Both Sides Say Police Merger Idea Key Issue
By JIM KEVLIN : COOPERSTOWN
But when the dust settled on Election Night, Tuesday, March 15, the Democrats had carried the day decisively, winning all four open seats on the Village Board.
And both elated Democrats and disheartened Republicans agreed: The election swung on Mayor Joe Booan’s idea of exploring whether to contract with the Otsego County Sheriff’s Department for police services and close the village’s department.
• For the two three-year trustee vacancies, Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch lead the ticket with 434 votes; incumbent Jeff Katz was second (279), followed by the Republicans, Matt Schuermann (226) and Jim Potts (216).
• For the one two-year term, Walter Franck got 429 votes; Phil Lewis’ 233.
• For the one one-year term, it was Jim Dean with 366 to Joan W. White’s 194.
“Shared services: It’s still the best road for us to go down,” said the mayor, standing on candidate Jim Potts’ front porch on Leatherstocking Street as the Republican gathering was breaking up.
“A lot of elderly were concerned about the police,” said Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch, who garnered the most votes that day, at a victory party at chairman Richie Abbate’s Westridge Road home.
“People would mention the mayor, and they would mention the police issue,” Dean said of his experience going door to door.
But Democrat Walter Franck, the second-largest vote-getter, said the mayor had been thinking “out of the box,” and more of that kind of thinking is warranted.
When the polls closed at 9 p.m., the machine counts were quickly available. With 168 absentee ballots to be counted, Kuch, Franck and Jim Dean clearly had winning margins.
Not so in the Katz-Schuermann race; they were separated by only 53 votes. The absentee ballots were opened and counted, a time-consuming process, with Abbate standing by. At 10:32, the phone rang at the Westridge Road home. Abbate was at the other end. Katz had it.
The group gathered around the kitchen table broke into smiles and applause.
Strictly speaking, the Democrats will dominate the seven-member Village Board that will be sworn in April 4 – Booan and Deputy Mayor Willis Monie are the sole Republicans. The one other incumbent, Lynne Mebust, is a Democrat.
However, Kuch, Franck and Dean each immediately declared that village residents are sick of the partisanship of the last couple of years, and they vowed to approach each issue with open minds.
“People are looking for new ways to bring people together,” said Franck.
“All this is new to us,” added Dean, noting that, except for Katz, it is the first time these Democrats have won elective office.
Both the ascendant Democrats and Booan said they planned to focus on the repair of streets, roads and infrastructure, the mayor’s prime focus.
For his part, Katz said “I’m happy to be reelected. I do love the job. I do take it seriously.”
He said he believes the mayor has been secretive, both in his approach to the police-service issue and in preparing the budget.
For his part, the mayor was conciliatory, saying it is his responsibility to work with whomever is elected trustee, and he intends to do so.
“It’s my job to lead the trustees,” he added. “And I’m going to do that.”
All the Democrats had high praise for their chairman, saying he had worked to put together a strong ticket, and made sure the subsequent campaign was organized and disciplined.
“I didn’t like the direction the village was taking,” he explained.
|Jim Kevlin/The Freeman’s Journal|
Successful candidate Jim Dean, left, reflects on the evening’s events as the final tallies are phoned in.