By JOHN PURCELL
Recorder News Staff
FULTONVILLE — Two village natives are seeking to be elected mayor later this month, but only one name will appear on the ballot after nominating petitions for a candidate were invalidated.
Ryan Weitz, a former Montgomery County legislator, will be the only name on the ballot when Fultonville voters head to the polls Tuesday, March 21, to elect a mayor, but Interim Fultonville Mayor George Donaldson is seeking to retain the position through a write-in campaign. The special election will be held from noon to 9 p.m. on March 21 at Glen Town Hall.
The only race on the ballot is to fill the unexpired four-year term of mayor, which expires on March 31, 2019.
Weitz challenged Donaldson’s petition and three of his objections were sustained, with two of those objections each enough to invalidate Donaldson’s entire petition, according to Montgomery County Republican Election Commissioner Terrence Smith. Fultonville elections are handled by the county Board of Elections.
One fatal flaw in Donaldson’s petition was the date of the election was not included in the preamble, which invalidates all signatures on the petition page, and there was only one page of signatures filed, according to Smith.
The second fatal flaw was the term of the office on Donaldson’s petition was listed as expiring in 2018, but the term does not expire until the following year. Smith said this also would have invalidated the entire page of signatures.
Smith said the final objection sustained out of the nine Weitz had filed against his opponent’s petition was one of the signatures was a person who was not a registered voter in the village. This objection removed that one signature, which was a moot point with the two other objections sustained.
Donaldson confirmed Tuesday he was running a write-in campaign for mayor. He declined to comment on
the objections sustained against his petition or how the errors occurred.
Weitz said he was “hesitant” to file objections to Donaldson’s petition, but he ultimately felt it was his duty to challenge the petition.
“There are laws and rules that need to be followed,” Weitz said. “The petitioning process is a fairly straightforward process, and I felt due to the fact that these petitions were invalid on their face that I had a civic duty to bring that to the Board of Elections’ attention.”
Only six signatures were required for each mayoral candidate’s petition. Donaldson had 15 signatures and Weitz had 55 signatures, according to Smith.
Weitz’s petition was to run on the independent party called “Fultonville’s Future.” If Donaldson’s petition was not invalidated, he would have been on the “Time” independent party ballot line.
An individual must file a challenge to a petition before the county Board of Elections will perform any sort of review. There were no challenges filed against Weitz’s petition, according to Smith.
Donaldson said there were several residents who asked him to run for mayor and he decided to seek the office because he has a lot of concerns about the village.
“We want to make some improvements on some of the things people have been asking for,” Donaldson said.
He said regular hours are planned to be established for the clerk-treasurer, so residents can visit the office to take care of business. Regular office hours are not currently maintained.
Fultonville Board of Trustee members approved Monday Donaldson’s appointment of Kelley O’Kosky as clerk-treasurer effective April 1. Clerk-Treasurer Thomas DiMezza has already been training O’Kosky, which will continue until his resignation becomes effective at the end of March.
Since the position of clerk-treasurer is a mayoral appointment, Weitz could decide to appoint a different person if he is elected. Weitz said he is not privy to the interview and selection process leading to O’Kosky’s appointment, so he will review her qualifications if elected before making a decision.
Weitz said he was “on the fence for a little while” about whether to run for mayor, but his decision to run came down to his desire to serve the community.
“We’ve really got a wonderful village that we do live in,” Weitz said. “We’re in a very great position in terms of the tremendous opportunities and tremendous assets in the village. I look forward to hopefully helping the village move to the next level in the future.”
Weitz is a lifelong village resident and has served as its historian since 2007. He has also served as president of the Fultonville Cemetery and Natural Burial Ground since 2009. He also serves on the Fonda-Fultonville Joint Wastewater Treatment Plant Board.
At 25 years old, Weitz is likely be one of the youngest candidates to run for mayor. He served on the county legislature for one three-year term at District 4 legislator, but declined to seek re-election last year.
Then-Fultonville Mayor Robert Headwell ran unopposed for Weitz’s seat, which led to the mayoral vacancy after he officially resigned Dec. 31. Weitz said he when he decided not to seek re-election he had no intention to run for mayor and he did not know Headwell would run for his seat on the legislature.
Fultonville trustees on Jan. 23 appointed Donaldson to serve as interim mayor after Deputy Mayor and Trustee Linda Petterson-Law expressed she had no desire to serve as the interim mayor.
Donaldson said he stepped down as chief of the Fultonville Fire Department to run for village mayor.
Donaldson said he has experience in several leadership and management positions, including serving on the Johnstown Water Board. He also has experience working with various government officials through prior positions he had held.
“I was born and raised in Fultonville and care a lot about the village,” Donaldson said.
Donaldson’s family also has a history serving Fultonville, including his grandfather who served as clerk for 33 years and his father who served as a trustee as well as deputy mayor, for 32 years. Donaldson said he has been interested in running for mayor for a long time.
Weitz said a key priority for him is to improve on collaboration between board members, village employees and neighboring municipalities. He said if a service could be provided better or at lower cost through working with another municipality, village officials have a duty to explore it.
“Given the nature of real property taxes in upstate New York, if I’m elected mayor, I think the village board and myself have a duty to explore any option to save our residents money on their tax bill,” Weitz said. “As an engineer, you don’t have one person sit down in a room and try to solve a problem. You get a team together and you listen to a lot of different ideas, because you might think you have it all figured out but somebody might have something to add that could make it even better.”
Donaldson said proceeding with a study about consolidation or enhancing shared services with the village of Fonda is something he would look into after the election.
“The mayor of Fonda and I decided to wait until after the election,” Donaldson said Tuesday. “It doesn’t make sense to discuss it now.”
On Feb. 15, Donaldson had said Fultonville officials “have no talks going at this time whatsoever and no intentions of consolidating” with Fonda. He had said, “At this time we’re not looking at it at all.”
Weitz said the village should continue to seek grant and funding opportunities to update infrastructure. He said while a lot of work has been done on the sewer system over the past decade, but there is additional work needed to replace aging pipes and improve water quality.
Updating the village’s comprehensive plan is another task Weitz would like to tackle, because he said the last update was more than a decade ago. He said the zoning code also has not had a comprehensive update since the late 60s to early 70s.