Harrietstown Democrats nominate Goetz, Riley

SARANAC LAKE – Howard Riley is wasting no time trying to get back into public life.

Riley, who resigned earlier this month from his town of Harrietstown justice position, was endorsed by the Harrietstown Democratic caucus Tuesday night in his bid for an unexpired two-year seat on the town board – one of a slew of positions on the town ballot this fall.

Ed Goetz, a retired state Department of Corrections employee, received the party’s nomination for one of the two four-year town board seats up for a vote.

No one else stepped forward at the caucus to run for the other positions on the ballot: town supervisor, a second four-year town council seat, highway superintendent, clerk and Riley’s former justice seat. The caucus, which was held in the Harrietstown Town Hall and drew about a dozen local Democrats, was recessed until Sept. 10 so party leaders could try to find other candidates for those positions.

Harrietstown Democratic Committee member Paul Herrmann, who led the caucus with committee Chairman Tom Catillaz, opened it by announcing that three candidates, including himself, had already started circulating independent Unity Party petitions because Tuesday was the deadline by which they had to be submitted. Herrmann said he circulated petitions for himself to run for the two-year town board seat, Goetz collected signatures for one of the four-year terms and Eric Olsen circulated petitions for the justice position. Olsen has since backed out, Herrmann said.

Riley said he had been asked to run for town board by several people and was interested in the two-year council seat. A former village manager, mayor and current Enterprise columnist on local history, Riley also previously served a four-year term on the town board.

“I’ve got ideas of what I’d like to do in two years, and that would be it,” Riley said. “I had no intention of running for the four-year term.”

Riley said he wants to “act as a public relations person to get the town and village boards back working together.” He also said he’d like to see the town hall used for more events and said the community should try to attract more conventions and meetings. Riley also said he’d like to get the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce to move its offices back to the town hall. The chamber moved to the North Elba Town House on River Street in 2009.

Riley didn’t make any reference to his Aug. 1 resignation as town justice, a position he held since 2008. The state Commission on Judicial Conduct announced last week that Riley’s decision to step down and not run for judicial office again resolved misconduct allegations against him that date to 2010.

Riley has called the charges against him “misleading,” relatively minor and nothing that impacted the outcome of any case he handled. He said his decision to step down was made a year ago due to the pending merger of the town and village of courts and the retirement of his court clerk, not because of the investigation.

The only reference to Riley’s justice tenure at Tuesday’s caucus came when Herrmann suggested Riley would be good to have on the town board to handle the transition in the local court system.

After Riley got the endorsement for the two-year seat, Herrmann said he would file paperwork declining the Unity Party nomination for the position.

Goetz was nominated to run for one of the four-year seats. He served a six-year term on the Saranac Lake school board in the 1980s. He ran for town justice in 2011 as a Republican and lost to Riley and Ken McLaughlin.

“Thank you to the committee for selecting me,” Goetz said Tuesday night. “I’ll do my best to carry on the Democratic tradition.”

Goetz said he’s approaching the election with the attitude that he’s going to win.

“I just think the electorate isn’t being heard very well in the town of Harrietstown, and hopefully we can change that,” Goetz said.

Asked to elaborate on those comments after the caucus, Goetz said people are concerned about “the town’s spending habits,” like on the Adirondack Regional Airport.

“It’s obviously a very vital function for the town,” Goetz said. “It’s necessary, but is it a taxpayer responsibility to continue to run the airport?”

Herrmann was asked if he’d consider running for the other four-year town board seat. He ultimately decided against it because he said he didn’t have time to commit to a campaign and because he thought the Democrats would have a better chance of getting one four-year candidate on the board than two.

At their caucus earlier this month, Harrietstown Republicans endorsed incumbent Bob Bevilacqua for supervisor, Ron Keough and Patricia Meagher for the two four-year town council positions and Barry DeFuria for the two-year town board seat. Town Clerk Patricia Gillmett and Highway Superintendent Craig Donaldson won GOP backing in their re-election bids. There were no candidates interested in running for a four-year town justice position at the time, although the Republican caucus is scheduled to reconvene at 7 o’clock tonight in the town hall

The Harrietstown Conservative Party has endorsed the same slate of candidates as the Republicans, except for the two-year town council seat, which went to Gerald Gillmett over DeFuria.

Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or cknight@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.