history and evolution of Saranac Lake, I think a different style is needed, and I think my style is well suited for that,” she said.
Last summer, the village mayor, Clyde Rabideau, announced that he would not run for re-election to the seat.
“I think Clyde has done a lot of really good things for the village. He was a great cheerleader,” Little said. “My style is a bit more low key and background, but I’m also pretty good at bringing groups of people together.”
She said she would like to work more with Harrietstown.
“I think I’m more inclusive by nature than the current mayor…I think I’m more open to being open,” she said.
He was asked about people who wanted to see “fresh faces” on the board. Little said she’s been there for a term — not forever — but long enough for her to grow.
“Don’t neglect the experience,” she said.
As potential mayor, Little said she would like to focus on filling empty downtown storefronts, increasing housing, and creating various village advisory councils that are more inclusive in terms of race and gender. cultural origin.
Little says housing is a “priority” for her. She has been the head of the village’s housing task force for several years now. This group’s housing plan, a broad research and solutions effort, was approved by the village last week.
She feels that it is urgent to act.
Evans said it’s been an exciting time to live in Saranac Lake, but also a crucial time. As the village grew, he said its attractive image came at a cost.
He said people fear the attention and growth will undermine their sense of community. They face a lack of affordable housing, good jobs, and want more businesses that provide what they need at affordable prices.
“They fear being left behind, that growth will not benefit them,” said Evans.
They have every right to worry about it, he said.
“The landscape is littered with communities that have had a certain way of life for a long time, then something happens that triggers growth, and then it’s lost,” he said.
Some communities missed opportunities and others missed a good thing. Finding the balance is difficult, he says, but growth must benefit the people who have made this village the resort it is.
The village council and the mayor set the tone, he said – positive or negative.
“I think I can be useful” said Evans.
Evans believes he can bring “empathy” at work.
“Have the patience to listen and understand where people are coming from, and not just see them as naysayers who don’t want any change,” he said.
Evans said the village should make sure the Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant projects funded by a $10 million state grant deliver the transformation they promise.
Evans previously worked for the village. Spending nine years as Director of Community Development has been a “dream job,” he said.
In this work, he saw shimmering dreams and harsh reality.
He has seen major economic and community development projects come to fruition and met people who “Struggle a lot” with the challenges of life. He remembers meeting an elderly woman who was heating her apartment with her stove because her landlord hadn’t repaired her heating.
These meetings would make him crack “back to reality,” he said.
He wondered if the great things the village was doing helped people like in these situations.
He said the village cannot solve the national and global issues affecting Lake Saranac — housing, climate change and poverty — but their local impacts are not beyond the village’s control.
“Almost all the problems that communities face have been faced by other communities,” said Evans.
The village needs to investigate how it handled these issues, he said, but don’t take too long.
“Act Boldly” he said. “We can’t study these things for 10 years. We are not 10 years old.
Little said she is “very concerned” on vacation rentals.
“Last week I received an email from a couple and their children who are afraid that they will have to leave their long-term rental because their landlord wants to make it a short-term rental,” she said.
It supports a registry of STRs in the village, with rules governing operations at these locations to maintain neighborhoods.
“They invaded our neighborhoods” Little said. “I’m all for free enterprise, (but)…I think there’s a distinction between people who do it to make a little extra cash on the side to survive…and those who do it. do commercially.”
She wants to prioritize people who rent rooms on site, not people who convert apartments into investment properties.
“Short-term rentals have the ability to bring a lot of good to the community, but they can also come with a lot of cost,” said Evans.
He said he applauds the village community for having a “proactive” discussion of STRs before there is a problem. He said he was against a ban on vacation rentals, but said reasonable regulations were needed to maintain their positive impact.
He also said neighborhoods are also worried about long-term rentals. He said he would like the village to be more “fix” and amend its codes to address these concerns.
Little said the village police reform report was the “desire” in the region last year, but that the interface committee with the village police still has work to do.
She wants to be a policeman “more accessible and less intimidating”, and believes that communication is the best way.
“There are people who feel very intimidated by the police in their uniforms and their weapons,” Little said. “I think it’s important to try to find opportunities for more casual interaction.”
The village is currently looking to hire a new police chief, and has been for several months. After Acting Chief Leigh Wenske retired last month, the village appointed Sergeant and Village Manager John Sweeney to take administrative control of the department until a hiring could be made. Evans said this indicates “a department in crisis”.
” How did we get there ? » he wrote on his Facebook campaign page. “How is it possible that a department which represents nearly 29% of the village budget is in such disarray?”
Little said she thinks this problem is caused more by the salary and housing issues of recruiting new recruits here.
Evans said the Saranac Lakers are more engaged than the average community, and he loves it. He said people want to know how decisions are made, to see the data and they want to learn.
He proposes that the village publish budgets, plans and financial data online and regularly review laws and policies.
Little said she had heard criticism of the board and also wanted to increase communication.
“It’s good to be pushed. Even if we all hate it, that’s good, because then we get better,” Little said. “I think about it a lot, and it’s just life in general, comes down to communication.”
She would like to start asking village department heads to attend board meetings and report back at each meeting. “putting a face to the name.”
Evans was asked if his work at IDA would ever put him in an odd position as mayor and whether he should recuse himself from potential votes that the village accept IDA grants.
“I would never say that it is not possible” he said. “But, I’m not worried about that.”
He said IDA has review systems to avoid conflicts of interest. He also sees his job as an asset.
“I know the game and the system. I know the people” he said.
Evans is the supervisor of Village Administrator Kelly Brunette at IDA. Brunette is a candidate for re-election in the elections. Evans was asked if their collaboration conflicts with his push for village transparency.
“If you know us, it would be quite dishonest to say that somehow working together would unduly influence one or the other,” said Evans. “If they really knew any of us, they would know how much time we spent thinking about the off hours in the village.”
He said Brunette is a “independent thinker”.
Caucus and petition deadlines
Evans had been registered as a Republican until November 14, when he amended his registration to be independent of any party. He said he had been thinking about it for a while and that at the start of his campaign he liked the idea of running as an independent.
Evans said he wanted to focus on village issues, not state or national debates in which the two main parties are engaged.
It was also a strategic decision. He said some people just vote by party affiliation and he wants their votes.
The Republican caucus will be held January 24 at 6 p.m. at Say Real Estate, 87 River St.
The Democratic caucus will be held Jan. 25 at 6 p.m. at the North Country Community College Sparks Athletic Complex gymnasium.
The deadline for independent candidates to submit petitions is February 8.