SARATOGA SPRINGS – Former city public safety commissioner Ron Kim on Wednesday announced his Democratic candidacy for mayor of Saratoga Springs on Wednesday, saying he wants to bring unity to the city in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, comparing it to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which he said first got him interested in public service.
“I am running for mayor of Saratoga Springs to return us to that unity and singularity of purpose,” Kim said during at announcement in High Rock Park. “Because just like in 2001, we have gone through difficult times. We have lost good friends. We have seen suffering. We have seen injustice. As a community, we will only recover if we come together.”
Kim’s announcement means he is expected to face Republican candidate Heidi Owen West, owner of three downtown businesses, in the fall race. Incumbent mayor Meg Kelly, a Democrat, isn’t seeking re-election after two two-year terms in the office, which pays $14,000 annually and is considered part-time, though most mayors have worked full-time hours.
Kim, 61, an attorney in Saratoga Springs who served as the city’s elected public safety commissioner from 2006 to 2010, said he expects to keep his law practice, but he recognizes the demanding hours of the job. “It’s a full-time job as mayor, and that’s part of the territory,” he said. “I think all the commissioners see this as a service to the community.”
Kim said his top priorities if elected include following through with plans to build an East Side public safety building on Henning Road, re-imaging the city police force with closer ties to the community, and working with local businesses to safely re-open and develop long-term strategies to protect business viability. With an anticipated influx of federal infrastructure money over the next few years, he said one of his goals is to make the city carbon-neutral by 2030.
Kim said the recommendations of a city police reform task force should have been accepted in their entirety — the City Council last week accepted most but not all of them — and expressed sympathy with those who have protested for racial justice following instances of police brutality over the last year, noting that he himself has experienced racial prejudice. Kim is of Korean and Italian ancestry.
“I understand what the people calling for racial justice are talking about,” Kim said.
He also said he wouldn’t oppose marijuana dispensaries in the city, now that recreational use of marijuana is being legalized in New York state.
West, who is a political independent endorsed by the Republicans, announced her candidacy last month. West has who operated businesses in the city’s downtown for three decades.
“What we’re facing and experiencing right now is testing our city’s strength,” West said when she announced. “The only way we’re going to meet the daunting challenges ahead of us is having leadership in City Hall that knows what it’s like to pour your heart and soul into the community that you love.”
With Kelly, Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan and Accounts Commissioner John Franck — all Democrats — not seeking re-election, a majority of the five-member City Council will be turning over in the November election.
Also this week, two of the Republicans endorsed last month for city officials made their formal campaign announcements.
Tracey LaBelle, candidate for public safety commissioner, is the daughter of Lawrence LaBelle, who served as City Court judge for more than 50 years. She currently works in medical sales.
She knows the public safety needs of the community and is prepared to fight tirelessly to make sure police, fire, and emergency services have the resources and support they need to serve the people of Saratoga Springs, her campaign said.
“Community, integrity, and unity will be the hallmarks of my term as the next Commissioner of Public Safety,” LaBelle said. “I know there’s a great deal of work and rebuilding ahead of us. With a healthy partnership with our city’s tremendous law enforcement and first responders, I know I can help strengthen our community bond, hold ourselves to the highest ethical and moral standards, and unite all Saratogians at a time when we need to do so the most.”
Current public safety commissioner Robin Dalton lost the Republican party’s backing over her opposition to national Republican policies, but she is expected to seek a second term on other party lines.
Also announcing was Samantha Guerra, Republican candidate for accounts commissioner. Now a stay-at-home mom of two sets of twins, she previously ran a Dunkin Donuts shop, with duties “from managing human resources to budgets to stocking shelves.”
“The fiscal challenges our city faces are real. That’s why it’s so important to have engaged, creative and proactive leadership in Accounts. I bring a fresh perspective to the table. I want to build a team around me that represents what Saratoga is all about: community and integrity. I will reimagine, redesign and modernize Accounts to ensure that all programs and services are effectively fulfilling the needs of our community,” she said.
City Democrats have yet to announce their candidates for public safety and accounts commissioner.