Canajoharie village mayor faces ‘Main Street Party’ candidate

Two people walk by building and fence

People walk past a sign for the Main Street Party in the village of Canajoharie recently.

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CANAJOHARIE — Long-known area Democrat Ronald O. Dievendorf has thrown his name back into the western Montgomery County political arena against Republican Mayor Jeff Baker.

The 74-year-old is running on an independent ticket for Canajoharie mayor two years after losing a contest for town supervisors as a result of four ballots being invalidated.

“I think that was an aberration, but I’ve been mayor twice,” Dievendorf said. “People know what I can do, what I have done and I know things that have to be ironed out in the village.”

Dievendorf, who served twice as mayor, is running on the independent Main Street Party ticket with neophyte trustee candidates Peter Lyden, a Democrat, and Tracey MacFarland Stetin, a Republican. Baker and incumbent village lawmakers Harry Barse and Francis Avery are running on an all-GOP ticket.

The two groups have shared little daylight on local issues ranging from a traffic fixture controversy to the handling of a nationally publicized pet pig case.

Baker has been mayor since late last decade and formerly served as deputy mayor. The 68-year-old official appealed to his party to find a different candidate before the race began.

“There was only one other candidate who wanted to run for mayor,” Baker said about Dievendorf. “I tried to get the Republican Party to come up with somebody and it was me.”

Here’s a closer look at where Baker’s ticket and the Main Street Party differ:


The insurgent ticket is at odds with the village for opting against reinstalling a dummy light at Wagner Square, a 96-year-old traffic fixture was hit twice in 2021. In fact, they’ve made the former tourist attraction their campaign logo. The light had been the actual traffic signal at that location for decades, been was deemed detrimental to traffic safety.

Support for a return of the fixture is mixed across the community.

Both Avery and Barse said they would resign if the majority of board members decided to bring back the light to prevent litigation from personally affecting them.

Baker produced a bevy of documents outlining legal and financial challenges associated with putting the fixture back at Wagner Square. The state Department of Transportation noted that the light isn’t in line with federal highway standards.

“It is DOT’s recommendation. It is our lawyer’s recommendation. It is our insurance company’s recommendation,” said Baker.

The Main Street Party believes that the recommendations shouldn’t hold the village back from putting it back, citing the city of Beacon in Dutchess County putting back its dummy light last year.

“They just — they dumped it,” said Lyden. “And that’s what has infuriated so many people because it’s part of village history.”


Dievendorf holds decades of experience in local government and area boards. During his two tenures, Canajoharie secured multi-million dollar grants to recreation projects, became the first in Montgomery County to embrace recycling and coordinated major water infrastructure projects.

But his history comes with a blemish.

Dievendorf resigned in 1992 after being accused of stealing village documents. Once charged with second-degree public records tampering, the then-44-year-old later pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct in 1993.

He went on to become mayor again during the 2000s and trustee in the 2010s. The ex-mayor declined to comment on the substance of the 1990s scandal, but noted that it happened three decades ago.

“I’ve never resigned,” said Baker, first elected trustee in 1995, contrasting himself with Dievendorf.

The village experienced economic adversity under both of their administrations. In the second year of then-Republican Dievendorf’s first term, 1988, Planters LifeSavers closed its plant, Canajoharie’s second-largest employer. In the early 2010s, villagers faced the brunt of longtime employer Beech-Nut leaving the area for a new facility in the town of Florida 20 miles away.

In campaign materials, Baker has recently boasted about having cannabis cultivator E29 Labs slated to move into much of what’s left of the former plant. Much of the plant has been torn down. Old grounds west of the Canajoharie Creek are expected to be demolished by the fall and replaced with mixed development.


A code enforcement officer from Canajoharie found what local authorities considered to be an illegally harbored pig in 2019 while inspecting Wyverne Flatt’s property before he intended to open it as restaurant space. The situation resulted in a years-long legal battle in which officials hardened animal restrictions and Flatt claimed he was exempt from the matter because his pig, Ellie, was an emotional support pet.

Dievendorf believes the situation was handled poorly.

“I think there should have been a more courteous response,” Dievendorf said. “Just talk to the guy. If neighbors have concerns, talk to him about it and just work it out that way rather than taking him to court.”

The village dropped the criminal charges against Flatt during the summer. However, Baker still has civil litigation pending against the owner.

While receiving backlash in the community, the Republican ticket defends the conflict as a means of following the law.


Under the current administration, public comment is offered at the end of meetings to provide villagers insight before speaking out, according to Baker.

Lyden, 33, moved to Canajoharie from Clifton Park in 2020 and quickly became acquainted with the issues by attending trustee meetings, he said.

“It’s completely backwards,” Lyden said. “And it’s an indication that they don’t care what people think. They’re going to do what they want because if you can’t comment on it until after they’ve voted, does your comment even matter?”

Lyden is also concerned with limited access to lawmakers and documents presented on the municipal website, which is pending an upgrade, according to Baker. Two trustees, Avery and Trustee Bill Jones, don’t have individual town emails listed and individual phone contacts are not provided for any members online.

Barse maintained that anyone can visit or call him with concerns at his pottery shop. Avery “freely” gives his cellphone number out, but “would much rather speak to people one on one.”


Last year, the administration terminated its relationship with the Greater Mohawk Valley Land Bank, much to the regional organization’s dismay. At the time, Baker said that the board would re-evaluate its connection with the organization, but nothing materialized further.

“There has always been a major dispute in if the land bank were to go broke, would each individual member of the board be held responsible for their debt,” Baker said. “Their lawyers said no, but our lawyers [found it] somewhat questionable.”

Meanwhile, the Main Street Party wants to rekindle relations with the land bank, hoping to reinvigorate blighted properties.

“It’s just a mess, but they don’t distribute the information so we don’t know what’s going on,” Lyden said. “All we see is more deterioration, more fire rubble.”

Baker maintained that there’s a possibility of getting back into the land bank, but trustees aren’t open to it yet. Barse and Avery claim that the group didn’t make enough progress on blight.

Polls open at Village Hall on Tuesday from noon to 9 p.m.

Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-395-3047 or [email protected] Follow him on Facebook at Tyler A. McNeil, Daily Gazette or Twitter @TylerAMcNeil

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