Rick Skiff appointed to Tupper Lake town board

TUPPER LAKE – The town board recently appointed its newest member.

Republican Rick Skiff will take the seat left vacant when former Councilwoman Patti Littlefield took the supervisor role in January. If Skiff wants to stay on the board in 2015, he will have to run for the seat’s remaining year in November.

The decision to appoint Skiff went to a vote following an executive session at the board’s first meeting of the year. Councilwoman Kathleen Lefebvre was the only one of the four to vote against it.

Former Councilman Jerry Fletcher, a Democrat, didn’t run for re-election last year, but Lefebvre said he was willing to sit in Littlefield’s vacant seat until the next November election.

“He (Fletcher) said he wouldn’t run again, but he’d stay on one more year so the people who wanted the position could then run for it,” Lefebvre said. “Then the 12 members on the (Democratic) committee took a vote, and it was overwhelming for Jerry. I was just sticking by what our committee had asked us to do.”

Aside from following the wishes of her party, Lefebvre said she thinks Skiff is a good choice.

“That’s the only reason I did that,” Lefebvre said. “His father (Jay Skiff) was on the board before, and I worked well with him. I like Ricky, and I think he’s going to be good, and I would have voted for him had I not been committed to the Democratic Committee. We’re a very strong little group and we work together, and when they ask me to support someone, I do it.”

The board now has three Republicans, Littlefield, Skiff and Councilman Mike Dechene, and two Democrats, Lefebvre and Councilman John Quinn.

Littlefield said her decision to offer the position to Skiff was based on establishing a well-rounded board.

“I was really trying to fill the seat with someone who had other interests they could bring to the table,” Littlefield said. “John Quinn spent time with the (Adirondack) Park Agency and he was on the school board, and Mike Dechene has years with education as a school board member. This brings a different resource to the board. He’s (Skiff has) been doing a lot of volunteering, and I thought it would be nice to have that come.”

Littlefield added that having someone younger on the board will also give its members a refreshing perspective. Skiff is 38. The next youngest board member is Dechene, who is 55.

Skiff lives in Tupper Lake with his 5-year-old son and wife. He has lived in Tupper Lake his entire life. When he isn’t with his family or working as an investigator for the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, Skiff is involved with the youth sports program in the summer, and he is the commissioner of the local men’s softball league.

Skiff told the Enterprise he’s been considering running for the last few years, but he has hesitated due to his busy schedule. He said the timing for the appointment is perfect since it will allow him to try it out for a year, and if it fits his schedule he’ll run in November.

“The only reason I didn’t run is because I’m very busy,” Skiff said. “I didn’t want to sign up to the board and run and not be able to fulfill my duties to the town.”

Skiff said he thinks there are many possibilities in Tupper Lake that get overlooked, especially when it comes to funding projects.

“I think a grant writer would be a great addition to the town,” Skiff said. “I think we’d qualify for a lot of what’s out there. Saranac Lake really looks for it, and they get it. I think we need to be way more proactive and get someone in there to look into these grants. It’s only fair that before we ask the (local) taxpayers to fund something, we see what kinds of funds are available first.”

Skiff said Tupper Lake should look to neighboring communities for inspiration on how to move forward without relying on the Adirondack Club and Resort, which is presently awaiting a decision in the state Supreme Court on whether the project can move forward.

“You always have to look at the possibility that that project won’t happen,” Skiff said. “There’s always going to be opposition out there, and the opposition can slow it down for a long time. I think we have to focus on the small-town aspect of what we have. It’s tough to mirror us after Lake Placid. They’ve got the Olympic history, but what do we have?”

At the top of Skiff’s own list of ideas is to promote existing aspects of the town, like nearby lakes, rivers and mountains. He said increasing the promotion and expansion of human constructs like the Big Tupper Ski Area, the town’s cross-country ski trails and the town’s network of snowmobile trails should also be a priority for the board.

“I’m new to this whole thing, I’m eager and I think there is something there for us to do,” Skiff said. “I think we need to sit down and progress. We talk and talk and talk, and people always talk about where we need to go. I think what needs to happen in the future is we need to devise a plan and actually follow through with that plan. I don’t think there’s been enough of that done.”