SARANAC LAKE - A longtime Harrietstown councilman has opted not to seek re-election.
Barry DeFuria recently informed the Harrietstown Republican Committee that he's decided not to run for a two-year unexpired term on the board, according to an email from committee Chairman Joe Spadaro.
Meanwhile, none of the town's political parties can find anyone to run for a town justice seat. It's only the second time in 20 years that no one has stepped forward to run for an elected position in all of Franklin County, according to county Board of Elections officials.
(Enterprise file photo)
DeFuria won't run
DeFuria, who's been on the town board since 1997, had been nominated for the two-year position at the GOP caucus last month.
He confirmed in an email to the Enterprise that he has declined the nomination and won't run for re-election, but he didn't say why.
DeFuria said he's worked hard to improve the town-owned Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear. He said a pair of recent grants the facility has received "will go a long way to provide better service to the flying public using Cape Air and our general aviation clientele that need heated hangar space.
"I have served on the airport committee since 1998, along with numerous other committees, and believe I will be leaving the airport and the town better than when I started," DeFuria wrote. "I am honored to have worked with an excellent staff in all departments, special place for my boys at the airport and Craig (Donaldson)'s crew at the highway.
"We all owe him thanks for his many years of service and wish him God speed," Spadaro wrote in the email.
A vacancy committee, made up of Spadaro, his wife Sally and fellow Harrietstown Republican Ray Scollin, has picked former Franklin County Legislator Jerry Gillmett to run for the position. Gillmett had been nominated for the two-year seat at the Harrietstown Conservative caucus. He came just a few votes shy of winning the GOP nomination for the two-year seat, Spadaro told the Enterprise Monday.
"Obviously a lot of Republicans at the meeting voted for him, and they thought he'd be a good candidate, and so did we," Spadaro said. "So we proposed it to him, and he accepted."
On Election Day, Nov. 5, Gillmett will square off against Democrat Howard Riley for the two-year seat. That seat is currently held by Jim Murnane and was created after Bob Bevilacqua moved up last year from councilman to supervisor.
There are three candidates running for a pair of four-year seats on the board: incumbent Republican Ron Keough, Republican Patricia Meagher and Democrat Ed Goetz.
Three other people are running uncontested: Bevilacqua, town Clerk Patricia Gillmett and Highway Superintendent Craig Donaldson.
As of Monday, neither the Republicans, Democrats nor Conservatives had found or endorsed a candidate for a four-year town justice seat formerly held by Riley, who stepped down in August.
If no one steps forward to run for it, a candidate could still win the seat by write-in, according to county election commissioners Veronica King and Kelly Cox. If that doesn't happen, the commissioners said it will be up to the town board to decide what to do to fill the position.
"The town would have to make the decision with the town attorney," Cox said.
The board couldn't appoint someone to the position, King said, but it could contract to share a justice from another town or leave the seat vacant until the next election.
Harrietstown town attorney James Maher said Monday he hasn't looked into the town's options if no one runs for or wins the justice seat.
"It would seem to me that if no one runs and there's no write-in candidate, the office would be vacant," he said.
That would leave the town with only one justice, Kenneth McLaughlin, at a time when his workload is about to increase dramatically. Village court is set to dissolve in April of next year, meaning the caseload from the Harrietstown section of the village will fall to town court.
King said the only other time a position went unfilled on the election ballot in her 20 years with the county was three or four years ago when no one stepped forward to run for a town justice seat in Santa Clara. The seat was ultimately won by a write-in candidate, she said.
Why no interest?
Spadaro said the lack of interest in the justice seat may have to do with the challenges of the job, as well as the "scolding" Riley was given recently by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct.
The commission announced in July that Riley's decision to step down resolved misconduct allegations against him that date to 2010. Riley has called the charges against him "misleading," relatively minor and nothing that impacted the outcome of any case he handled. He said he stepped down due to the pending merger of the town and village courts and the retirement of his court clerk.
"People look at that and say, it really is a hard job," Spadaro said. "You have people's lives and futures in your hands, and most of the people who run are not lawyers who understand all the ins and outs of the legal process. It can be intimidating, and nobody wanted to do it. We had a couple people interested, but when they found out about the details, they backed out."
"It's sort of a thankless job," said Harrietstown Democrat Committee Chairman Tom Catillaz. "You've gotta go get trained. The hours are not all that attractive - getting woken up in the night for somebody who's been misbehaving and driving into court. And you end up getting reprimanded for who knows what. That scares people away."
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.