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In Greenwich: Why did 5-term Democrat Idelman lose to newcomer?

By Gordon Woodworth, Chronicle News Editor

“We ran an issue-based campaign, and facts are a stubborn thing,” Republican Don Ward told The Chronicle when we asked why the first-time candidate thinks he defeated five-term Democratic town supervisor Sara Idelman in the Washington County Town of Greenwich.

Don Ward

After absentee ballots were counted Tuesday morning at the Washington County Board of Elections, Mr. Ward, 70, edged Mrs. Idelman, 72, by 30 votes, 731-701.

Mr. Ward, who is a retired U.S. marshall, said a big issue was parks, especially the Hudson Riverside Park, which Mrs. Idelman championed.

“It’s at the very end of Greenwich, and the contention is it will bring business to Greenwich,” Mr. Ward said. “But we knocked on 500 doors, and many of the folks asked why develop this park when we have a beach that needs work here.”

Mrs. Idelman, asked to interpret the results, said, “There’s a lot of anger and frustration in this country, and I think my opponent tapped into that.”

She said, “I was accused of not being transparent about the parks, but everything was done in open meetings. The only executive sessions we had were when we were negotiating a price. And the Town Board was behind it 100%.”

Mrs. Idelman said using grants, the town paid $149,000 for three acres for the park, which she said is supported by the town’s comprehensive plan. Another grant will help the town improve the Battenkill Beach Mr. Ward referred to, she said.

“I see parks as a quality of life issue that lead to economic development,” said Mrs. Idelman.

Mr. Ward responds, “What we tapped into was a need for change. She’s been in office for 10 years, and touts economic development, but nothing has happened.

“As to her focus on parks, I look at it another way: Quality of life is having a job and a few extra bucks in your pocket. Quality of life isn’t the issue. Economic development is.”

Mr. Ward said, “75% of our tax base is homeowners, and 17% is commercial. Our goal is to get the commercial rate as high as we can, so I’m forming a committee to see what we have, and to use our contacts to create a business-friendly environment to get people here.

“It won’t be a quick process, and we will take the first year to lay it out.”

Mr. Ward said he will not take the town’s portion of his supervisor salary, which is $13,100. “I’m also not taking the medical coverage. To me, it’s public service.”

He said he will take his county salary of $18,671 to help offset mileage costs to and from the county building in Fort Edward.

He said other issues he plans to focus on are senior housing and transparency.

“There are not many apartments in town, and they are expensive,” he said. “We need senior housing for those who want to downsize. And on transparency, I will post the town’s expenses on the website every month so people can see what they are paying for. And I will post the hours I will be in the office. Availability is also transparency.”

Idelman: I’m proud of my record

Mrs. Idelman, who now chairs the Washington County Democratic Committee, said, “I’m very proud of my record. I’m proud of the work I have done at the county. I was a strong voice at the county. I brought a different perspective as one of four Democrats and one of three women.

Sara Idleman

“I was the first woman supervisor in Greenwich. I feel really good about my time as supervisor. I know the community.

“I’ve lived her all of my life. And I was very supportive of a lot of initiatives like the youth center, the Comfort Food Community, the library and the Cossayuna Lake Improvement District.”

She said she won’t run again for public office, and plans to “travel, read and go skiing. I’ll be involved in the community. I’m not going anywhere.”

Mrs. Idelman was the only Democrat on the Greenwich Town Board, but the new board will continue to have one Democrat.

Democrat Pat Donahue (721 votes) and Republican Jeff Duxbury (714) won the two open seats on the town board, defeating Republican Julie Sipperly (699) and Democrat Audrey Fischer (659).

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