Tupper Lake supervisor race between Gillis, Dattola in November
McClain, Shaheen run for two open village board seats
TUPPER LAKE — After Republican and Conservative caucuses for town and village seats were held in recent weeks, the local election ballots are taking shape. There will be a contested race for town supervisor on the ballot Nov. 8, two currently uncontested candidates for two open village trustee seats and a currently uncontested candidate for town justice.
Tupper Lake Supply owner Rick Dattola was nominated to run for town supervisor on the Conservative Party line at a caucus last month, and last week, town Councilman John Gillis was nominated to represent the Republican party line in the race for town supervisor.
Gillis is registered as a Democrat, and will seek his party’s endorsement at a caucus on Thursday.
The supervisor seat carries a three-year term this election. Clint Hollingsworth was elected to lead the town in last year’s election, but died in February after a battle with cancer. The election this year is for the remainder of his unexpired term.
There are two seats open on the village board.
Incumbent Trustee Jason McClain is running for a second term on the board.
Eric Shaheen is running for the other seat. Shaheen ran for village board in 2020, but voters elected Hollingsworth and McClain that year. He also ran for village mayor in 2021, losing to Paul Maroun by a margin of 16 votes when absentee and affidavit ballots were opened, two weeks after Election Night results ended in a tie. Shaheen also got the Conservative Party line nomination at its caucus.
One of the village seats is open because Trustee Ron LaScala is not running for reelection — again. LaScala didn’t run in last year’s election, saying he was tired of politics, but when there was a vacany left on the board by Hollingsworth, who was elected as town supervisor, LaScala agreed to return for the remainder of the year after being appointed by Mayor Paul Maroun.
Franklin County Republican election Commissioner Tracy Sparks said the deadline for independent petitions for town and village elections has passed, so all that remains before the ballots for the November election are set is the town Democratic caucus later this week.
John Quinn, the “ad hoc” chair of the Tupper Lake Democratic Party, said the party will hold a caucus for the town positions on Thursday, June 30. The caucus will be held at 7 p.m. at the Aaron Maddox Hall at 179 Demars Blvd.
Quinn said he doesn’t know of any plans for the Democrats to hold a caucus for the village election.
There is also currently an uncontested race for town justice, with incumbent Leonard Young seeking reelection to the seat he’s held for over two decades. He’s also worked or is currently working as the justice for a variety of other towns in the region. Young has the Republican and Conservative party nominations on the ballot currently.
Dattola said he wanted to run because he was a big supporter of Hollingsworth and spoke with the late supervisor often.
He said Hollingsworth often talked about working together with the village and the school district to create economic development for the whole Tupper Lake community.
“When Clint passed away I felt that I wanted to fill his shoes and work for that,” Dattola said.
He feels he has the same outlook on town government that Hollingsworth did.
Dattola is a member of the Tupper Lake Business Group, which is proposing several recreation development projects, including mountain bike, ski and snowmobile trails. Dattola said his friends tell him he’s naive for believing he can get everyone to work together, but he wants to give it a shot.
Dattola said he believes he’s the most qualified candidate and will “put Tupper Lake first.”
Dattola was on the town board from 1996 to 2004, so he said he’s familiar with the town government.
Gillis said he’s running because people he works with on the town council, and members of the public, have asked him to run, telling him they think he’s doing a good job in his six months on the board so far.
Gillis had support from the board at last week’s caucus. Interim town Supervisor Mary Fontana nominated him at the caucus and town Councilwoman Tracy Luton seconded the nomination.
Gillis was elected to the town board last November, running on a platform of precise budgeting, supporting economic development and keeping Tupper Lake a working class town with affordable housing.
He said those issues are still what he’s working on and he wants to focus on housing a lot more in the future. Gillis said there’s not a housing crisis yet in Tupper Lake, but it is getting close to having one.
Earlier this month, he brought the topic of regulating and registering vacation rentals to the board.
He said Dattola would do a good job as supervisor, but he wants to be the one to lead the town.
Gillis said he is self-employed as a woodworker and “semi-retired,” so can put time into the job — whether that is helping install a fence at Setting Pole Dam on Friday or going to the Common Ground Alliance’s summer forum last week.
He said the job has an open description, so he wants to “go big.”
McClain said he’s running for two more years on the village board because though he believes Tupper Lake is moving in a good direction and growing, he’s worried that the village is in a tough spot financially and if it isn’t able to work with the town, the village faces going “broke.”
He said he doesn’t see anything left to cut in the village budget.
“Not one department added anything crazy to (the latest budget). The cost of business went up as it does, and still, we looked at a 5% increase,” McClain said.
The village’s latest budget carried a 5.097% tax levy increase.
The most effective solution McClain sees is getting the town to contribute more money toward the police contract it holds with the village police department.
LaScala has been spearheading this push for years, and now that he’s leaving the board, McClain hopes to pick up that mantle and work with the town more.
“We really need to work together or we’re going to lose some of our services,” he said.
McClain feels town taxpayers he talks to are open to this.
“The village would be in a much better financial situation if we had more assistance from the town for that service,” he said.
One-third of the village’s budget goes toward its police department, and Tupper Lake needs police, he said. Recently, because of low staff levels at the department, police have only been on duty for 12 hours a day, instead of 24.
He also said the village has a lot to do — so much that he wonders if the board should meet twice a month like the village of Saranac Lake does. McClain works for Adirondack Health.
Shaheen is running on a platform of working for the taxpayers with no “hidden agendas.” He told the caucus attendees that as the owner of E&M Enterprises General Contracting, he believes he can bring business knowledge to the board. Shaheen said the village is in bad shape, comparing it to a bus the wheels have fallen off of.
He said he’s the one to put the wheels back on.
Voters will head to the polls on Election Day, Nov. 8. Polls on that day will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Early voting stations will also be open at the Franklin County Courthouse — 355 West Main St., Suite 161, Malone — from Oct. 29 to Nov. 6, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 1 and 3, the offices will be open from 12 to 8 p.m.
The last day to apply for registration to vote in this election is Oct. 14 and applications by mail must be received by Oct. 19.
The last day to change an voter address is Oct. 19.
The last day to mail an absentee ballot application is Oct. 24. The last day to deliver an absentee ballot application in person at the county offices in Malone is Nov. 7.
Absentee ballots for the Nov. 8 election must reach the county board of election by close of the polls on Election Day or be postmarked no later than the day of the election and received by Nov. 15.