SARANAC LAKE - If village Democrats decide to endorse Clyde Rabideau as their candidate for mayor in the upcoming village election, incumbent Mayor Tom Michael says he won't get in the way.
"I've offered to run again and serve four more years," Michael said Tuesday night at a village Democratic committee meeting in the Harrietstown Town Hall. "If Clyde decides he wants to run, and the caucus wants to nominate Clyde, I will step aside and support him. I have other things I can do in life."
Michael, who had met with Rabideau earlier in the day, said he wanted to avoid a "battle royale" at the Jan. 26 Democratic caucus. He also spoke highly of Rabideau, who served 10 years as mayor of the city of Plattsburgh, ran for lieutenant governor in 1998 and now is interested in running for Saranac Lake's top elected office.
Local Democrats meet in the Harrietstown Town Hall Tuesday night to discuss the upcoming Saranac Lake village election.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
"I believe we need a strong person in the mayor's seat who can go to Washington and Albany," Michael said. "The issues in Saranac Lake are not 1-square-mile issues. They're global, state and national issues. I think Clyde has the contacts and the experience to do that, just as I've done the last four years."
Rabideau also spoke to the group of roughly a dozen Democrats who attended the meeting. He gave a strong endorsement of Michael and the current slate of Democrats on the village board while at the same time outlining what sounded like his election platform.
"Tom Michael is an honorable, earnest and very hard-working fellow for himself, his family and this village," Rabideau said. "Whatever his decision is, I will support him as well. We both want to do what's best for the village."
Rabideau said Michael and the current village administration have accomplished a lot without much fanfare, such as lowering taxes in the current budget, improving infrastructure and implementing good management practices for the village.
Rabideau, president of Rabideau Corp., a Saranac Lake-based construction company, moved to the village full-time six years ago. He described himself as one of several people who've come to Saranac Lake and made an investment in the community.
"Some people resent those who make things happen," he said. "But you need investors here. You need people with vision. You need people to make things happen."
Rabideau talked at length about preserving the village's downtown and said he believes strongly in smart and sustainable growth, not "knee-jerk growth." He said the village needs to do everything it can to retain the jobs it has from major local employers like Adirondack Medical Center and the American Management Association. He also called for better cooperation and more sharing of services between the village and the town of Harrietstown.
Michael didn't lay out the specifics of his platform Tuesday night, although he said the village has lowered taxes and improved personnel management during his tenure. He'll likely spell out what he considers as his accomplishments at the Democratic caucus.
The Democrats who attended the meeting stressed they need three strong candidates who can work together as a team. In addition to mayor, the trustee positions held by Democrats Susan Waters and Christy Fontana are up for a vote. Waters is running again while Fontana is not.
There are also two village justice positions on the ballot, one of which is held by Democrat Paul Herrmann, who plans to seek re-election.
Franklin County Democratic Party Chairman Joe Pickreign said the "talk on the street" is that people are looking for change in village government.
Michael said that's what people are saying across the state and the country.
"No one's happy with government anywhere," he said. "But we have to show the public everything we have done and what we'll do going forward. I think that's what the election is coming down to."
After the meeting, Rabideau told the Enterprise that he'll continue to talk to Michael about the upcoming caucus. He didn't rule out the possibility of running for one of the two trustee seats.
Rabideau was also asked why he's decided to get back into politics after a 10-year hiatus.
"I have deep feelings for Saranac Lake," he said. "I have a different perspective because I lived elsewhere. I understand all the unique qualities of this village and its potential. We've got to make sure we preserve it."
Since leaving office as Plattsburgh's mayor in 1999, Rabideau has made headlines for different reasons. He was charged with attempted assault in April 2000 for allegedly pushing his 17-year-old daughter down a flight of stairs and punching her in the head. The charges were dropped after he agreed to stay out of trouble and continue counseling.
He said the circumstances surrounding the assault case were "blown out of proportion."
"Everything was dropped once the facts were made known," he said. "It caused hardship on the family. But we've put it behind us."
Rabideau was also arrested for driving while intoxicated in Saranac Lake six years ago. He called it a "dumb mistake" that he deeply regrets.
"I've changed my life since then," he said.
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org