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Former Saratoga Springs commissioners re-enter city politics

A lion statue outside Saratoga Springs City Hall
Lucas Willard
A lion statue outside Saratoga Springs City Hall

Two former Saratoga Springs city councilors are jumping back into politics this election year.

Former Democratic city councilors Chris Mathiesen and Michele Madigan are returning to the political arena.

Mathiesen, a former three-term public safety commissioner, is running for mayor against first-term Democrat Ron Kim. Madigan, a five-term former finance commissioner, is running for an open seat on the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors.

A former supporter of Kim, Mathiesen, now retired from his dental practice, said he believes the city’s current leadership is making mistakes and letting meetings get out of control. Kim is also a former public safety commissioner.

“He's always been a friend. We've always been mutually supportive. I was very surprised and very disappointed at some of what I was seeing, as I was paying more and more attention to city government and attending those meetings. First of all, some of meetings seem to be getting out of control, number one, and that, you know, harkens back to what happened on February 7th,” said Mathiesen.

Mathiesen is referring to a council meeting that had to be adjourned following disruptions from Black Lives Matter activists, who, among their criticisms, were pressing the council to act more swiftly on promised police reforms.

Earlier this week, one activist was summoned to city court on a charge of disorderly conduct, requested by the city’s current Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino – a move Mathiesen said he supports but drew condemnation from Kim and other members of the current council.

Mathiesen also disagrees with Kim’s decisions to replace the former city attorney and support for the elimination of an assistant police chief position.

“If you have things that have worked so well, for years, you don't just change them for the sake of changing them. And I think a lot of I think there's a lot of dissension among people who are working in City Hall and who have worked there for years because they see this happening, and I think morale, I've heard, at City Hall is not good,” said Mathiesen.

Kim says he does not think City Hall has a morale problem and said he looks forward to the race.

“I look forward to debate. I think Commissioner Mathiesen’s record as Public Safety Commissioner is dismal. And I am certainly going to be debating that,” said Kim.

Kim criticized Mathiesen’s handling of the 2013 police foot chase during which Darryl Mount Jr. was critically injured. He died of his injuries months later and his family is pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit. For his part, Montagnino concluded that police were not in the wrong.

The Mount case gained renewed attention in recent years and has been a rallying cry for Black Lives Matter activists.

Kim says Mathiesen should have pursued an independent, outside investigation into the incident.

“Certainly, there was no independent investigation of the Darryl Mouth death and that's the main reason we are still dealing with this at this point in time, so many years later. It’s because he failed to act at the time,” said Kim.

Mathiesen has continued to defend his and the police department’s course of action in the aftermath of the Mount incident. He distributed an account of the case to reporters in the run-up to his mayoral campaign kickoff.

“No, I didn't call for an outside investigation. The city council didn't call for an outside investigation, I was convinced that our investigators had done a thorough job. There were no inconsistencies. There was nothing really there, there. And so I didn’t call for an outside investigation, but had any of those agencies decided that one was necessary, yes, I think that would have reassured people, supposedly,” said Mathiesen.

All incumbents on the city council have been endorsed for re-election by the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee.

Running alongside Mathiesen is former Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan.

“And I thought this would be a great way to get back in, not necessarily on the city council. And I feel like I do and I enjoy doing work on behalf of the city and this county and this region,” said Madigan.

With Democrat Tara Gaston not seeking another term, also in the running for county supervisor is Gordon Boyd, a former city hall candidate and familiar face on city volunteer committees.

“I really enjoy working with local governments. I have an idea of what's possible to do what kind of systems work best and would like to apply that experience to Saratoga County,” said Boyd.

Madigan and Mathiesen say they were not given the chance to appear before the entire Democratic committee. They’re instead backed by a group of former city and county Democratic committee members.

“This is a group that has previously served on the committee. We're organized, we know how to do things, we know how to get things done, and there's no fractures there,” said Madigan.

Tim Coll, a former FBI investigator, is seeking the Republican nomination for Public Safety Commissioner. A registered Democrat, Coll says he was also not given the opportunity to appear before the full city Democratic committee.

Note: This post was updated 3/11/23

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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