Fultonville holding special election for mayor’s term

FULTONVILLE — In the race to fill out the remainder of former Village Mayor Robert Headwell Jr.’s term of office, there are two declared candidates, but only one of them will be on the ballot.

The special election, set for March 21 from noon to 9 p.m. at Glen Town Hall, will be between village historian Ryan Weitz and the interim village mayor, George Donaldson.

Donaldson was appointed Jan. 23 to serve until the special election, after Headwell resigned his office to take his seat as the new District 4 Montgomery County legislator, the seat formerly held by Weitz.

The winner of the special election will serve until the end of Headwell’s last four-year term, March 31, 2019.

Weitz is running on the “Fultonville’s Future” party and Donaldson is running as a write-in, due to some mistakes on his election petition, one of them involving the correct term of the office he is seeking.

“I was given the wrong date,” Donaldson said. “Filling out the paperwork, I asked the election board for some help, because I wasn’t sure of the dates. They gave me a date of 2018 and when Ryan Weitz challenged it, they saw the date should have been 2019, which invalidated my petition.”

Donaldson said he would have run on the “Time” party line, had he been allowed. He said he wants everyone in the village to know he’s still running for mayor.

“He is on the ballot. I am not on the ballot. So, if you look at the ballot, you’re going to say ‘what’s going on?’ I’m running as a write-in. I’m clarifying that because there are people who are going to look at the ballot and say ‘no, he’s not running’,” he said. “I’m out there campaigning door-to-door, I’m making an all-out effort.”

Weitz said he felt conflicted about filing his objections to Donaldson’s petition with the Board of Elections, which were ultimately upheld, knocking his opponent off the ballot.

“At the end of the day, there is a formality. There are formalities to being mayor. Formalities to running elections, and there are laws and rules that need to be adhered to, and I felt that since this was something that came to my attention, that I had a duty to at least bring this to the Board of Elections,” he said.

Weitz is a consultant engineer with a civil engineering firm and writes grants. He said one of the focuses of his administration would be to try to be active in every grant cycle to help pay for infrastructure repairs

Donaldson, who is retired from having been a communications specialist for the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department, drives a bus part-time for Brown Transportation. He said he has a family legacy of serving the village, his father having been a trustee and deputy mayor for 33 years and his grandfather having served as Town of Glen clerk. He has some government experience, having served on the city of Johnstown Water Board, when he lived in that city. He said he won his water board office as a write-in and he believes he can do it again.

“I’ve had several people approach me who obviously want me in that position, so I’m going to keep going, and obviously I’m the one the board chose to appoint interim mayor, so that says a lot,” he said.

Since becoming interim mayor, Donaldson has made a few decisions that could play into the election. He appointed Kelley O’Kosky as clerk-treasurer to replace outgoing longtime clerk-treasurer Tom DiMezza. O’Kosky’s term would be set to begin April 1, if the elected mayor chooses to maintain her appointment.

Weitz said he’s not certain what he would do with respect to O’Kosky because he wasn’t privvy to the Board of Trustees interview of her.

“The Board of Trustees and the mayor conducted their interviews in executive session, in private and that includes all professional background, and, apparently, they made the decision to hire on an interim basis and set a pay rate, none of those discussions I have been privy to because they were conducted in executive session,” he said. “So, my stance, as of right now, is I am 100 percent open to sitting down with Ms. O’Kosky and seeing what strengths she would bring to the position and I am completely open to continuing on with that appointment. But without knowing anything about the appointment process — or her background — I can’t commit to that at this point.”

Another issue could be consolidation of government and shared services. Donaldson attended a recent special meeting of the village of Fonda, the agenda of which was “Discuss the future of the villages of Fonda and Fultonville” held Feb. 13. Donaldson said he didn’t make any deal regarding consolidation of services at that meeting, but people shouldn’t interpret that as his being against consolidation.

“Right this minute, I’m obviously not ready to talk consolidation because I might be out in two weeks. The Fonda mayor and I have already talked about getting together, if I win the election, but right now it would be fruitless to discuss something if I’m going to be gone,” he said. “I’m in favor of anything that will make it better for the village and the taxpayers of Fultonville, whether it be consolidating equipment, DPW, maybe none of it will work. It’s something we need to discuss.”

Weitz said he didn’t attend the special meeting because he didn’t know it was happening. He said he believes a number of public meetings involving the village of Fultonville have not been properly announced under the rules of New York state’s Open Meetings Law. He said he favors looking at ways to share services.

“I think given the political and financial climate we find ourselves in in upstate New York, it is absolutely necessary to look at every avenue of sharing services and or consolidation of services. So, that would be high on my priority list of things to look at for the village of Fonda, the town of Glen and with Montgomery County,” he said. “Sometimes when we talk about sharing services, the discussion automatically goes to mergers or dissolutions and we need to look at what are we already doing together. Are there ways our DPWs can compliment each other? Are there ways that we can do water and sewer billing in one location instead of two?”

When asked about additional issues each candidate thought important to the election, Donaldson said he was mostly focused on making certain people know he’s a candidate for the position and Weitz said as mayor he plans to update the village’s comprehensive plan and zoning laws.

By Chad Fleck

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