Off the Northway: Who’ll lead county board next year?

Milton Town Supervisor Frank Thompson’s defeat in a Republican primary Tuesday has left the Saratoga

Milton Town Supervisor Frank Thompson’s defeat in a Republican primary Tuesday has left the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors without the leader it thought it was going to have next year.

Under the county’s seniority-based leadership system, Thompson — currently the board’s vice chairman — would have moved up to chair the board in 2012, had he won re-election.

Given Thompson’s rough-edged style, plenty of county employees were nervous about the kind of leadership he would have provided in 2012, which promises to be another stressful year for local governments everywhere.

That’s why some people — though not everyone — welcomed his defeat by former Republican state Assembly staffer Dan Lewza. But it leaves unanswered the question of who will lead the board next year, if not Thompson.

Current board Chairman Tom Wood from Schuylerville could serve a second year. Normally chairmen only serve a one-year term, but from time to time someone has served a second term.

I asked Wood about it. “I’d be available, if that’s what the board would like,” he said.

Or Charlton Supervisor Alan Grattidge, who would otherwise chair the board in 2013, could advance without serving a year as vice chairman (the vice chairman chairs the powerful Law and Finance Committee, overseeing the county’s finances).

But Grattidge has made clear he’d rather follow tradition and get a year chairing Law and Finance under his belt. Grattidge must also survive a re-election challenge in November.

Republicans control county government, holding 19 of the 23 board seats. They avoided the succession question until they knew the outcome of the Thompson-Lewza race. (County GOP Chairman Jasper Nolan and other powerful figures backed Lewza.)

Several supervisors said the Republican board members will need to discuss the situation among themselves before making a decision. But a good bet, for anyone with Racecourse Withdrawal Syndrome, will be that the quiet and self-effacing Wood will remain in the chairman’s office another year.

Anti-DWI efforts

Seven police officers got special recognition — and cute police officer bobbleheads — at a recognition breakfast Thursday in Saratoga Springs.

Getting a pat on the back from the Saratoga County STOP-DWI program and The Prevention Council were state Troopers Ken Ahigian, Dale Palmer and Michael Tromblee, Saratoga Springs sergeants Andrew Prestigiacomo and Timothy Sicko, sheriff’s Sgt. Dan Morley, and Stillwater town police Sgt. Ray Cordani.

All have spent years trying to catch drunken drivers — or, more to the point in The Prevention Council’s eyes, keeping children under age 21 from starting in on beer, cheap wine and whiskey.

Many adults view teen drinking as a right of passage, the Prevention Council’s Heather Kisselback said. But every year it contributes to 5,000 deaths, from wrecks on the highway and other things that happen while inebriated.

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