Saratoga Springs Mayor Meg Kelly has decided not to seek a third term. The Democrat, now entering her fourth year as mayor, spoke to WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard.
Prior to serving as mayor and a member of the five-person city council, Mayor Meg Kelly was a Deputy under the city’s previous mayor, Joanne Yepsen.
Now, with a year left of her second two-year term, the Democrat says at the end of 2021 it will be “time to turn the baton over and reinvent” herself.
“I do think that my team is an excellent team. We’ve done superior work with the council and the employees in city hall but it’s time. Everybody knows when their time is, and I felt it, and I just said, It’s time.’ So there was nothing that pushed me over the edge for this. This is just something that…I did two terms, that’s a good civic duty and I’ve done my public service and it’s time to turn it over. And I think I’m leaving it in a much better place,” said Kelly.
Kelly discussed some of her accomplishments she’s most proud of – the long-awaited construction of the Geyser Road trail and a downtown parking garage for the Saratoga Springs City Center, and moving forward with a planned EMS station on the city’s East Side. But there’s one major project left, completing an update of the city’s zoning through the so-called Unified Development Ordinance, or UDO.
“That has been in the wings for years and years and years and it just needs to be updated so I’m hoping to bring that home in the first or second quarter of this year, so that would be probably one of my last biggest projects. Geyser Road will be opening within the month, the parking garage is open, the EMS station land is secured, so I think that most of my projects are being completed and that was my plan,” said Kelly.
Saratogians have voted down a city charter provision three times in the last four years. After an attempt to change the city’s form of government from its current commission style to a council-manager form failed, Kelly formed her own charter change commission, which recommended making changes while preserving the current system.
Kelly, however, has criticisms of the form that’s been in place since the city’s inception.
“I, personally, would like to see a strong mayor form of government. You need leadership at the top. You need somebody that can make decisions instead of, you know – five people – trying to get everyone on the same bus sometimes is really difficult. It’s just difficult because this is a part-time job. People aren’t in City Hall every day. That makes it difficult to catch up with people, to get your email to read well so everyone can understand what you’re saying…but I do believe that the charter will change, I just don’t know. I know that there’s charter fatigue out there. I think that people are tired of seeing the charter come up. But I just don’t think we’ve had the proper government be presented to the people of Saratoga Springs. I would like to see a strong mayor be presented,” said Kelly.
A Democrat, Kelly was re-elected in 2019. She ran alongside the city’s Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan, a Democrat who lost her primary, and at the time, a Republican newcomer candidate for Commissioner of Public Safety, Robin Dalton. Madigan also recently announced she would not run re-election. The three women ran as part of the “One Saratoga” platform.
After beginning her second term with a non-partisan platform, Kelly says has another wish to change city government.
“My dream is eliminate all parties in Saratoga Springs.”
Kelly wants Saratoga Springs to follow the nearby village of Ballston Spa, where leaders decided to scrap political parties ahead of the March village elections.
Kelly points out that until 1981, Saratoga Springs had a similar non-partisan election system.
“If you’re interested in running, do your homework, do your petitions, and get on the ballot, and it shouldn’t matter who you are politically. That will come out in your platform.”
After a challenging 2020 that had an enormous impact on city finances, and the dark days of the pandemic still here, Kelly says she wants a return to normalcy in Saratoga Springs in the new year.
“My biggest hope is to get the racetrack up and running with fans and SPAC up and running with fans. We need those two million…visitors to come to our city. We need our beds filled in our hotels. So my wish is that everyone will comply with what the governor is saying and then hopefully we can have a great summer,” said Kelly.