The new mayor and Common Council in the city of Plattsburgh were sworn in on New Year’s Day.
The election in November was the first in decades in which all the seats on Plattsburgh’s city council and the mayor’s position were open. The new mayor is the former mayor pro tem, and five of the six city council members have never served before. The new city leaders, their families and friends gathered in the auditorium of City Hall for a brief no-frills ceremony as Judge Mark Rogers inaugurated them into office. “I, James E Calnon; I, Rachelle C. Armstrong; I, Michael Kelly; I, Dale W. Dowdle; I, Paul J. O’Connell; I, Rebecca B. Kasper; I, Joshua A. Kretser; do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States and of the state of New York. And that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of member of the Common Council of the city of Plattsburgh. And I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of Mayor of the city of Plattsburgh according to the best of my abilities. Congratulations.”
There were no speeches, but at the end, the seven briefly huddled behind the podium and cheered.
The new city council is composed of five Democrats and one Republican. Ward Five Democratic Councilor Becky Kasper says there’s a freshness to the chamber. “If people who didn’t have experience didn’t run for office, then you would get stuck. And we have a diverse group. They are all highly motived. They bring different strengths to the table and because we work well together we can make sure that those strengths complement each other.”
The new council has been working for several weeks on the transition. Their priority is the city budget, according to Ward 3 Councilor Dale Dowdle, the sole Republican on the Council. “What revenues are available is the key priority. That’s what runs the city and that’s what we’re gonna have to work with. There are going to be some hard times financially ahead. I mean there are some now. Looking ahead, hopefully there’ll be other revenues generated. Hopefully the waterfront will get developed. Everybody wants a piece of tourism. I know we’re a new council, everybody’s anxious. But patience and persistence.”
Jim Calnon was mayor pro tem for six years and budget officer on the previous council. The Independent/Republican-endorsed mayor says it’s odd to hear himself called mayor. He is eager to move forward. “We’re not out of the budget woods yet. We think we can see a light at the end of the tunnel. And it’s such a huge part of what we do. We are in fiscal times that really dictate that has to be our first job, particularly if you look at trying to take advantage of the new economy and try to look at brighter days ahead. We all have great expectations for the city. We want to really help chart a part that will bring us to better economic times, bring us to a better image. Part of what I’ve been taking about is that I’m proud to be from Plattsburgh and I want to hear more people say that. I want people to get a much better feeling about being here. And part of that is really being sure that you take care of the basics first.”
Ceremony attendees expressed optimism in the new city government. Stan Ransom says “This is a new form of energy for the city of Plattsburgh. And I think this group will work together to have a whole new era come to Plattsburgh.” Resident Sherwood Kaiser finds the new council refreshing. “We will start on a new journey and we need to keep the talent here in Plattsburgh. We tend to export our talent. It’s a beautiful area but I’d like to see a little bit of growth and fiscally speaking Jim is the guy for the job at this point.” George Bolukus agrees. “We’re at a crossroads right now. We really need the new blood. I’ve got faith in this new council. I think they’re going to do a good job because I think Jim is the kind of guy that wants to attract new businesses.”
The city council will hold its first official meeting Thursday evening.