Candidates set for GOP primary in Johnstown

JOHNSTOWN – Three candidates with widely varied backgrounds and ages face each other in the city’s Republican primary for mayor on Sept. 10.

Running are 3rd Ward Councilwoman Helen Martin, Water Board member Scott Jeffers and businessman Larry Razzano. The winner of the Republican nomination will be on the ballot in the Nov. 5 general election, facing Democratic retired pharmacist Michael Julius. Martin also will be on the Conservative line in November.

They all seek to replace two-term Republican Mayor Sarah Slingerland, who didn’t seek re-election.

The mayor’s position is for four years and is considered part-time. Slingerland was paid $18,241 for 2013. The new mayor will take office at the start of 2014.

Helen Martin

Martin, a 62-year-old exports director for Milligan & Higgins in Johnstown since 1991, has represented the Third Ward as a councilwoman since 2010. She also chairs the city’s Tourism/Special Events Committee.

She is married to attorney Russell Martin and the couple reside at 9 E. Montgomery St. She and her husband have lived in Johnstown since 1990.

Martin has been active in numerous community organizations. She obtained an associate degree in humanities from Fulton-Montgomery Community College in 2007, and a bachelor’s degree in public history from Empire State College in 2012.

“I’m running because I want to continue the good work that’s already been done,” Martin said. “I want the city to grow.”

Explaining her experience for the mayor’s position, Martin noted her council tenure and her work experience. She has been employed for more than 40 years at private businesses, she said.

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“I have an understanding of what is required to run a company,” Martin said.

One of the “biggest issues” facing the city, she said, is the ability to market Johnstown and attract more business to the city. Meanwhile, Martin said, the city must continue to maintain key services.

“We have to maintain those quality services,” she said.

Martin said Johnstown’s close location to bigger cities such as Albany is a key asset, as is the city’s rich colonial history, which remains a “drawing card.”

The councilwoman said she will “absolutely” be accessible to the public, and the mayor’s door at City Hall will be open to constituents from 7:30 a.m. to noon on weekdays.

Martin said there isn’t anything “major” she would do differently in terms of running city government.

“We need to ramp up our code enforcement a little bit,” Martin said. “I don’t think we have any huge, major problems in the city.”

Martin said downtown improvement will be “huge” in coming years and she is pleased with recent city grant efforts.

The Common Council last week informally decided to move forward with pursuit of a possible $400,000 joint grant with Gloversville to improve the cities’ downtown areas. The city also is pursuing a separate $200,000 state NY Main Street Grant to revitalize downtown.

“Johnstown is really blessed, we have such a great arterial highway section,” Martin said.

She also wants to see a “spirit of cooperation” with Gloversville, but “not capitulation.”

Scott Jeffers

The 29-year-old Jeffers resides at 214 W. Second Ave. He has worked as a substitute special education teacher for the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District and the Gloversville Enlarged School District.

Jeffers is in his second year serving on the city Water Board. He serves as vice chairman of the city Republican Committee. He was an unsuccessful candidate for councilman-at-large in 2007.

He is a lifelong resident of the city and a 2002 graduate of Johnstown High School. He holds a master’s degree in secondary social studies education from the State University of New York at Cortland.

Jeffers has been associated with a number of social organizations, has volunteered and coached sports in Johnstown at the middle- and high-school level, and has been involved in city politics for several years.

“Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to run for mayor of Johnstown,” Jeffers said.

Jeffers said he will be able to devote time to the part-time position, but will also seek substitute teacher work as well.

“I figure I don’t have any other jobs holding me back,” said Jeffers.

Jeffers said his youth will be an asset working with younger people to improve the city, while looking out for the needs of all the city’s residents. His experience for mayor, he said, goes back to college, when he served as a student government representative. He noted he has also served on Water Board committees and dealt with the finances of the city Water Department.

He said the city faces some challenges.

“The two biggest things are the continuation of economic development and consolidation efforts,” Jeffers said.

He said the city doesn’t need to have full-blown consolidation of services with other area municipalities but should at least work together with the cities and towns.

“I think we have really good people working for the city,” he said. That personnel resource includes police and fire personnel, he said.

Jeffers also said the city’s water is a “huge” asset.

Jeffers said he has been reaching younger city residents mainly through social media, such as Facebook. Jeffers said he has been campaigning door-to-door this summer, especially meeting some of the older city residents. As mayor, he said he’ll be as accessible as Slingerland has been at City Hall, aswell as through social media and email.

Jeffers said he would like to bring back former Johnstown Mayor William Pollak’s campaign to beatify the city.

“I’d like to get that campaign back on the docket,” he said.

Jeffers said he will meet with local business people whenever he can to determine their needs.

Larry Razzano

Razzano, 67, resides with his wife, Laura, at at 318 N. Perry St. The couple has four grown children.

He owns Razzano Leather at 30 S. Melcher St. He said he has been in the trucking and leather business for more than 42 years but is now “semi-retired.”

The Johnstown High School graduate has served on many civic organizations over the years.

He played for the Glove Cities Colonials for 11 years and has been a 44-year member of the Johnstown Eagles Club. With the Eagles, he was a six-year treasurer, 28-year trustee and served 18 years as head of the bell-jar program, with a more than $1 million handle for the state Racing and Wagering Board.

Razzano has been inducted into three “hall of fames” – New York state Eagles, Fulton County Bowlers and Glove Cities Colonials.

As a lifelong city resident and longtime businessman, Razzano said people urged him to run and he heeded the call.

Razzano said his business acumen will serve him well as mayor. Razzano noted he has never held public office, but he has attended Common Council meetings and stays aware of many of the key issues in the city.

“I know a lot about city government,” he said. “You pick up on issues, the variations on how city government runs.”

He said his “number one” issue is the cleanup of the former Karg Bros. tannery site off North Perry Street to make it developable. Razzano said he likes that the city already has begun working with the state to remediate the site and fill in key areas with landfill dirt.

Also, Razzano said a major infrastructure issue continuing to face the city is a decision on what to do with the closed Miller Street bridge.

“That has been ignored and shut down for quite awhile,” Razzano said. “One of my first priorities will be to get that open.”

The Miller Street bridge over the Cayadutta Creek is blocked to traffic. City officials say it could cost $460,000 to engineer and build.

Razzano said one of the city’s biggest assets is tourism, and especially the Johnson Hall State Historic Site off Hall Avenue. Razzano said he would be willing, as mayor, to work with the state to improve the site.

Razzano said he’s been going door-to-door campaigning and talking to residents on the streets of the city. If elected, Razzano said anyone can visit him during working hours at City Hall. He said people can even call him at his home.

Razzano also wants to have a better relationship between the city administration and the Johnstown police and fire departments.

Razzano said he will always express the way he feels about an issue if he’s elected mayor.

“I’m not one to hold something back, you know,” he stated.

He also said it is imperative the city talk over concerns and issues with other area municipalities.

“We [have] got to try to communicate with one another,” Razzano said.

Jeffers filed a pre-primary financial disclosure report through his Jeffers for Johnstown Committee with the state Board of Elections. It showed an opening balance of $719.65 and contributions of $101.25. Total receipts were $101.25 and total expenses were $298.14, for a closing balance of $522.76.

The report showed a $298.14 expense for magnetic bumper stickers. Contributors making donations were listed as: Jeffers – $26.25; Gordon Duross of 215 W. 2nd Ave. – $50; and John Warner of 218 W. 2nd Ave. – $25.

Martin and Razzano hadn’t filed financial disclosure reports with the state Board of Elections by late last week.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected].

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