Saratoga Springs mayor decides against re-election bid
Updated 10:45 p.m.
SARATOGA SPRINGS Saratoga Springs Mayor Scott Johnson will not seek a fourth term this fall.
This will be the sixth and final year in office for the city native and Republican, whose tenure included the creation of a new recreation center, a parking garage on Woodlawn Avenue and weathering tough economic times early in his administration.
“It has been an honor and privilege to serve our city as your mayor,” Johnson said in a news release Saturday afternoon.
He promised to be active in his final year and beyond. Johnson said he expects movement before the end of 2013 from his charter review commission, which is looking at the city’s commission style of government, and wants to engage in some form of public service after leaving office.
“This is not the end of a career,” he said. “It’s just another chapter.”
City Accounts Commissioner John Franck, a Democrat, said it was a pleasure working with Johnson.
“Even though we are in different parties, I highly respect the man,” Franck said. “I think he set the bar pretty high for future mayors.”
Who the next mayor will be, or even who the next mayoral candidates will be, is not clear. Johnson said in a phone interview that he is not endorsing anyone at this point.
“It would be premature without knowing who is running,” he said.
The city’s Republican Committee met last week, but they’re not expected to endorse a candidate until April at the earliest. Saratoga Springs High School teacher David Patterson was discussed by some local Republican officials about running for mayor or another post on the council, but sources close to the Republican Party’s decision making say he will likely not run.
Jay Rifenbary, a motivational speaker, was mentioned by two sources as a potential Republican candidate. He didn't return a call Saturday night.
Saratoga County Republican Committee Chairman John Herrick, who used to lead the city Republicans, said Johnson’s announcement will likely prompt some candidates to come forward.
“We’ve got time,” he said.
Political observers and members of the local Democratic establishment expect the Democratic nominee will be Joanne Yepsen, a city representative on the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors, who has said she is considering a run. Yepsen didn’t return a call for comment Saturday night.
Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee Chairman Charlie Brown confirmed Yepsen has an “exploratory committee” helping her decide whether to run for mayor or her supervisor job. He wouldn’t comment on who is in her inner circle.
Herrick said he was disappointed with Johnson’s decision not to run, but understood the desire to walk away. He said the mayor will be remembered for the city’s new parking garage, construction of the recreation center on the south side and harnessing the resources of the local business community.
Additionally, Herrick credited Johnson with restoring the civility of the office and improving the tone of City Council meetings.
The mayor came under some fire last year with his response to bedbugs in properties controlled by the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority. He also received some criticism for remaining mostly mute on a push to change the city’s charter last year, with his last-minute introduction of a charter review commission seen as a political ploy.
Johnson came into office in 2008 after winning a three-way race with incumbent Democrat Valerie Keehn by 481 votes. He beat then-Public Safety Commissioner Ron Kim in 2009 and Brent Wilkes by about 200 votes in 2011.
The mayor enjoyed a Republican majority on the council for his first four years in office but has been in the minority during his third term.
“I would hope he considers a run for higher office,” said Herrick, who considered Johnson capable of a congressional run against Democrat Paul Tonko, though the mayor has not publicly expressed any interest in that seat.