The mayor of Stillwater resigned last Friday after being arrested on child pornography charges. Local leaders in the Saratoga County village are pressing on.
It was a shock and a setback for what locals describe as a "peaceful community." Residents were stunned when they heard the news that first-term Stillwater Mayor Rick Nelson had been arrested on child porn charges.
According to published reports, police tracked a particular IP address that had downloaded child porn to Nelson's physical address. A search warrant was executed Thursday; the 62-year-old Nelson subsequently arrested. He was charged with one count each of promoting a sexual performance by a child and possessing a sexual performance by a child. He could face up to 7 years in prison if convicted.
Nelson tendered his resignation the following day, with Deputy Mayor Frank Tatum stepping in to serve as acting mayor. Tatum led a special meeting of the Village Board of Trustees at Village Hall on Tuesday. He addressed the media before the board went into executive session. "We were all very surprised and saddened last Wednesday to hear about the arrest of our colleague, village Mayor Rick Nelson. To our residents, I wanna say this: The past week has been an incredibly difficult time for the village of Stillwater and we know that we are certainly going to be facing some challenging times ahead. But please be assured that we are a close community, with a very dedicated group of public servants. I am confident that we will get past this."
The town's website credits Nelson with having served as a deacon and officer in the Stillwater United Church. There have been previous brushes with the law: the Times Union found three cases involving Nelson connected to sexual misconduct of various types, but no convictions.
Terrie Gifford is a reporter for the Mechanicville Express who has spent the last 10 months covering village board meetings for the weekly publication. "This situation is something that I never would have imagined. I am sure that anybody who respected Rick as a public servant is really saddened by this. His family, his friends, his church, the village board. But this is an addiction and I really hope and pray that he gets the proper treatment for recovery."
Tatum says local government will not come to any sort of standstill over the incident. "We have an important job to do. And the village and its residents are our number one priority. There is much to do and we will continue to stay focused on the matters at hand as we move forward running the village government. To the media, I defer any further questions you may have to the New York State Police, as they continue their investigation into this matter."
In a coincidental twist, The Saratogian identified one of the lead arresting officers who charged Nelson as state police Investigator Aaron Stefanik, a distant cousin of Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, whom Nelson's son Patrick is currently challenging as a Democrat.
The paper reports Stefanik, who works out of the Malta state police station, says he hasn’t had contact with the Congresswoman in many years, and was not aware Patrick Nelson intends to run against her. Troopers did not immediately return a call for comment.
Rick Nelson, who has lived in the village for more than three decades, defeated 23-year Mayor Ernest Martin in 2015. He was scheduled to appear in Stillwater Town Court Wednesday.