TOWN OF JOHNSTOWN — Fulton County’s largest town will get a new supervisor this year.
With no primary challenger declared in GOP-favored territory, Christina VanValkenburgh, 44, presently walks an auspicious path to succeed outgoing Johnstown Town Supervisor Jack Wilson.
“Jack’s done a wonderful job,” said Republican VanValkenburgh. “But I think it’s time for some younger people to step up.”
VanValkenburgh began climbing the local political ladder two years ago when she was appointed to fill a Town Board vacancy and, within less than six months, the deputy supervisorship. Wilson critic and longest currently serving town lawmaker Timothy Rizzo voted against the latter appointment, convinced his credentials were overlooked.
The Fonda-born supervisorial candidate has lived in Johnstown for about 20 years and served more than half of that time with the Fulton County Sheriff’s office. As a knee injury prompted her early retirement from the force in 2017, VanValkenburgh and her husband took the reins of Harvey’s Pet store (formerly Johnstown Agway) off North Comrie Avenue.
“She’s awesome, very smart, well-known, a business owner, a name that’s long been involved in the town,” Wilson said.
The 79-year-old town supervisor told VanValkenburgh about a year ago that was seeking a prospective successor to groom.
VanValkenburgh was interested, seeing the position as an opportunity to bring back community engagement amid the novel Coronavirus pandemic.
“When I was younger, I remember there being ice cream socials and the community would come out and do things like that together,” she said. “There’s nothing that the town is really doing to try to push that and drive that old town feeling.”
Meanwhile, things haven’t worked out entirely according to plan for Wilson, who at that time planned to depart a combined 30-year career in local government in 2023. With no replacement deemed favorable to replace outgoing Highway Superintendent Jack Smullen at the beginning of the year, Wilson decided to run.
The candidate pool also included landscape contractor Lucas Hart and former Duanesburg Highway Superintendent Steven Perog. The former elected official, who didn’t respond to a request for comment, left office following two separate legal controveries in the 2010s.
By late March, both Republican primary competitors had bowed out of the race.
Wilson — again — doesn’t seek to run for public office after this race. Should he win, the longtime official plans to manage administrative tasks while shaping up a succession plan.
“I don’t have any intention of going over there and driving plow trucks,” said Wilson.
Victory hasn’t always been guaranteed for sitting officeholders. Wilson won against incumbent Town Supervisor Nancy MacVean in a Republican primary back in 2015.
General election victories often skew Republican in both the town and Fulton County — even in the county’s urban core. Active Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than two to one.
“I foresee that continuing,” said Wilson.
As of February, Johnstown had 2,353 active Republicans, 859 Democrats, 82 Conservatives, 23 Working Families Party members, 221 voters not affiliated with either party and 906 independents, according to the state Board of Elections.
“As a Republican, I don’t believe that there’s anybody running against me,” VanValkenburgh said. “I’m unsure about the Democratic side.”
When asked about potential challengers in the town of Johnstown, the Fulton County Democratic Committee didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, Republicans Rizzo, Amy Ward and Gregory Satterlee are vying for two seats on the Town Board, and Town Clerk Nancy Hart is running for another term unopposed.
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.