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Former State Trooper Running For Cohoes Mayor

Flanked by family, Bill Keeler makes it official.
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
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Flanked by family, Bill Keeler makes it official.

A retired New York State Police troop commander has entered the race for mayor of Cohoes.

Pledging to restore honor and integrity to city government, former State Police Major Bill Keeler announced his candidacy for mayor Tuesday.   "I'm not running for the money or the title. I passed up a raise and a promotion when I left the state police. I'm not running against any individual. I'm running for Cohoes."

Keeler, who began his law enforcement career as a patrolman in Cohoes, served 30 years with the New York State Police and retired after a stint commanding Troop G.

The lifelong Cohoes resident, who turns 56 in February, is up against first-term Mayor Shawn Morse in the June 25th Democratic primary in the Albany County city of about 16,000 people, where the primary generally serves as the de facto election.

Morse kicked off his reelection bid last week, opening with a non-specific apology.  The embattled mayor is the subject of domestic violence allegations and has ignored calls to resign from party officials including Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan and Governor Andrew Cuomo. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said during a recent visit to the city he wouldn’t back Morse.

Keeler says Cohoes is facing an image problem...   "And the first step to removing the black cloud over the city is removing the mayor."

Morse also is the subject of an FBI investigation into his campaign spending. City Councilor Randy Koniowka, a Morse critic, says he's halting his mayoral bid and backing Keeler.   "I'm proud to support Bill. I put my own ambitions aside for the good of the city of Cohoes and Bill's the guy we need."

It’s not just personal conduct Keeler takes issue with, however. Keeler accuses Morse of taking credit for initiatives begun and mostly done through the efforts or previous mayors. Keeler vows to get the Cohoes Community Center re-opened, remove politics from the police department and put the city on a steadier financial path.     "I have a front row view of a lot of the economic activity from my seat on the IDA board, and I can tell you, when the mayor says he's not raising taxes, he hasn't had to. Sales tax revenue is up dramatically. The economy is humming. We've got about a million dollars a year coming in through sales tax revenue. More than we used to have. When the mayor came in there was a $400,000 pot of cash which was set aside for a retirement fund, and that has been depleted by giving $50,000 to Pioneer to locate a branch office a block, a city block away from another bank, two city blocks away from a credit union. This mayor is somewhat of a reverse Robin Hood. He takes money from the poor people of Cohoes and he gives it to bankers and wealthy political donors."

Keeler also contends money poured into the Cohoes Music Hall has come from floating bonds, which he says could have been put to better use improving infrastructure beyond Remsen Street.

Without giving specifics, Morse kicked off his reelection bid last week with an apology.  Morse was not available for comment, but his campaign posted a statement on Facebook: 

"Welcome to the Mayoral race in Cohoes, Bill Keeler," the statement reads. "May the most qualified candidate for Mayor with the best experience delivering solutions for years for the citizens of Cohoes win!"

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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