The longtime chairmen of the Franklin County Republican Committee and the town of Harrietstown Democratic Committee have stepped down.
Jim Ellis of Tupper Lake served as chairman of the Franklin County Republican Committee for a total of 28 years. His first stint as chairman lasted from 1971 to 1976, when he was succeeded by Jan Plumadore. In 1989, he was again appointed chairman, and he served through this year.
Meanwhile, Joe Pickreign has decided to retire as chairman of the Democratic Party in the town of Harrietstown, a post he has held for 13 years. He stepped down last year as chairman of the Franklin County Democratic Committee after 33 years.
(Enterprise file photos)
Thomas replaces Ellis
Ellis told the Enterprise he had reached the end of his term and was looking for someone with the "fire and the passion to do the job.
"And I think we found the guy," Ellis said of Rolland Thomas, a retired correction officer from Dickinson Center.
"Geographically, he's positioned well," Ellis said. "Republicans seem to have strength in the south end of the county. One of the things that's been bothering me for quite a while has been the enrollment. ... That's something that needs to be beefed up on the north end. And I think that Rolland and all the people he's working with will be able to do that."
Ellis said he will help Thomas out in the southern end of Franklin County.
"I'll be continuing to work with the towns of Harrietstown, Tupper Lake, Franklin and Santa Clara in their elections," Ellis said.
There's a heated race for town supervisor in Harrietstown, and Ellis has pledged to help Republican candidate Bob Bevilacqua get elected. The Franklin County Republican Committee officially endorsed Bevilacqua, a town councilman and local business owner, last week and made a financial contribution to his campaign, Ellis said.
Ray Scollin of Saranac Lake, Republican state committeeman for Franklin County, said party members are grateful for Ellis' service.
Pickreign: "I thought it was about time"
Pickreign steps down from his position as chairman of the Harrietstown Democratic Committee after more than three decades of service to his party. He began working with the county committee in 1981 and went on to become chairman in 1998.
Pickreign also served with the state committee from 1997 to September of this year.
"I thought it was about time to step aside for somebody else to do the job," he said. "It's involved, but it's rewarding. I certainly enjoyed, for the last 30 years, what I've done for the county."
Kathy Fleury replaced Pickreign as the county's chairwoman last September. She said Pickreign has remained active in the party and is "still very good about answering questions" relating to party business.
"Joe's accomplishments are endless," she said. "He's made terrific inroads in the state for this county and helped put this county on the state's radar."
Pickreign said the town committee will get together after the Nov. 6 election to appoint a new chairperson.
New GOP chairman
Thomas, 49, served as town supervisor of Dickinson for eight years, and as a councilman for eight years prior to that. He's also a committeeman for the Republican Party in his town, and served as treasurer of Kevin Mulverhill's Franklin County sheriff campaign in 2010.
"It's big shoes to fill," Thomas said of replacing Ellis. "Jim has done a lot of good things for the party. I'm excited about it, but at the same time I want to carry on Jim's work."
Thomas said he wants to energize voters and attract more youth to the Republican Party. He said he also wants to alternate committee meetings between the southern and northern ends of the county.
Regaining a Republican majority on the Franklin County Board of Legislators is also one of Thomas' top goals. Additionally, he wants to set up term limits for county lawmakers and get the county legislature to hold some of its meetings at night to encourage more public participation.
Thomas said he also wants the county board to hold some of its meetings at locations other than the county complex in Malone.
Thomas said getting more young people involved in local politics is a "tough sell.
"You have to get out there and talk to them and convince them it's a good thing and tell them their ideas count," he said. "We need to increase enrollment in the county, get in the schools and fair booths, talk to young people about government and get them interested."
Scollin said he's confident Thomas will take the party forward in a "transparent and inclusive manner."
Ellis said he thinks the Republican Party in Franklin County will be on solid ground as it moves forward, as long as it continues to support good candidates.
"I think there's no reason to suspect that the party itself isn't going to do well," he said. "I think people think it's the party that makes the difference. It isn't. It's the candidate. ... If you've got good candidates, then the party can do its work, which is to turn out the vote for them and raise whatever money is necessary to support them."
Pickreign said the Democratic Party is healthy in Harrietstown and Franklin County. He said he wants more younger voters to participate in the political process.
"I wasn't that old when I joined it," he said. "(I want) to keep the party moving forward."
The Harrietstown Democratic Committee will honor Pickreign with a tribute party next week. The event is scheduled for Oct. 18 at Charlie's Inn in Lake Clear.
Saranac Lake village Trustee Tom Catillaz, who is running as a Democrat for Harrietstown supervisor, said in a prepared statement that Pickreign "dedicated most of his adult life to enhancing the political process, Franklin County and the Town of Harrietstown.
"He is more tha(n) deserving of this tribute," Catillaz said.
In August 2000, Pickreign helped bring former President Bill Clinton and then-U.S. Senate candidate Hillary Clinton to Saranac Lake. Pickreign, who was serving as Harrietstown town supervisor at the time, coordinated a chicken barbecue at the Saranac Lake Civic Center that ended up packing more than 1,000 people into the hockey rink. Hillary and Bill were joined by their daughter, Chelsea, the president gave a 26-minute speech, and Hillary gave a stump speech for her Senate run.
Ellis has coordinated meet-and-greet events with candidates throughout his career. In October 2005, he brought a big field of gubernatorial and senatorial candidates and county Republican chairs to Malone as the party looked to keep the governor's seat after George Pataki's term.
Contact Chris Morris at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.