GLOVERSVILLE — Councilman-at-large William Rowback Jr. announced Tuesday he would be running as the Republican Party candidate for mayor in November.
Rowback was the Republican candidate during the 2017 city mayoral election when he lost to former Mayor Dayton King 1,800-1,490, after a recount reversed what had initially been thought to be a Rowback victory. After his defeat Rowback, who worked for 30 years as a city firefighter, vowed to one day become mayor of Gloversville. The current mayor is Vince DeSantis, a Democrat.
On Tuesday Rowback said he hopes 2021 will be the year he achieves that ambition.
“Our city can be so much better when we work together, as a team,” Rowback said. “Working together we will accomplish our dreams for a better city for us and for generations to come.”
Tuesday was the first day candidates can begin circulating petitions to run in the political party primaries scheduled for June 22. As of now no other Republican candidates have declared their intention to run for mayor. Petitions are due back at the Fulton County Board of Elections between March 22 and March 29.
Fulton County Republican Chairwoman Susan McNeil introduced Rowback and political newcomer, retired county sheriff’s K-9 deputy Wayne Peters, during a short speech in the frigid cold in front of City Hall.
Peters has declared his intention to run as the Republican candidate for councilman-at-large.
Rowback had held back from announcing whether he would run for re-election as councilman-at-large or for mayor, pending the results of a Common Council probe of his conduct. The probe was initiated after the resignation and then re-hiring of Department of Public Works Director Chris Perry, who made mention of a toxic work environment in his resignation letter and singled out Rowback for derogatory comments Rowback had allegedly made. Perry said politics in Gloversville is dirty and dysfunctional.
Gloversville’s DPW director, city clerk and city attorney are all subject to recurring one-year appointments, which are subject to an approval vote by the Common Council each year in January.
Perry agreed to be re-hired approximately one week after he resigned, pending some alterations to the conditions of his employment, including that the city’s DPW director now be included under the provisions of “council resolution 60-2019”, which is the city’s personnel policy passed in 2019.
The council agreed to rehire Perry in a 5-2 vote, with Rowback and his staunch political ally 4th Ward Councilwoman Ellen Anadio voting against it. At the same meeting the council voted 5-1, with Rowback required to abstain, to begin the probe of Rowback’s conduct.
The council probe committee includes two Republicans — committee chairman Republican 6th Ward Councilman Wrandy Siarkowski and 2nd Ward Councilman Arthur Simonds — and one Democrat, 1st Ward Councilwoman Marcia Weiss.
Rowback said he believes the probe is political in its intent. He said he was questioned by the committee, which has subpoena power, but was never told what has been alleged against him. He said he does not want to discuss his statements to the committee without his lawyer present.
During his speech Tuesday Rowback laid out some of his policy objectives as mayor.
“My priority is to lower taxes and hope to create jobs, not do away with jobs,” Rowback said.
Rowback’s position on city property taxes has evolved since his candidacy in 2017 when he always said he favored incremental property tax increases as a means of avoiding a fiscal cliff for the city.
Under Mayor DeSantis’ tenure — which has only included the final three years of King’s third term after King resigned in 2019 — the city’s property tax rate has remained flat at $19.95.
After his speech Tuesday Rowback said his commitment to cutting property taxes is contingent on the city’s ability to expand its economy.
“We need some manufacturing jobs, so that people are working in Gloversville, shop in Gloversville, spend their money in Gloversville, rather than people driving to Schenectady or Saratoga or Albany to work and spend their money in the malls over there,” he said. “If we can create more jobs in Gloversville, you’ll have more people moving here, whether it’s a small Amazon warehouse or hands-on making of sweaters or golf balls, or whatever it is.”
DeSantis has focused too much attention on the city’s downtown to the determent of trying to develop the rest of the city and the remaining parcels in Gloversville’s two industrial parks, Rowback said.
Rowback has also criticized DeSantis’ proposal to hire private garbage hauler Twin Bridges to replace the city’s DPW-run garbage collection service. The Common Council has backed DeSantis’ proposal.
Rowback said when he talked about not wanting to “do away with jobs” he was referring to three DPW worker positions DeSantis has chosen not to fill after they retired in 2020, and a fourth DPW position expected to be vacated by another retirement in August.
DeSantis and Perry have argued eliminating DPW jobs by attrition is the main source of savings from hiring the private garbage hauler.
Rowback said he would conduct four “town hall meetings” annually if elected mayor, and he would ask the public to tell him if they like the private garbage hauler or whether they want to return to a city-run garbage pickup, and he would base his decision as mayor on that public feedback. Gloversville’s four-year contract with Twin Bridges allows the city to end the private collection service after one year without penalty, or includes three options to renew the service for additional years with 1 percent increase in cost each year.