City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
• The council approved a resolution that allows local restaurants to begin outdoor seating on Monday, March 15. A similar temporary resolution was first initiated in 2020 to assist restaurants limited in their indoor occupancy due to pandemic protocols, and ultimately expired Dec. 31. “This resolution (in 2020) significantly impacted the city eating and drinking establishments,” said city Director of Risk and Safety Marilyn Rivers. “We’re looking forward to a very robust tourist season.”
• Should President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan receive Senate approval, the city of Saratoga Springs is anticipating the receipt of approximately $7 million of the $440 million overall funds estimated for municipalities in Paul Tonko’s 20th Congressional District, Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan said this week. The majority of those funds - about $5 million – will cover the city’s 2021 retirement costs, Madigan added. The remaining $2 million will assist in covering revenue, the specific details of which were
• Police Reform Task Force. Last August, the mayor appointed approximately one dozen members of the community to serve on the Saratoga Springs Police Reform Task Force. The move was in response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s June 2020 Executive Order requiring municipalities across the state to undertake a review - and with community input, develop a plan - to improve its existing police policies, practices and procedures by April 1, 2021.
• A public forum was held this week regarding a draft of the plan, and it will be presented to the City Council for review, said city attorney Vincent DeLeonardis. The council will ultimately decide which recommendations will be implemented as well as how they will be implemented. The council next meets March 16 and DeLeonardis said he anticipates a special City Council meeting will be held in late March to evaluate the plan, in advance of the April 1 deadline.
BALLSTON SPA —
Saratoga County officials announced March 3 the launch of a new Potential Vaccine Interest List phone call-in number, which will now enable residents to sign up for the vaccine interest list by telephone. A similar companion registry was launched online on Feb. 17 and has secured the names of approximately 11,000 local residents.
As vaccines become available in the county, names are randomly selected for vaccinations and those people are notified. Signing up on the list is not a guarantee of getting a vaccine, officials noted.
Residents may continue to register directly online at www.saratogacountyny.gov/vax. The Inbound Call Center, which allows residents to sign up on the Interest List by telephone, may do so by calling 518-693-1075, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
If registered online, there is no need to call to register again, and there is no benefit to registering multiple times, county officials said.
Saratoga County Public Health Services is directly administering the Pfizer vaccine for the first time this week. Previously, the County had only offered the Moderna vaccine. Officials said they expect to have some of the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccines available “very shortly.”
More than 45,000 residents overall – nearly 20% of the county population - have received at least one dose of vaccine. About 12,000 of those residents had been vaccinated by Saratoga County Public Health Services department or the county’s partners in the local EMS community. Just over 24,000, or more than 10% of county residents, have completed their vaccination series with both doses.
“In addition to our own clinics, we will continue to engage with our partners throughout the county to distribute vaccine as quickly as possible and hold mass-vaccination clinic events when supplies warrant,” said Saratoga Springs Supervisor Tara Gaston, who also is chair of the county Health Committee. Eighteen locations around the county have been identified as mass vaccination sites, including the Saratoga Springs City Center, and when the county is delivered from the state ample supply of vaccine to open a mass vax site, the county is prepared to do so, Gaston added.
Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine – which does not require cold storage – has arrived in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, during his presser on March 3. Approximately 164,800 doses are anticipated in that first J & J tranche and will be distributed while supplies last at mass vaccination sites to be open 24/7 later this week at Yankee Stadium, the Javits Center, and the New York State Fair.
The governor also announced new Gathering Limits. In effect March 22, residential gatherings maintain at 10 indoor, but go up to 25 outdoor. Social Gatherings in public spaces go up to 100 people indoors, 200 people outdoors.
Beginning April 2, event, arts & entertainment venues reopen at 33% capacity, up to 100 people indoor, 200 people outdoor. With attendee testing, capacity increases to 150 indoor, 500 outdoor. Masks and social distancing protocols still required.
Infection-wise, Saratoga County’s 7-day rolling average percent positivity is 2.3%, as of March 4. “The continued progress that is being made in the county is encouraging,” said Dr. Daniel Kuhles, commissioner of Saratoga County Public Health Services. “However, it is imperative that we do not lower our guard and leave our communities and hospitals vulnerable to another surge in cases.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS — After serving Spa City customers for more than a quarter-century, a popular Phila Street eatery has closed its doors for the final time.
Four Seasons Natural Foods, which stood at the corner of Phila and Putnam Streets since 1990, is in the contract process of being sold to new owners.
“In the restaurant business, it’s a crazy ride,” says owner Richard Frank. The store portion of Four Seasons was relocated in 2014 to 120 Henry Street – where it has and will continue to operate - and the Phila Street location was re-configured into the Four Seasons café.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the country, and like many other businesses, the Phila Street venue was affected. “Everybody took a hit in sales, but as far as ours, last summer we were doing about 25% of what we had been doing the summer before,” says Frank, who grew up in Pennsylvania and was introduced to Saratoga when he began spending summers here at the age of nine.
Four Seasons was launched in 1988 near Caroline Street and Broadway and relocated to Phila Street in 1990 when Frank joined the store, leasing it for a handful of years before eventually purchasing the building in the mid-1990s. A relocation of the Four Seasons “store” to 120 Henry Street was made in 2014, with the Phila Street location moving into its “café” phase. The company scaled back during the pandemic in 2020 and closed its Phila Street doors in November.
“The moral of the past year is that you have to be flexible. What we thought we know, we don’t, and you have to be able to adapt,” Frank says. “I was sort of waiting to see what would happen next when a nice couple came and offered to buy the building. It made sense.”
The sale is under contract and as for future use, the expectation is the couple purchasing the building are interested in a retail endeavor. Since the 1930s, the single-story building has served as meat market and a grocery store, a military recruitment center, a wine store, and as Mrs. London’s Bakeshop and Restaurant during the 1980s.
“We were there 31 years, but overall, I think it’s great because the people seem super-excited and it’s great to see someone who’s going to love the building. It’s a great corner,” Frank says. “It’s definitely a loss of a casual vegan restaurant,” Frank acknowledges; however for Four Seasons at 120 Henry St., life goes on.
“We’ve always done sandwiches and soups and we’ve been augmenting our kitchen a little. We do our desserts at the café, but we’re going to be able to do them here. Over time (post-pandemic) we might be able to re-organize and have some sort of casual eat-in,” he says. “To some extent we’re not really doing anything different; yes, the café is a big piece that now won’t be part of us, but we’re still in business, we’re still doing food, I still have food service I believe in and we serve good products, so it’s not an end of the road or anything like that. If anything, it’s better here, better for our staff and better for our customers.”
BALLSTON SPA — A 64-year-old Schenectady man was charged with Making a Terroristic Threat, a felony, in connection with an incident that occurred late Sunday afternoon in Wilton.
The man - Gregory L. Craig, is suspected of making a 911 call shortly after 4 p.m. on Feb. 28 and stating that he was “going to blow up the Walmart store” in the town of Wilton, according to the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office.
The store was evacuated, secured, and swept by the Sheriff’s Office K9 units.
Prior to the threat, police said that Craig had been removed from the Walmart store for an unrelated incident. He was located a short time later on a public bus in Ballston Spa, attempting to return to Schenectady.
Craig was taken into custody without incident and arraigned by Judge J. Waldron of the Stillwater Town Court. He was sent without bail to the Saratoga County Correctional Facility and is scheduled to appear in the Wilton Town Court next week.
BALLSTON SPA — The Board of Supervisors this week moved forward with details regarding the selling of the building on Woodlawn Avenue in Saratoga Springs, as well as approving the hiring of additional employees for the Public Health Department.
The Board approved a resolution to hire a company to put up for auction the building it owns at 31 Woodlawn Ave. An existing lease of one floor of the building to Shelters of Saratoga for use as an overflow homeless shelter expires March 31. The auction is anticipated to take place online between April 6 and April 28.
The county also approved funds for new hires for its public health services department.
The measure includes the hiring of two Public Health Epidemiologists at the base salary of $73,127, and one Supervising Public Health Epidemiologist at the base salary of $83,444 - to investigate patterns and causes of disease and injury in humans, and to reduce the risk and occurrence of negative health outcomes through research.
It also approved the hire of one Senior Public Health Educator to develop public health education campaigns, at the base salary of $59,522.
The projected starting date is Jan. 1, 2022 and the county offered as its reasoning, the following: as the county moves forward through to the eventual end of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, Public Health Services is in need of strong epidemiology capabilities for data analysis, displaying data, case investigation and contact tracing. Funds for the new positions will be covered by the county’s fund balance.
Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, R-Saratoga, updated on the Board on the status of the COVID relief bill under review by lawmakers in the House.
“The current COVID relief negotiations are ongoing right now. President Biden has put forth a $1.9 trillion package,” Stefanik said. “It does include state and local aid, which I support, but it also includes a laundry list of very partisan requests and priorities of Speaker Pelosi such as increasing the minimum wage, such as economic stimulus payments to illegal immigrants. I hope that there will be a bi-partisan package that includes state and local aid (but) that’s not the direction this administration is going.”
Stefanik said projections are the bill would result in millions of dollars coming to Saratoga County and that “it will also include direct funding for every town, regardless of size.”
The House is anticipated to vote on the bill Feb. 26.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Waiters, waitresses, police officers and schoolteachers are some of the people working in Saratoga Springs who may have the opportunity to live in the city with the development of some new, affordable, workforce housing units on the city’s west side. It’s called the Promenade, and it’s slated for completion in the spring.
The Promenade apartments feature 63 new rental units. The project consists of a four-story mid-rise building that will house 41 one and two-bedroom apartments and three townhouse apartment buildings featuring 22 apartments made up of 1, 2 and 3-bedroom apartments.
This workforce housing project targets a wide range of income levels - including 30%, 50%, 60% and 80% of the area median income, or AMI thresholds. The AMI for Saratoga Springs is about $70,000 says Paul Feldman, executive director of the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority, and president of Promenade Development – which is an affiliate of the SSHA and is the company that owns the 63-unit project.
In actual dollars, that translates to a monthly one-bedroom rent range of $340 - $1,090 for an average 759 square feet; two- bedroom range from $399 - $1312 (995 sq. ft. avg.), and a three-bedroom range from $453 - $1522 (1348 sq. ft. avg.). Ten of the units will be set aside for veterans who have been or are at risk of homelessness and / or who have a disability.
The development is sited on South Federal Street, behind the Stonequist high-rise apartments (41 apartments), and on West Circular Street- where there will be 22 apartments in three townhouses.
Two of the townhouses are completed and availability still exists for two-bedroom units. “The third townhouse and the four-story mid-rise (comprised largely of one-bedroom units) are both projected to be completed by May 1,” Feldman said.
“We have been accepting applications and are starting the process of determining eligibility of those applicants for a projected May 1 move-in date. We strongly encourage people to get their applications in now.”
“When I took over the housing authority about five years ago, we identified at that point that of all the housing built in the past decade or so none of it was considered to be affordable housing; it had been over a decade since any affordable housing had been built,” Feldman said.
“A large segment of Saratoga Springs employment is the hospitality industry, not to mention the hospital workers – and the majority of the money those employees made did not allow them to live in Saratoga Springs, because of the outrageous cost of apartments.”
Input was gleaned from agencies such as the Saratoga Springs Downtown Business Association and the county Chamber of Commerce.
“Their plight was of being able to keep employees. They wanted to have affordable housing so they could keep their work force local,” Feldman said. “And it’s not only the restaurant and hospitality industry, but professions like teaching, or police. They can even afford to live in the city. New police officers, new teachers who start out at $40,00 a year. They can actually afford to live in Saratoga Springs now. This will provide more options for people. We started on the path maybe four years ago and it’s now coming to fruition. Both of these projects should be completed in May.”
Applications are being accepted online at saratogaspringspha.org/promenade. For more information visit the Promenade web site, or call SSHA at 518-584-6600.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A citywide vote to elect five council members and two supervisors is more than eight months away, but movements currently in play could have ramifications come November, and ultimately help play a role in the future direction the city takes.
Of the five council seats, current city Mayor Meg Kelly – who has served two, two-year terms, and Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan – who has served five terms - have each said they will not seek re-election. Additionally, Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton recently announced she will seek re-election, but that she will do so as a “no party” member, after changing her party registration to no longer being an active member of the GOP.
In a city that has, of late, grown accustomed to political incumbents, the prospect of political turn-over can result in a steep learning experience on-the-job, says former Deputy Mayor Hank Kuczynski.
“While it’s the same (commission) form of government, it takes some time for people to figure out their own roles, and then learn how those roles work together,” says Kuczynski, a Saratoga Springs resident who served in Ken Klotz’ administration and has maintained an interest in city politics. “The significance is that it looks like there are only (a few) incumbents who are going to run for office and possibly be elected – so there’s going to be a long learning curve. They’re going to be untested and inexperienced in terms of the process.”
Another potentially intriguing aspect in this coming November’s election could come as a result of recent changes in election law that has altered the landscape involving a number of so-called minor parties. Voters previously registered with the Green, Libertarian, Independence, or SAM party, are now considered No Party (NOP).
The four political parties that now remain in New York State are Democratic, Republican, Conservative, and Working Families. While all registered voters are eligible to vote in the November General Election, No Party voters are not eligible to vote in any Primary Elections.
In addition to voters, candidates will also be affected by the changes. If a potential candidate does not receive the endorsement of any of those four existing parties, it would appear that several hundred signed petitions are required to secure an independent line on the ballot for the specific election.
To understand the value of third parties, consider the results of the Saratoga Springs 2019 elections, where the victors of three of the five council seats up for vote were largely aided by candidates holding lines in addition to those that they held in the Democrat and Republican parties.
Democrat Party primary winner Patty Morrison complied nearly 3,200 votes on the ticket for Finance Commissioner, but Michele Madigan ultimately emerged the victor after securing nearly 2,000 votes on the Working Families line, nearly 1,800 on the Independence Party line and several dozen votes on the SAM line.
In the Department of Public Works Commissioner race, Democrat Dillon Moran bested Republican Anthony “Skip” Scirocco 3,499 to 2,771, but Scirocco emerged as winner by adding 909 Independence Party and 419 Conservative Party line votes. And current Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton – who received 2,648 Republican line votes to Democrat challenger Kendall Hicks’ 3,401 - secured the council seat by adding more than 1,300 combined additional votes via the Conservative, Libertarian, Independent, and SAM lines.
Where candidates are concerned, there are now less party opportunities available for endorsement and to actually get on a ballot. They must now do so under either the Democrat, Republican, Conservative, or Working Families line, or go the independent signature route.
Voters registered in any of the previously existing party lines interested in enrolling in currently existing parties had until last week to do so. Eddie Miller, chairman of the Saratoga County Independence Party, was one resident to do so when he enrolled with the Working Families Party.
In Saratoga Springs, there are 107 voters registered with the Working Families party line, according to documents requested from, and provided by the Saratoga County Board of Elections. There are 71 members who were either registered with other parties or were unaffiliated with any party, who recently joined the Working Families Party during the past 12 months, according to voter enrollment documents.
Those 71 new members of the Working Families Party line came from various previous affiliations: 30 were previously registered Republicans, 17 Democrats, 7 Independence Party members, and a combined 5 members previously enrolled with the Conservative, Libertarian and Green party lines. Twelve had no previous party affiliation.
The shift in enrollments may have ramifications leading up to the election season, Kuczynski explains.
“What it does, is it controls who gets the nomination. It can either help select a candidate, or it can block a candidate,” he said.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — “Nothing bears any resemblance to past seasons,” says Elizabeth Sobol, president and CEO of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
The SPAC campus first opened on a July night in 1966 when it welcomed to the stage the New York City Ballet. A few hours downstate, Mickey Mantle hit a home run in each game of a doubleheader against the Washington Senators at Yankee Stadium, and all across America, The Beatles’ “Paperback Writer” dueled with Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers In The Night” for a spot at the top of the charts.
In ballparks, across broadcast networks and atop performance stages, last summer was like no other, preceded by a distress of unpredictability over what could happen. Looking ahead to the upcoming summer, that still unpredictable aura has seemingly transformed into what can possibly be.
“This time last year – March, April, May – when it was clear what was going to end up happening – we started asking ourselves the question: Who and What is SPAC when you can’t use the amphitheater?” Sobol says.
Currently, there have been “regular and very fruitful conversations with all our resident companies,” she explains, referring to the New York City Ballet, The Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. “There is a huge effort going across many different organizations, because we all know how important it is to have some presence by these companies up here. We’re committed to having all of them in Saratoga and they’re committed to being here in some way, shape or form.”
SPAC also plays host to the annual Saratoga Jazz Festival, Opera Saratoga, and a summerlong staging of pop concerts presented by Live Nation, as well as the annual Saratoga Wine and Food Festival and an additional slate of imaginative programming. Right now, what form they will take: “Nobody knows yet,” Sobol says. Still, preparations are underway. And there have been a multitude of things learned.
“We learned so much about so many things. It gave us time and quiet to contemplate things we normally don’t have time to contemplate. The last year has honed our skills living with the jaws of uncertainty wide open, 24/7, and it’s forced us to not take anything for granted.”
Showing its merits beyond an oft-misplaced public perception as being solely a site for an amphitheater, SPAC exhibited its mettle as a holistic organization with a series of community collaborations alongside cultural agencies and the business community, as well as continuing its outreach in the world of education – where in 2019 alone it served 50,000 students around the Capital Region and worked with more than 120 local schools and non-profit organizations to present more than 400 unique classes, events, performances, and presentations.
“We started asking ourselves: How can we provide experiences that bring people together around beauty, rather than pushing them apart. That kind of informed everything we did: let’s look at our campus like a blank canvas and all the opportunities and possibilities we have here. So along with that question of who and what is SPAC when the amphitheater stage is dark, is also the question of how we can best serve art, artists and the community.”
On campus meanwhile, the organization last summer unveiled The Pines at SPAC. The new 4,000 square foot indoor/outdoor, year-round education and community events space features a pavilion and a terrace where some small gathering events may take place. While it is a structure much of the public has not yet seen, The Pines has been used to host more than 200 events since late last summer, 50 people maximum capacity at a time, and the grounds have also featured things such as dance classes, wellness classes, a teaching space for healing arts practitioners, and the launching of Culinary Arts at SPAC events.
A “Soundwalk” project was also initiated, merging performance and programming that takes audiences more into nature. “An embracing of our place in the natural world in a much more direct and celebratory way is going to be a big piece for us moving forward,” Sobol says. “Anything we could do using our rigorous COVID protocols and procedures to create a safe space for people to gather outdoors and do the things they needed to do for their soul. So, we now have a blueprint for doing things on a very small scale, for being flexible and agile. It honed a lot of skills for us.”
SPAC’s summer ballet gala will be re-imagined in 2021. “It’s not going to be a massive event with hundreds of people at the Hall of Springs on the lawn, but now that we know we can replicate these events – let’s say it’s for 50 people - maybe we’ll do 5 or 10 of them. We now have that blueprint, and we can execute that pretty nimbly,” she says. A culinary concept that has to do with ballet history is also being put together for a limited capacity gathering in 2021, and possibilities of having “rolling audiences” – that is, a few hundred people being rotated into the grounds at any one time – are being considered as a way to stage the summer Jazz Fest.
“We’re looking at every possible option so that if things are still very restrictive, we can accommodate that, and if they are looser we can accommodate that too,” Sobol says.
“‘All of these things are things we’re all working on together – how to bring companies to Saratoga, finding ways to perform that are safe for the audience and the performers and the crew, and also models that are financially viable for us and for them.”
Promoter Live Nation will have its own decisions to make regarding the summer pop season. More than one dozen scheduled shows are slated to take place from mid-July through September, featuring artists such as Rod Stewart, Hall & Oates, Maroon 5, Backstreet Boys, and Alanis Morissette, among others. A phone call to Live Nation seeking comment for this story was not returned.
As far as capacity in the amphitheater, a 10% max limit recently imposed on large venues by Gov. Cuomo would keep the audience inside the pavilion to 500 people, although those percentage numbers could fluctuate depending on vaccine roll-out and COVID-19 infection rates. SPAC being an amphitheater – a somewhat open building with an attached outdoor lawn – the stipulations specific to the venue are not clear.
“We are working on a regular basis with the governor’s office to talk about what amphitheaters look like, what that’s going to be, but imagine if we’re still at 10%,” Sobol says. “Even if we do use the lawn, we’re still limited to 500 people in the amphitheater. If they don’t give us a percentage but say we have to limit according to the six-foot rule, then that would limit us to about 1,200 people. It has enormous financial implications. And none of us knows right now. Trying to plan for July and August when we don’t even know when vaccinations are going to be widely available is tough,” she added.
SPAC is a 501(c)3 charitable organization with an annual operating budget of about $10 million. To normally meet that budget, about $5 million in revenue is generated from ticket sales, rent paid by promoter Live Nation which stages the summer pop concerts, and other miscellaneous sources. The other $5 million must largely be raised through SPAC memberships, charitable donations and corporate underwriting.
When programs were first cancelled last May and June, SPAC projected a $1.3 million shortfall, “but the community really rose up and was so generous that we ended up able to end the year in the black, so there’s tremendous gratitude around the generosity of the community,” Sobol says. “But at the same time, 2021 is going to be a lot more perilous for us, because we didn’t have the (high) costs last year. We are committed to major resident companies, so support at SPAC for this year is going to be even more important than it was last year.
“Most of our planning is done years in advance and right now what we have is about 50 plates juggling in the air waiting for a moment – which will probably be sometime in early April - to say this is our best bet of what three months is going to look like, because we’ve got to basically have 90 days between the time we pull the trigger on something, and we have our first performances. That’s an absolute minimum,” Sobol says.
“It’s also about the perception. There are more and more studies out there that ask, ‘Do I dare go out into an environment where there are hundreds or thousands of people?’ That’s the big quotient we can’t predict: behavior.”
Ultimately, SPAC is planning to actively showcase all its resident companies in 2021. “We just don’t know what that’s going to look like,” Sobol says. “Is it in the amphitheater at vastly reduced capacities? Is it in some other performance space – because if we’re seriously limited then we may have to look at some other spaces. But, we are committed to having the musicians and the dancers here in some capacity.”
WILTON — Kirklin Woodcock has served as Highway Superintendent in the town of Wilton since the 1980s, overseeing a crew charged with the maintenance of approximately 100 center-line miles of town roads.
The lifelong Wilton resident has decided this year will be his last as Highway Superintendent. This week, Woodcock spent some time to talk about accomplishments of the position, his personal life, and how Wilton has changed in the years since his earliest days of growing up in the town during the 1940s.
Q. Tell us about your personal life.
Woodcock: I’m a native, from Wilton. I’ll be 80 in March and I’ve been married 57 years. My wife’s name is Sandra and I have one daughter, Deborah. She’s married with one daughter, so I have one grand-daughter - that’s Caitlyn. She’s in college and going for her master’s at MIT. I grew up as a country boy with a huge family. Three sets of twins, and I am a twin.
Q. How has Wilton changed over the years?
Woodcock: I would say the biggest change was when the Northway came through in the ‘60s. It split our town in half. There were some farms, and I’m talking some real nice farms, years ago along that Northway corridor, and the Northway split them in half. Since then, it’s pretty much grown into a residential area.
Also, if you look at the growth around the mall area, back when we used to have Pyramid Mall, and the growth with Target and Ace Hardware distribution places in Wilton, it brought in a lot of jobs. It’s been quite a change. But, you have to go with the change.
Q. Tell us about your long-held position as Highway Superintendent.
Woodcock: The thing you have to remember with the job is that you work for the residents of Wilton. That’s always been my goal, to satisfy them and to work with all the other departments.
I’ve been the highway superintendent for more than 30 years, re-elected every two years. I had eight years on the town board prior to that when I was also working for UPS – where I had a 20-year career.
We do all the maintenance of the roads – building, construction, and during the wintertime of course we maintain the plowing. We also work with a lot of the other departments. We have been a major player in Gavin Park, Camp Saratoga, and we’ve put some effort in at Grant’s Cottage; we worked on the Maple Avenue Firehouse when they were getting going with their new building.
We had a major fire in 2002. The fire was a major catastrophe for me because I put so many years in and then in three or four hours it was all gone, and boy that’s devastating, That kind of set us back for a little while, but we got through that and here we are today with a major town along the Northway corridor. My crew is second to none. They’re a phenomenal crew.
Q: You’ve decided to not seek re-election for another term in November?
Woodcock: I have a couple of projects I want to see finished, but I will not seek re-election in November. I built it up to where it is today. When I started out it was nothing, we had a pile of dirt roads and I want to turn this job over to someone who I’ve been training for a while. I don’t want to get to get too much into the politics of it, but I certainly would like my deputy Mike Monroe to take my job, if that would be the wishes of the residents of Wilton. He’s been in my department about 20 years and can certainly do the job.
Q: What will you most miss?
Woodcock: I’ll miss the guys and I’ll miss my colleagues. But it’s time to turn it over to someone who’s younger and I want to set aside some time for myself. I have some hobbies - I do some auctions, I’m going to try and play some golf maybe, weather permitting. All of my friends are here. I’ll miss it, but I won’t have to get up at 2 or 3 in the morning and I can sleep in if I want.
I’ve also been dedicating my time and what I can do for the Double H (Ranch) Hole in The Woods. We do a fundraiser for them every year and try to help out. I would imagine, in the 25-plus years, we probably raised $200,000 to $300,000, I would think.
Q. That’s the camp Paul Newman was involved with?
Woodcock: Paul Newman and Charlie Wood. I knew Charlie Wood from before. Paul Newman joined forces with him and got that all going. It’s unbelievable because back in the ‘60s before I settled down, I worked at the Double H Hole in the Woods, in what used to be Hidden Valley Dude Ranch. Our crew back then we did the first thousand feet of grubbing for the ski slope up there, drilling the rock and blasting. That’s when I was a young guy. You know, it’s funny when you realize what you did then, and you see what it is today – it’s a big change.
I’ve had a great run and I think it’s maybe time to sit on the side and enjoy some other things. At least I can ride by and say I was a part of it.
Robin Dalton grew up in a Republican household, and it is the one party she’s been affiliated with during her adult life.
In 2019, after announcing her candidacy for the position of Public Safety Commissioner, she successfully ran as a Republican on the Republican, Independence, Libertarian, Conservative, and SAM party lines, besting Democrat challenger Kendall Hicks by 7 points, and taking office in January 2020.
A week-and-a-half ago, she submitted paperwork seeking to change her status as a registered member of the Republican Party to having no official party affiliation. The move comes at the same time that Dalton has announced her bid for re-election in November.
“The Republican Party on a national level has taken a very extreme turn. That’s not a reflection of any one thing in Saratoga Springs. It is my discomfort with Donald Trump and his presidency and where it was leading the party - devolving into a party that represents a very anti-democratic sentiment. I could not identify the fundamental principles of the Republican Party as I knew it, growing up,” Dalton says.
“Challenging the votes of a fair and democratic election. The insurrection at the Capitol. The way the party has allowed itself to be represented by Marjorie Taylor Greene. That’s just not who I am,” Dalton says. “I didn’t leave the party, the party left me, and I know that there are a lot of other people out there that feel the same way.”
She first began closely observing city council meetings about a decade ago and says she was encouraged that political partisanship did not seem to play a factor in the way the city council presented themselves or the ways in which they voted. It is something she is adamant about wanting to see continue.
“Being at the City Council table in Saratoga Springs has no correlation to any particular political ideology and my party affiliation has never had anything to do with any decision in my position in Saratoga Springs, it’s not going to affect my dealings with things in Saratoga Springs at all,” she says.
There are five at-large City Council members – one mayor and four commissioners responsible for the variety of different city departments, with decisions made during twice-a-month public meetings by simple majority rule. In Saratoga County, 2021 Primary Elections are slated to take place June 22 and the General Election on Nov. 2 – at which time all five council seats will be up for vote.
“I am seeking re-election in the fall and I did have five party lines in 2019, which was awesome. I also had this incredible coalition of bi-partisan support. I campaigned with people from different parties and it went very well because we all prioritized city over party,” Dalton says. “I do have to get the endorsement of a party, or people will have to write me in - so I am seeking any endorsement opportunity that I am approached with, and any party that’s willing to interview me I will interview with and seek the endorsement of.”
Moving forward, she will be independent of any party - not to be confused with the Independence Party, which actually is a party. Being independent of party is a situation former council member Matt McCabe was previously successful in, serving two terms as Commissioner of Finance.
The Commissioner of Public Safety position is an especially challenging one since 2020 as it directly addresses issues of social justice and the response to the pandemic – the latter being charged with issues of adapting safety compliance measures, re-opening plans and disseminating local vaccine information as it trickles from the federal government to the state, the state to the county, and then into local municipalities. For Dalton, this has included setting her alarm to two-hour intervals overnight to refresh online vaccination site availabilities for residents who have contacted her office, and successfully facilitating scores of appointments for some of those residents in the process.
Regarding social justice issues, a politically charged environment trickling down from the federal level has made solving complicated issues even more so. “I support our police department, and I also recognize white privilege and want to fight for social justice and equality and inclusion, and address race and bias in a comprehensive way. To not be able to have both of those things in one person is just absurd to me,” Dalton says.
“I am so appreciative of every party that supported me in 2019, especially the Republican city committee. They were incredible. They got me elected. And I’m deeply appreciative of their support and hope I will continue to have that support,” Dalton says. “The philosophy I’ve always had going into politics here was that I was going to be my most sincere and authentic self, and that if I couldn’t do that I wasn’t going to pursue this line of work. Fortunately, I’ve been able to maintain that and people who have known me politically here know that I’m (politically) moderate. I’ve never been someone who swings hard right or left.
“Right now, it’s a really hard time to be a moderate (and) in this political climate, I have no idea where either party is headed. People expect you to be one extreme or the other. Suddenly national issues have also become local, but I just don’t feel comfortable keeping an association with a party based on their actions on a national level,” Dalton says. “Even though that puts my political future here in jeopardy - because I risk not having a line at all on the ballot in November - I needed to be comfortable with myself and my choices.”
Overall, in Saratoga County, there were about 62,700 active registered Republican Party voters, 49,600 Democrat Party voters, and 43,200 voters unaffiliated with any party on Election Day 2020. Despite that majority of registered Republicans, the Democrat-led Biden/Harris ultimately bested the GOP’s Trump/Pence ticket, in the process keeping alive Saratoga’s reputation as a bellwether county with a voting streak of accurately selecting the nation’s next president across this entire century, and at least into the 1990’s. For comparison purposes, voters of Clallam County, Washington, have voted the winning candidate in every presidential election since 1980.
The state Board of Elections publishes updated party enrollment statistics three times each year with the next due report date slated for April 1, at which time it will be possible to gauge if there has been any switching of parties among local voters.