SARANAC LAKE - The Franklin County Republican Party has a new chief.
On Tuesday, Saranac Lake resident Ray Scollin was elected chairman of the party. He was chosen to fill the unexpired term of Rolland Thomas, who recently resigned. The term will expire in August 2014.
Scollin, 55, said he's been a die-hard Republican for 36 years and has worked on Republican committees for 26 years.
(Enterprise file photo — Chris Morris)
"My biggest goal in taking this position over is to offer integrity and fairness," Scollin said. "If you don't have integrity, you might as well step aside. I believe in relationship building, and I believe in a common, respectful dialogue with everybody. I want to be part of solving the issues, not digging a foxhole and staying there."
Tackling issues is easier when others are involved. Scollin said he'd like to renew people's interest in politics, particularly young people.
"It's the millennials' turn, and I'm looking at all these things going on - the lack of civic responsibility, the lack of voting and the general apathy," Scollin said. "I mean, we've encouraged people to go to college and assume this debt, and then we're not providing the employment opportunities that would help the next generation take over. My goal is to start getting more young people into the two-party system and have them start applying new techniques, new technology and new voices to the debate. I think you'll make the country stronger as a whole."
Scollin said the two-party system is here to stay.
"I think the Democrat party is an honorable party that believes in equality and I think the Republicans are an honorable party that believes in liberty," Scollin said. "To simplify that, it's about outcome versus opportunity. I totally value the Republican values."
Scollin said a difference in ideals doesn't mean both sides can't work together. He added that his relationship with his son, Matt, is indicative of the kind of cooperation he'd like to see between the parties.
Matt works for U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, out of his Glens Falls office. When Matt was on the campaign committee for Owens, Ray Scollin was working as the Franklin County coordinator for Republican Matt Doheny's campaign.
"My kids grew up with the idea that it was OK to debate anything at the kitchen table and everyone's voice was equal," Scollin said. "If anything, we've gotten stronger by having healthy debate. I think the school has to play an active role in encouraging debate, but everyone is kind of afraid of political debate because it gets so ugly in D.C."
Scollin said he wants to take a different approach than his federal counterparts.
"I want to be a pragmatic leader," Scollin said. "There are times you can't compromise, but you can always work toward solution."
Scollin said that sense of cooperation should also occur within the Republican Party.
"Although it's easier to have one or two people working, and doing the majority of the work in the party and making the majority of the decisions, I don't think that's best for any committee," Scollin said. Committees need to be involved right at the grassroots level. You can't rule by committee decision completely. But at the same time, you have to respect and realize that any chairmanship is just one of the offices. I want to open that up. I want the committee to be more open, more transparent."
Even though it's Scollin's first time as the party chairman, it isn't his first time being in charge.
"What I bring to the table is leadership," Scollin said. "I have 23 years in the United States Army Reserve. I retired at the rank of major and the last position I served was a detachment commander."
Scollin also managed two hospital emergency departments and a medevac helicopter program.
Scollin is currently involved in the critical-care transport program at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, Vt., which he managed for a decade in positions as high as executive director.
"I went back in 2006 to patient care because I missed it," Scollin said. "With traveling back and forth between Burlington and Saranac Lake, working three 12-hour shifts as a staff nurse was a great option. So I got out of leadership at the hospital in 2006, but I've continued with the Republican leadership position."
Scollin noted that he's served as the chairman of the Saranac Lake village Republican Committee, vice chairman of the Harrietstown Republican Committee, and has been the state committeeman representing Franklin County at all Republican state committee meetings since 2011.
He was also a member of the Government Restructuring Committee and the village of Saranac Lake Comprehensive Plan Committee.
"What I'm bringing to the party is organization and leadership experience, as well as paying my dues in the Republican Party to learn every aspect so I'd be an informed chairman," Scollin said.
Scollin has also served in a number of civic positions. He was chairman of the village police chief election committee for the current chief, Bruce Nason, and is the chairman of the town of Harrietstown Board of Assessment Review.
"A good politician sees lots of things," Scollin said. "They've got to get out there and see what's going on in the world. I'm going to recruit good candidates so we can get them elected. I'm going to recruit new members to our party, and I think those are the goals of any chairman."