Barb Rice is our favorite to represent Franklin County's District 7, which covers the towns of Harrietstown and Franklin.
We also like Ed Randig and Curt Reynolds, who are running against her for this important position, but we think Ms. Rice is more qualified. Overall, we see her as an excellent fit for what the townspeople of Harrietstown and Franklin need their legislator to be.
After 10 years as a physician's assistant - combining personal care with precise problem solving - she returned home to help run her family business, Rice Furniture. There she has developed her long-range budgeting and marketing skills as well as her people skills, which were already top-notch.
Barb Rice speaks with the Enterprise editorial board last week.
(Enterprise photo — Shaun Kittle)
Rice Furniture, founded in 1946, has always been located next door to the Harrietstown Town Hall in downtown Saranac Lake, which may explain why the Rice family has produced so many public servants. It's an outgoing family well known in Saranac Lake for getting involved in public affairs. When Barb ran for the village board in 2012, she was the top vote-getter.
Since then, she has been involved with Saranac Lake's increased focus on marketing itself to potential tourists. Her own efforts ranged from downtown movie nights to taking part in a coalition of oft-disparate groups - village and chamber of commerce, Harrietstown and North Elba, Franklin and Essex counties - that hired the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism to improve Saranac Lake's online outreach to visitors. Tourism marketing is what's on every Franklin County politician's lips these days, but few have actually done it to the level Ms. Rice has.
Her presence on the village board is a major asset if she can manage to juggle all those jobs without going crazy. Unlike current District 7 Legislator Tim Burpoe but like neighboring Legislator Paul Maroun, who is the Tupper Lake village mayor, Ms. Rice will have her village as a local anchor and access point for constituents. We suspect most Franklin County legislators could, potentially, be out of the loop of their district constituents for a week or two, depending on the time of year. To be honest, most local residents tend to forget about them or else not assume they're accessible. But a legislator who's also involved in a village or town government - he or she can't duck out of the loop. In one sense, the same goes for a local store owner: People always know where to find them.
It's an asset for the village to have a county rep on its board, and also for the county to have legislators with more ground-level, working knowledge of local issues. That connection is a main reason why, by the way, we've editorialized in the past that Essex County's board of town supervisors, with voting power weighted by population, is a better model than a separately elected board of legislators - but enough about that for now.
What District 7 needs is someone who strikes a good balance of three things: working well with others, competently taking care of serious business and staunchly sticking up for the part of the county that pays the most in taxes, gets relatively few services and is far, far away from the county seat in Malone.
All three candidates say they want the county board to start holding regular meetings in the south end, but we think Ms. Rice would be best able to make it happen, by virtue of her friendly personality and tenacious energy.
Mr. Randig and Mr. Reynolds are by no means weak candidates, but Ms. Rice seems to have a better understanding of what she'd wade into in Malone and would be better prepared to deal with it.
Ultimately, the south end of Franklin County will gain more sway when its representatives shine brighter than the rest and show the north end how much it needs us. We think Barb Rice is District 7's best chance at that.