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Saranac Lake mayoral candidates debate

Saranac Lake welcome sign
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Saranac Lake welcome sign

Last summer Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau announced he would retire at the end of his term after nearly a dozen years. The three candidates running for the part-time seat in next week’s election met Wednesday night in a debate sponsored by grassroots advocacy groups.

Neighbors for Good Government teamed with High Peaks Democratic Socialists of America to organize the debate between Stronger Saranac Lake Party candidate Jeremy Evans, Democrat Melinda Little and Republican/Independent Jimmy Williams.

Several issues in the campaign came up again in the debate.

A number of storefronts in Saranac Lake have been empty for years. The candidates point to problems in the village code department and regulations. As to how to get them occupied, Franklin County Industrial Development Agency CEO Jeremy Evans says because of his work, he is the only candidate who fully understands code enforcement.

“I can look at any number of strategies that have worked for incentivizing and assisting owners and property owners and businesses with getting their storefronts ready and rented" Evans said. "But if I wanted to choose one thing since 2017 or 2018 our new development code and interpretation thereof made it far too difficult for anyone to get into a storefront. To me that’s probably one of the biggest things that we need to keep a course correction on.”

A recent editorial in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise on water quality was rebutted by the outgoing mayor. The candidates were asked if the concerns should be investigated. Businessman Jimmy Williams says he does not know the state of the village’s water quality.

“And nobody else does either," Williams said. "What has been happening for a long time is village water is tested at residences. So they don’t disclose the resident’s address because it’s confidential. It’s a two part problem. One: we’ve got a pillar of the community asking for more information and not getting it. That’s wrong. Secondly the testing needs to be expanded because what we need to do is figure out who’s right which means testing the main supply.”

Panelist Fred Balzac asked Deputy Mayor Melinda Little about the retiring Rabideau.

“You acknowledge that the current mayor’s behavior towards some community members has caused problems and said you have distanced yourself from him," Balzac said. "If elected mayor how would you go about improving the treatment of village residents?”

“There have been times where I have called into question the mayor’s attitude and although I think there are things that are admirable about Mayor Rabideau I think in fact he does come across very aggressively and in particular with women can sound very much like he’s putting them down," Little responded. "And my leadership style is very different. I listen and I treat people with respect.”

The Saranac Lake village election is Tuesday and polls will be open from noon until 9 p.m.