Robert “Roby” Politi has been an excellent North Elba town supervisor these last 12 years, and before that was an excellent mayor of Lake Placid village. He has now presided over his last municipal board meeting, and we wish him well as he spends more time with his grandchildren.
Politi was better than almost any other politician in the region at avoiding party politics and focusing on governance. Despite being personally registered as a Republican, he ran as an independent and acted that way, collaborating with others regardless of whether they were Democrats, Republicans or neither. It’s sad that he and Randy Preston, the Wilmington supervisor who died this year, stood alone in that regard throughout the region.
Why don’t more elected leaders run independently? Many do govern in a (blessedly) nonpartisan manner, but they still have that Republican or Democrat tag attached, and that party’s backing at campaign time. Many do so because they share that party’s ideology and positions pretty much completely. Others have thoughts of higher office and want to make use of the party’s allies.
But when you use a party tag, especially in these divided times, you essentially tell half the voters that you differ from them in fundamental ways.
Politi didn’t do that, and we are grateful.
Of course, not every voter found him to be just like them. A 20-something who cleans hotel rooms and struggles to find an apartment might not find a lot in common with him. He’s one of the baby boom generation, and his real estate firm is one of the region’s largest, with the rich and famous among its customers. He was among those who led the vacation rental market and resisted regulations, which left the door open for Airbnb and its peers to blow it up. As of Friday there were 620 vacation rental units in Lake Placid, according to AirDNA — there were more than 700 this summer. Most of those units probably used to be long-term housing.
Yet we have always found Politi to be a good, sincere listener. He was also a straight shooter who told you what he thought without any gloss. If he found an issue complicated or confusing, he would say so, but he also knew it was important to make a call — one he thought most people would support. He is a natural leader in that way.
He has also been a good leader in that he expects other people to step up. As his fellow board members thanked him at his last meeting last week, the comment that jumped out at us came from Derek Doty, who had run unsuccessfully against Politi and also ran unsuccessfully to succeed him.
“He called on the strength of each of us,” Doty said. “That gives me the most respect for you. That’s what made us an unbeatable board. Thank you for your years.”
Thanks, Roby, for committing many years to honest service of your hometown’s residents. We hope those who run for office in the future use you as a model.