After nearly a decade leading the town, Supervisor Rene Merrihew is ready to call it quits.
The popular Republican incumbent who hasn’t had a challenger since she first ran for supervisor in 2004 acknowledged she won’t be seeking a sixth term this fall. In reaching her decision, Merrihew cited personal reasons and a desire to let someone else have a turn at leading the town.
“It’s just time,” she said Friday. “It’s time to move on, time to give someone else the seat.”
When Merrihew leaves office in December, she will have served 14 years on the Town Board, a period during which she watched the creation of two multimillion-dollar sewer districts and significant progress on a third. She proved to be an effective consensus builder on the board, which helped such complex projects advance with relative ease.
“We don’t always agree, but we try to reach a consensus,” she said. “If somebody doesn’t like something, we try to change it so its appealing to everyone.”
Merrihew, now 53, was first convinced to run for office in 2000 by then-Republican Supervisor Bob Wall. Adverse to politics, Merrihew said her goal in joining the board was to help the town she’s lived in since early childhood.
She served four years on the board, until Republican Ken LaBelle announced he had no intentions of running for a second term as supervisor, just 15 months into his first 2-year term. Merrihew stepped up to take the GOP nomination, pledging to be responsive to the concerns of residents.
Her first run for supervisor was the only time she faced a challenger for the post: Democrat Jeanne Frisbee. Merrihew won a resounding victory and was never formally challenged again.
Merrihew went on to oversee the long-awaited creation of the town’s second sanitary sewer district on Mariaville Lake. The $6.8 million project completed in 2005 followed the town’s first district, which was built to serve the village of Delanson and hamlet of Quaker Street.
Merrihew’s tenure was also marked by challenges. In 2008, the town was facing the dissolution of the municipally subsidized Duanesburg Volunteer Ambulance Corp., the lone ambulance company capable of providing adequate coverage.
Internal struggles within the ambulance company led to a decline in volunteers. On the many occasions when the company couldn’t muster a crew, ambulances were being dispatched from neighboring Rotterdam — a trip that added more than 15 minutes to response times.
Merrihew worked closely with DVAC’s board of directors to resolve the internal conflict. She also joined the embattled ambulance company as a volunteer.
The ambulance company is still required to present monthly reports to the town — a stipulation Merrihew sought before renewing the contract — but the troubles that surfaced in 2008 seem to be a distant memory.
“If there’s one missed call during the month, it’s surprising,” she said. “They’re doing very well.”
Merrihew’s replacement could end up being the only opponent she faced for the supervisor’s position. Frisbee, who has served on the Town Board since 2005, was selected to run on the Democratic ticket this fall, said county Democratic Committee Chairman Brian Quail.
The GOP is still mulling a couple candidates for the post. County Republican Committee Chairman James Buhrmaster said replacing Merrihew will be no easy task for the party.
“She is a great leader, she is a good party person and people like working with her because she’s fair and honest,” he said. “It’s a loss to everyone, particularly the people of Duanesburg.”
Merrihew acknowledged her decision to leave office was a tough one. Even with eight months left in her term, she’s getting nostalgic about the day she’ll clear out her office at Town Hall.
Still, she feels a sense of pride in the job she’s done over the past 14 years. And she’s content to leave office during a time when the town is on solid footing.
“We’ve been able to pay our bills and meet our emergencies,” she said. “We’ve come a long way, and I’m proud of that.”