SARANAC LAKE - A pair of political veterans are looking to put their experience back to work for the people of the town of Harrietstown.
Gerald Gillmett and Howard Riley are vying for a two-year seat on the Harrietstown town board on Nov. 5. Gillmett is a former Franklin County legislator. He will be on ballot on the Republican and Conservative party lines.
Riley is a former town councilman and justice, and a former village of Saranac Lake mayor, trustee and manager. His name will appear be under the Democratic and Unity party banners.
Gillmett, 69, said he decided to run for town board because he misses being involved in politics. He served as a county legislator for more than 10 years, including a stint as chairman, until he lost his re-election bid in 2004 to Tim Burpoe.
"I've been involved in, maybe not so much in government, things around Lake Clear and Saranac Lake all my life, and I wasn't quite ready to give it up," he said.
Gillmett said his background would be an asset to the town, if he's elected.
"With my experience with county government, I think I can bring a little more cooperation, particularly with the Highway Department," he said. "I don't want to make it sound like we're not cooperating with the county, but I was chairman with the Franklin County Highway Committee and got along really well with them. (Harrietstown Highway Superintendent) Craig (Donaldson) is doing a hell of a good job, but I think I could certainly bring something there."
Gillmett also said he'd like to sit down with officials from nearby towns and ask them to chip in more money to support the town-owned Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear.
"I know they give a little bit, but I think some of the towns gain a heck of a lot more than the town of Harrietstown does, and yet we pay the bill," Gillmett. "With my experience in county government I could probably sit down with Tupper Lake, Brighton and North Elba and say, 'Look, we need some help here. The taxpayers of Harrietstown keep paying this shot.'"
Given how much sales tax revenue Franklin County gets from fuel sales at the airport, the county should also increase its contribution, Gillmett added.
Gillmett described himself as "outspoken," but he said he doesn't plan to shake things up on the town board should he win the seat.
"I learned to listen when I was a county legislator," he said. "It's seven people on a board, and sometimes you're wrong and you've got to admit it. But you gotta speak up and say things. When you don't, nothing gets done and everybody just says, 'OK.' I'm not saying that's happening now. I think they're doing a pretty darn good job. I'd just like to look at it myself."
Asked for his take on the debate over the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor, Gillmett said he supports removing the railroad tracks and turning the corridor into a multi-use recreational trail because it could bring more snowmobilers into the area. Gillmett is a member and past president of Franklin Snowmobilers, which maintains snowmobile trails in the county.
"Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake are the two larger towns in the Adirondacks, and we do not have a legitimate snowmobile trail going into those two towns," he said. "If those tracks were removed and we could groom those, I guarantee you that you would see more snowmobile activity in Saranac Lake and particularly Tupper Lake."
Riley, 83, said he wants to get back on the town board because he loves politics.
"I've been doing it for 50-some years," he said. "I was on the town board before, and I realize how much I miss it when I'm not on it or not involved. The fact that there was a two-year position coming up was interesting. There are some things I'm interested in that I might be able to help with."
One of those things, Riley said, is the pending merger of village court with the courts of the three towns that are partially inside the village, including Harrietstown, which will take on the bulk of the village court caseload.
"I know it's going to be complicated, but I certainly know it inside and out, and I think I could help out a lot with that merger," Riley said.
Riley served as a town justice from 2008 until he resigned on Aug. 1 of this year. The state Commission on Judicial Conduct said Riley's decision to step down resolved misconduct allegations against him that date to 2010. Riley has called the charges against him misleading and relatively minor, and has said his decision to step down was due to the pending merger of the courts and the retirement of his court clerk, not because of the allegations.
Among his other reasons for running, Riley said he wants to be involved with a major upcoming project at the airport, the $1 million renovation and expansion of the facility's terminal building.
Riley also said the town's other big public facility, the Harrietstown Town Hall, should be used for more meetings and conventions.
"We can't host 5,000-member conventions or anything, but there's a lot of meetings and seminars of 400 to 500 people that we might be able to host here," Riley said. With a pair of major hotel projects pending in the village, Riley said he thinks it's more likely the town will be able to attract that number of people in the future.
Riley wants the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce to bring back its visitor center to the town hall, calling it more of a central location for visitors to the community than its current site on River Street.
Asked about the railroad corridor, Riley said that when the Adirondack Scenic Railroad first started service between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid he supported restoring the tracks to Tupper Lake because it's a more scenic ride.
"It's a lost cause on the short ride between here and Lake Placid," he said. "It just doesn't get anybody excited. And we've never gotten to Tupper Lake, so I'm totally in favor of removing the tracks. I think with the snowmobiles, and hikes and bikes - I just think it would be better as far as the economy goes."
Riley said he has no major issues with the current town board.
"I don't have complaints about how that board has done things," he said. "I think they're careful. I just want to pledge my full cooperation with whoever ends up on the board."
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.