By Gordon Woodworth, Chronicle News Editor
Travis Whitehead, the retired electrical engineer and government watchdog, declared his candidacy for Queensbury Town Supervisor.
“I am seeking the Republican and Independence Party lines, and will probably also seek the Conservative Party line,” Mr. Whitehead, 65, told The Chronicle.
Incumbent Democrat John Strough confirmed via email that he seek another two-year term. Asked his reaction to Mr. Whitehead’s announcement, Mr. Strough wrote, “OK” but declined further comment.
Mr. Whitehead said, “I don’t have any party affiliation. I don’t have any ax to grind other than if you get caught with your hand in the cookie jar, you’ll get my attention.”
Warren County Republican Chairman Mike Grasso said Mr. Whitehead is scheduled to go in front of the Queensbury Republican Committee on Feb. 13th.
Grasso: ‘I think he’s viable’
“No Republican has come forward and expressed interest in running on the Republican line,” Mr. Grasso said. “If the committee decides to endorse him, he could run under Wilson Pakula, which allows someone not registered in a party to run for office on that line. And if Mr. Whitehead were to seek that, I will grant that authorization.”
Mr. Grasso said, “I think he’s a viable candidate. Some people don’t like his style but all you have to do is look at his record. He’s very effective in getting to the heart of matters, and he’s very analytical and bright. I personally don’t have any problem with him running.”
Whitehead’s challenges got results
Mr. Whitehead said it was he who first questioned the Siemens energy deal with Warren County that eventually resulted in the county getting $500,000 back.
He said he also was the first to look into work by the Lake George Watershed Coalition and its executive director David Decker, which eventually led to Mr. Decker being indicted on grand larceny charges.
“It would have been nicer if we found out about that a decade earlier,” Mr. Whitehead said.
His questions also led to the Lake Champlain/Lake George Regional Planning Board being reorganized after discovering a series of questionable loans.
“The State Comptroller issued a report and found a lot of bad loans that they are now aggressively trying to collect,” he said.
“These issues are complex but it all does matter and it takes time to look into them,” Mr. Whitehead said.
“I often speak at Queensbury Town Board meetings but I have to sit down after three minutes and I don’t get very far.
“It would be better if I was sitting there and watching this stuff come in.”
How he grades Mr. Strough
Mr. Whitehead said, “Obviously I’ve had my differences with the present supervisor,” saying Mr. Strough should have shared information on audits of the Lake George Watershed Coalition with other elected officials and criticizing him for consistently underestimating revenues and overestimating expenses, leading to a $6-million reserve fund.
Asked how he would rank Mr. Strough as supervisor on a scale of 1 to 10, Mr. Whitehead said “That’s hard. He has a lot of good points and good human qualities. He’s attentive to the environment and expanding trails in the town, but in terms of understanding issues, I would give him a low number. I’d probably give him a 5 overall.”
Mr. Whitehead said becoming Town Supervisor would give him a “stronger voice, and more opportunity to express my point of view at the county, though I’m actually pretty happy with what is going on there now, especially since they hired Ryan Moore as county administrator.”
A consistent opponent to the County’s $11-million plans to extend a runway at Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport, he believes the plans “are going to die on their own in one of two ways.
“They will never get a permit because the need to show a compelling need, and Congresswoman [Elise] Stefanik is going to convince the Federal Aviation Administration to talk to people like me directly, which they haven’t done in the past.”
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