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Transition being prepared as Woolbright steps down Friday in Ballston Spa

Ballston Spa Village Hall
Lucas Willard
Ballston Spa Village Hall

The mayor of Ballston Spa, New York will step down at the end of the week. Mayor Larry Woolbright’s announcement on Monday caught village board members by surprise.

Ballston Spa Mayor Larry Woolbright was elected in March of 2019. He ran unopposed on a platform to address the Saratoga County village’s dire financial situation, and received support from Democrats and his own Republican party, though Woolbright does not consider himself a political person – he even asked local political parties to stay out of this year’s village elections.

But Woolbright surprised village board members on Monday when the lone Republican announced he would step down at the end of the week. Speaking with WAMC, Woolbright said this year’s village elections brought a new dynamic to the village board.

“I was feeling like I was no longer able to make any progress or to move forward with the things that I thought I was important. And it’s a big job, a full-time job, it takes a lot of time and a lot of effort, and it really was taking me away from all of my other activities and all of my other interests,” said Woolbright.

Woolbright, who will return to retirement, said his priorities as mayor did not align with the village board and said his “unproductive relationship” with the board is the reason for his resignation effective October 29th. He said the village is in a good position to address remaining critical issues.

“From our water and sewer systems, to our streets, to our buildings, to our equipment. And I think we need to concentrate on those things first because I think those are the highest priorities and I believe we’re in a good position to be able to do that. But I don’t want to see us get sidetracked by other issues that are less urgent until we get all that stuff straightened out,” said Woolbright.

Woolbright singled out two village board members in his prepared resignation statement, Trustees Liz Kormos and Ben Baskin. Kormos was elected to the board in 2019 along with fellow trustee and Deputy Mayor Christine Fitzpatrick. Baskin was elected earlier this year with Trustee Shawn Raymond. All trustees are Democrats.

WAMC asked Baskin about Woolbright’s criticisms.

“Frankly, I think he wanted to quit and he needed a reason. And we became his scapegoats,” said Baskin.

Baskin thanked Woolbright for his work, particularly in regard to the finances, but said he believes the mayor was simply burnt out.

“The stated reason for leaving, that he didn’t get along with members of the board, just doesn’t add up. First of all, we agreed plenty of times: on the budget, on major priorities and staffing issues. Secondly, disagreeing with your fellow board members is hardly a reason to quit. Disagreement is inevitable. That’s politics, that’s what we all signed up for. There’s no way around the democratic process of hashing things out. Myself, Trustee Kormos, we’ve all had our ideas shot down by other board members. The key is we didn’t quit when that happened,” said Baskin.

Kormos said the village board was preparing a separate statement and would not comment.

Woolbright said he has full confidence in Deputy Mayor Fitzpatrick, who is to serve as acting mayor. Baskin said the village board is working to determine the process of choosing a new mayor.

“We’re working with the New York Conference of Mayors on trying to figure that out and there’s some confusion about what is our official year and when elections need to take place, and we’re still working on that,” said Baskin.

Woolbright also said he was optimistic about the village’s recent hire of a full-time village administrator to work in the mayor’s office and assist with managing the day-to-day.

“We hired a very competent young woman and she’s getting up to speed very rapidly, and my hope is that with that position in place and a good competent person in it, the duties of the mayor would not be so overwhelming and that the mayor and the board concentrate more on policy issues and let the day-to-day operations of the village continue to be run by paid, full-time village staff,” said Woolbright.

Woolbright will step down on Friday as a transition is prepared.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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