Tupper Lake Mayor Paul Maroun discusses his decision not to run for reelection
Six-term Tupper Lake Mayor Paul Maroun says he will not run for re-election. Maroun has worked in politics for nearly five decades including as an aide for former state senators Betty Little and Ron Stafford, an administrator of the St. Lawrence Seaway in Washington, a Franklin County legislator and Tupper Lake’s mayor. The Republican announced his decision in mid-July and tells WAMC North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley a key reason he’s not running again is a sense of increased hostility from constituents:
The tone of the citizenry even in my home, my little hometown of Tupper Lake has changed dramatically. I don't mind being yelled at when someone has a problem or an issue. But it has become so uncivil on a lot of issues. Before someone would call and say Mayor you know my sewer is backing up or can you help me my boy was just or my family member was just arrested. And, you know, I would work on it. But people have gotten so uncivil that I just didn't think, number one, it was worth me going through all that. I've tried to use my positions wherever I was, with Senator (Ron) Stafford or with Senator (Betty) Little or as a legislator or then as mayor, to do what I could for my hometown. And I think I've done the best that I could. But people just want more. Today, they want things done quicker today than can, that's possible and they don't want to listen to reason. And I just decided that it was time for me, that I didn't need to take that kind of agony and grief. And I don't mean that I don't take issues lightly. I think things are important. If it's the water issue here. If it's highways, if it's the water and sewer or police. Of course, we don't have a full police department anymore and people blame that on the mayor. It's not the mayor's fault. It's a nationwide issue. People don't want to be police officers. But people didn't understand that. And I just said it was time, I thought it was time for me to get out.
So Paul Maroun, with this new tone that you're seeing from citizens and you say it's very uncivil. Is it threatening at all?
I have never or I haven't recently ever been threatened personally, I mean, with physical harm or with harassment but it comes very close. I don't know how to explain it. It's like a volcanic type of eruption. The other night, for example, we had a, we had been working on a peddler’s license and two or three of the peddlers in town that sell out of their food trucks didn't like the way we raised the price. We had to raise it a little bit. I thought it might have been fair. Maybe it was a little too high. But there were 90, about 90 people that came to a village board meeting. I had to move it all into the courtroom. And I mean, they weren't just saying, hey, you know, here's why you should, some of them were civil, but most of them were yelling, and it's like, I can't quite explain it. It's like a swarming, a swarming. I relate to like when piranhas you used to see in the movies, throw a cow in the water and the piranhas would attack the cow, they'd all swarm around them. That's the way we felt. Wouldn't listen to an explanation, wouldn't listen to reason. So it was, it was disturbing, let's put it that way.
Paul, you've been in politics, not just as mayor and as a county legislator, but you've worked for politicians like Betty Little and Ron Stafford, for decades. Can you sense why it has changed and become this way?
I'm not really sure. But my theory is with the invention and the creation of Facebook and things like that where people can say whatever they want about you and they don't have to sign their name to it. And some of this goes to the Donald Trump factor where you can say and get a crowd stirred up and they can then do things to help their cause. I can't explain it actually. But it is just, not just in Tupper Lake, in Franklin County, in upstate New York. It's across the country. I call it volcanic-like because people just don't want to listen to reason. They have to have it their way or no way. And there's certain things you just can't do especially since COVID. You can't get equipment. I can't get equipment to do some major repairs in Tupper Lake, let alone the state of New York or anywhere. Things are backed up but people don't want to listen to that. They want it done now and things don't always work that way.
With these sensibilities out there was your decision then not to run again difficult?
Yes, because I love being mayor. I like using still the contacts I have in Albany and Washington and in Malone, our county seat, and the North Country actually to help Tupper Lake. In the tri-lakes Tupper Lake is on the cusp of being the growing community. And we've got a lot of great things going for us with the DRI. We're very fortunate to have Sunmount here that employs 1800, roughly, people with an $88 million payroll, the Wild Center, the Observatory. People are going to be coming to Tupper Lake. We're going to have this OWD reconstruction with about 150 new housing units. They're going to be beautiful. And I loved being mayor. But I thought at 71, after over 50 years of local state and federal service that it wasn’t worth me going through the agony. And you know what was the worst thing? Growing up in a small town you get to know people, people that you went to high school with, graduated with. And I was losing friends weekly because they wanted me to do either something that I couldn't do legally as the mayor or something that I didn't think was in the best interest of the whole community. Yeah, it might help one little section. But when you're mayor, you got to look at the whole issue, the whole community and where we fit in with the North Country region. And I was losing friends that I grew up with. But people would turn on you and I just felt that it wasn't worth my going through the agony of I mean, I just didn't think it was worth it anymore. And you're going to see more and more people talking about this and making these kinds of decisions because, unfortunately, it's just not worth it mentally and physically to the person in office going through this.
Paul Maroun, what do you feel are the key accomplishments that you have had as mayor?
Well, obviously, the DRI was so very important, because in the tri-lakes region there just isn't enough housing. It has also helped some of the smaller businesses, the Art Center for example right next to the theater in downtown Tupper Lake, and that will transform Tupper Lake in the future. It's also giving some money to the baseball stadium that we have here, one of the few in the North Country that has a real stadium with lighted field at night. That's what draws tourists. That's what draws a hotel. And when I say a hotel I mean a flag hotel like a name brand hotel. But the DRI has done great things for the community and you'll see a lot of new businesses popping up and that is what we have to do to keep the tri-lakes moving ahead.
As you contemplate leaving are there projects, are there things, that you would still like to have been able to work on?
Yes. I wanted to see the completion or the almost completion of that OWD project with 80 blended income housing units on one side and then 70 condominiums for market driven on the other. That'll be starting hopefully late this fall. The second thing was we have to somehow get Big Tupper back on the map so that you have a four seasons economy and we're working on that. It's tied up in litigation but hopefully that will move out. And the third thing was just to get a flag hotel in Tupper Lake. And we don't have that here and we need that in Tupper Lake. The time has come. So those were the three things hotel, the OWD project, and Big Tupper. I really wanted, and to correct the water. We have a water problem here and we're working on it feverishly to solve it. We did everything that was requested of us by DEC and the Health Department and we still had problems after a couple of years. So that is in the process of being solved. Other than that Tupper Lake is in pretty good shape. We’re a municipal electric. Our rates are much lower than the average National Grid, well, very much lower. We have that. We have a good water rate. So Tupper Lake is ready to expand. Sunmount continues to hold its own and grow a little bit. We have the Observatory here also that is expanding and scientists are coming in all the time. We have one of the greatest dark sky facilities in the Northeast. So we're in good shape, but we are also experiencing difficulties as everyone else's. Major police department. When you have to go from a full time police force to 12 hours a day it is difficult for people to understand. And it's not that we don't have the money to hire police. We can't get police officers. There is nobody on the Civil Service list right now in Franklin County for the police, not state police. Of course, they're having their own troubles and they probably make double of what a starting police officer makes here. So these are some of the issues but Tupper is in a good position to move forward.
Paul Maroun, you are no longer a Franklin County legislator, you're not going to be running for mayor again. Are you retiring completely from politics?
Well, a lot of people ask me that. I am 71 and I've been in it over 50 years. I started working when Governor Rockefeller was governor with Ron Stafford and Glenn Harris. And then I went to the Seaway with Jim Emery. And then I worked for him when he was minority leader and then Betty Little and Ron Stafford again. I probably won't retire. I'll probably have a little consulting firm that I'll do some, some work with. I'll keep my contacts. Congresswoman Stefanik is a good friend of mine. Senator Schumer is a very good friend. I met him in Albany in 1972 when he was first elected to the Assembly. And I'm sure that I will still use my contacts, but I'll probably have a little consulting firm, but I won't be as active in politics and government as I was before. You know, one last thing. In politics in the old days there was a sense of loyalty, party loyalty and loyalty on agreements. If I shook your hand and Albany or Malone, back then we didn't need to have a contract between Paul Maroun and Pat Bradley that we made an agreement on the water problem in Tupper Lake. It was an agreement. Today, agreements like that you don't find any more. People change their mind. They don't go along with what they agreed to earlier. And it's just a different atmosphere out there. I actually feel bad about it because I think that it leads to a lot of disarray in local government and county government and even in Albany and Washington. And I've worked in all four of those places now and it's a changing atmosphere and honestly it's all not for the best. I feel bad about it. But things move on and we try to find remedies for problems that are coming up every day.
Tupper Lake Mayor Paul Maroun’s term ends on November 30th.
Current town Councilwoman Mary Fontana is the Republican candidate. No Democrat or Conservative has yet announced a campaign.