Who wants to be mayor?

Bill McLaughlin

I was disappointed when Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau announced that he was retiring from the position and would not be running again in March 2022.

Do we all agree with everything the mayor has accomplished — of course not — that is not a part of our human behavior and that is the way it should be.

I believe the following fits the reign of Mayor Rabideau accurately: “Do nothing, say nothing and be nothing and you’ll never be criticized.” This quote has apparently been misattributed to Aristotle over the years but was, according to Ms. Google, actually penned by writer Elbert Hubbard.

The mayor conducts the board meetings by the rules and honors high school students, veterans and civic groups for their good deeds. How about the 6’ers and you know what, all of that is just the small stuff.

He is an articulate spokesman for the village when meeting with visiting groups. He invited me to attend one such meeting with a delegation from the FISU World University Games scheduled for Lake Placid in 2023.

That event expects to attract 2,500 athletes and coaches, and will be spilling over into Saranac Lake big time.

How about the $10 million revitalization grant for infrastructure and downtown businesses? Need I say more?

In my opinion he has done a great job as mayor.

Politics can be tough, but used to be fun

When I was on the village board we fluoridated the water supply. Angry citizens used to come to my home in the evening ringing the doorbell and giving me hell about it.

Another upset citizen who operated a bait farm showed up at a meeting with a pail of dead fish, which he probably bought frozen at the Grand Union.

I may have told you this story before, but don’t stop me, I want to hear it again.

A dapper, respected businessman appeared at a board meeting to complain about the fluoride in the village water supply and in the middle of his long-winded diatribe, Deputy Mayor Myron Skeels interrupted with: “What do you care, Joe, you haven’t had a drink of water in 20 years.”

Everyone knew everyone back then, and the standing room only crowd broke out in laughter, including the speaker, because all knew that part of his daily routine was enjoying quite a few glasses of ale.

My colleague and good friend, Bill McLaughlin, nailed the village board proceedings with the following column in the Lake Placid News in April, 1977 right after being elected a Saranac Lake village trustee in March.

Standing on the scaffold of public criticism

“The new Saranac Lake Village Board has already entered the world of superlatives. Its organizational meeting was the fastest ever recorded — 12 minutes.

“Does this mean that speed is necessarily the bellweather of accomplishment? The longest official item was the invocation by Rev. Eric King.

“Since priests and ministers have become less liturgical and more involved with the everyday problems of sin control in high places they can be found at APA hearings, hangings in effigy, sports events and, as in Plattsburgh, running the whole show as mayor [the mayor was a priest] or, perhaps puppeteering behind the scenes.

“Father John McAvoy was picked to close the meeting and as such endeared himself to the small but interested audience who hoped some small indication would surface that things were going to be different.

“George Campion, labeled ‘The Sting’ since he lost his bid for the Village Board, has remained in the strategic arena. He was already a fixture at board meetings if only to throw an embarrassing question or two at the mayor or the village manager.

“So George should have been sworn in with the rest of us and taken over the Devil’s Advocate position which was a role the late Tom Cantwell was always fond of playing.

“A good Devil’s Advocate is hard to find and, while it is not the most popular spot in the galaxy of official eminence, it does command respect and even admiration in times of stress.

“What was really missing here was Joe Cavallo. Joe is already famous for his quips. Quips are little barbed pieces of sarcasm or witticisms with the power to embarrass.

“Joe didn’t know he had this inside him all these years. Somehow being in front of an audience will light the fuse for the natural quipper. The Rev. Bernard Fell of the Lake Placid Olympic Organizing Committee made headlines quipping all the way from Africa this week and Lt. Gov. Mary Ann Krupsak quipped her way into the state’s handbook of humor about the pay toilets provided by her boss.

“Joe has gone on record that he will be a regular attendee at the Village Board meetings. Sometimes you get a hanging mob at the meetings and it only takes a garbage issue, loose dogs or some dissatisfaction in one of the departments to put the public in a mean frame of mind.

“They say it’s ‘healthy’ but it is also at times ‘unhealthy’ when you Lare standing on the scaffold of public criticism. Joe only recently ran out in the road on Bloomingdale Avenue to shake a fist at a machine operator who had incurred his wrath in snow removal procedures in front of the Cavallo Restaurant.

“Snow removal has become a vitriolic issue here. And there’s already some thought of appointing a snow-removal commissioner. The man tabbed for this as yet mythical position is Grover Wilson who has evidenced interest in the problem and its solutions. Grover is a heavy equipment tycoon who represented Gallion among other corporate giants and who was the youngest town supervisor in the state of New York when he headed a Hamilton Country township.

“There are no buffer zones between the audience and the board so the trustees and elected or appointed officials are considered fair game. That’s the way it should be too.

“With the blessing of the combined clergy, we will do our honest best.”

Bill reminded me of this story when he mentioned garbage and loose dogs.

Garbage collection used to be part of the village service for your tax dollars when the guys on duty would actually go to your back porch, collect the trash and return the receptacle.

Of course, there were always the jokes … about the woman running down the driveway with a bag of garbage asking “am I too late for the garbage?” And the village worker man answering, “no, hop on.”

Many years ago the Democrats were holding a big dinner in Washington and I happened to be there as Saranac Lake Mayor attending a Rural Services Conference hosted by Sen. Robert Kennedy.

Also by coincidence Jim Loeb, my boss and owner of the Enterprise, was attending the dinner and invited me to join him. The table was directly in front of the head table (there were hundreds in attendance) and Vice President Hubert Humphrey was the guest speaker.

Immediately following his speech, he came down to greet Mr. Loeb, who then immediately introduces me to the VP as mayor of his hometown. I swear, as the vice president put his arm over my shoulder, he says to me, “Mr. Mayor, get out of the job and move on up. I know all your problems are with garbage collection and dogs running loose because those were my biggest problems when I was mayor of Minneapolis.”


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