SARANAC LAKE - Bob Bevilacqua won a year as supervisor of the town of Harrietstown by a nearly 300-vote margin Tuesday.
With a strong turnout at the polls, the Republican town councilman collected 1,105 votes to win the last year of a term vacated this spring by Larry Miller. His opponent, Democrat and village Trustee Tom Catillaz, received 819 votes.
A cheer went up in the lower lobby of the town hall, where about 40 of Bevilacqua's supporters were gathered, when the results were announced. Catillaz, who waited with a smaller crowd of backers in the town hall courtroom, came downstairs and shook hands with Bevilacqua.
Bob Bevilacqua, right, shakes hands with Tom Catillaz in the Harrietstown Town Hall Tuesday night after Bevilcqua defeated Catillaz in the race for town supervisor.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
"Bob's a very nice guy, he's capable, and he's going to do a good job," Catillaz told the Enterprise a few minutes later. "He just told me we'll work together, and I believe him, and I'm looking forward to that."
Bevilacqua said he was pleased with the results, and he thanked his supporters.
"I had a heck of a team working with me," he said. "It's very humbling to win an election like this. I'm very happy to come out on top."
Bevilacqua's victory ends what had been an active, costly and, at times, heated race for the town's top elected position. The two campaigns each spent about $6,500, as of 10 days before the election, to try and win the seat.
Catillaz and his supporters ran an aggressive campaign from the early going, sending out numerous news releases and statements, maintaining an active Facebook presence and producing a series of videos. Catillaz challenged the town board on the large property tax hikes it's approved in recent years, the $300,000 operating deficit of the Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear and its inability to bring new tenants to the town-owned Lake Clear business park.
Bevilacqua's campaign wasn't nearly as active at the outset, but he got his message out just the same. Bevilacqua countered that the town's finances were "solid" and said he'd work to keep tax levy increases under the state's 2 percent cap. Like Catillaz, he said he'd cut costs and increases revenue at the airport. Bevilacqua also said the board has "laid the groundwork" at the business park and would work with regional partners to boost economic development in the town.
In late September, the campaign turned "a little nasty," as Bevilacqua put it. The town board, including Bevilacqua, said Catillaz and his supporters were spreading misinformation and half-truths about the town's management of the airport, the business park and the town's financial picture.
Catillaz made no apologies, but the race took an unexpected twist in early October, when Catillaz announced that he was suspending his active campaign due to a serious family medical issue out of state. Ten days later, Catillaz resumed campaigning, saying things had "calmed down a little" in his life.
Asked if the decision to suspend campaigning may have hurt his numbers Tuesday, Catillaz said yes.
"There were still people that didn't know if I was running last week," he said. "That might have hurt a little bit, but there's nothing you can do about that."
Even though he didn't win, Catillaz said he believes his campaign led the town board to "change a few things," such as crafting a 2013 budget with a tax levy increase under the state's cap.
"If you don't run somebody, things get stagnant, and I think we proved that," Catillaz said.
Catillaz said he hasn't decided whether to run next year when the full, four-year supervisor term is on the ballot.
"I don't have any idea right now," he said. "I haven't thought about that. I won't for a long time probably."
Bevilacqua said he felt the results were a "validation of how the town board has been working together.
"There's things we're going to move forward with, and they're the same issues we're going to have every year, like keeping below the 2 percent cap," he said. "We have issues here with the town hall that we've got to get straightened out. The airport's always going to be an issue. We're going to keep moving forward and getting stuff done, like we always do."
Bevilacqua said he also hopes to shore up relations between the village and town and called for joint meetings of the two governments.
Bevilacqua will give up his councilman's seat to become supervisor. The board will have to appoint someone to fill the position until the rest of Bevilacqua's term can be put on the ballot in November of next year.
Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.