The race for mayor of Saratoga Springs is shaping up. Well-known city business owner Heidi Owen West will appear on the Republican line in the race to replace outgoing Democrat Meg Kelly.
Owner of three downtown retail clothing stores, Heidi Owen West said she was motivated to run for office by the onset of the COVID pandemic and its devastating effect on small businesses.
“It was very difficult to watch my city suffer, to watch my city suffer, to watch my fellow business owners suffer, to literally sit there and watch everything my family has worked for, for the last 30 years, slip away,” said Owen West.
Owen West, who also serves as Vice President of the Downtown Business Association, says she wants to bring her perspective as a business owner to city hall. Endorsed by the city Republican committee last month, the unaffiliated voter says she intends to remain an independent candidate.
“When I talked to the Republican Party, I told them that I was an independent candidate, I told them what I stood for, I insisted that they be hands-off and they believed in my platform. And they were professional and that’s what made me decide to…go that route,” said Owen West.
Owen West says she wants to take a collaborative approach to government, a strategy she says is important for operating a small business.
Recently, the city council signed a police reform report, based upon recommendations from an appointed Police Reform Task Force in accordance with a directive from Governor Andrew Cuomo. The Task Force developed 50 recommendations over seven months.
The final report adopted by the city council avoids making decisions on four recommendations, including delaying implementation of a civilian police advisory board until further review. The move is drawing intense criticism from advocates and some members of the Task Force
Asked by WAMC about the reform process, Owen West said she was studying the issue, adding she was not “privy to all that city council is privy to.”
“I just don’t want to speak to that at this point. I do think that the dialogue is continuing, the path that we are heading down… all the voices will come to the plate and make the best decision for our city. Because, again, I believe that we’re closer together than further apart,” said Owen West.
A longtime goal of city council members, the construction of a third Fire/EMS station is in the planning stages. City leaders hope the station, to be built on a piece of NYRA-owned land off Henning Road, will improve emergency response times on the city’s East Side. Neighbors, including Owen West, signed on to a lawsuit against the city project. The candidate told WAMC she withdrew from the lawsuit upon launching her campaign.
“Now that I’m a candidate that needs to think of all the citizens of Saratoga, I don’t have the luxury of just considering what’s best for my neighborhood anymore, so I had moved past the decision about where that would go a long time ago. And if it’s on NYRA land, that exact project, I’m all for it,” said Owen West.
Owen West says she looks forward to a summer tourism season and a bustling downtown the city counted on prior to COVID-19.
Asked about balancing politics and running three businesses, Owen West says she will build a team, and that leadership is one of her strengths. The mayor is technically a part-time position under Saratoga Springs’ unique commission style of government.
“I will be honest though, I didn’t realize that the all-consuming part of politics was going to kick in immediately. So I’m currently trying to get my team restructured so that when the time comes I’ll be able to step out full-time and do what I need to do for the city. I just want to create a stronger Saratoga, a thriving Saratoga, a united Saratoga. We live in one of the best communities in, I could just say, the world. I love it here, I think I think we all do. And I just want to get back to that Saratoga Springs that we know – cooking with fire – just get it going back to why we live here,” said West.
Also seeking the mayor’s office is former city Public Safety Commissioner Ron Kim, a Democrat who lost a bid for mayor in 2009. David Snyder, a former aide to Mayor Kelly, had expressed interest in running but later suspended his campaign. Kelly is stepping down after two two-year terms.