Joanne Dittes Yepsen, currently a Saratoga County supervisor representing Saratoga Springs, ended two months of speculation on Monday by announcing she will run for mayor.
“Saratoga Springs needs a mayor who is mindful of our historic legacy, one with an eye to a balanced future that enhances our core downtown with sustainable growth, and values the business of agriculture as much as tourism,” Yepsen said during an announcement at noon at Lillian’s restaurant on Broadway.
Two of her three grown children joined her at the event along with dozens of supporters, fellow Democrats and two Democratic members of the City Council.
Former City Mayor Ken Klotz and his wife introduced Yepsen, describing her as a “talented and accomplished person” who was Klotz’s friend and colleague for many years while he and Yepsen both worked at Skidmore College. Karen Klotz, Ken’s wife, read the introduction; Ken Klotz had laryngitis but was present.
Yepsen left Skidmore in 2001 to start her own consulting firm. She is serving her fourth two-year term as a Saratoga County supervisor representing Saratoga Springs.
Yepsen, 54, also ran for state Senate in 2010, losing to former state Sen. Roy J. McDonald but outpolling McDonald in Saratoga Springs and other urban areas of the Senate district.
Current city Mayor Scott Johnson, a Republican, said last month he will not seek a fourth term in office. David Harper, city Republican Committee chairman, said Monday he hopes to have a Republican mayoral candidate to run against Yepsen.
“We are still working on our slate [of candidates],” Harper said. He said he would announce the Republican candidates for city offices by the end of May.
“We look forward to a robust campaign,” Harper said.
“We are a great city but we have a lot at stake,” Yepsen said.
She said the city needs to be one of three upstate communities designated as a location for a full-scale gambling casino.
She said the city also needs to “cut through the red tape” to make sure it gets its fair share of state and federal money.
The city’s next mayor “must work as an ambassador to work constructively with Governor Cuomo” on economic development projects for the city, she said.
“We need a mayor with a proven track record of putting partisan politics behind,” she said.
Her platform has three key words: accessibility, balance and control.
Yepsen said if elected mayor in November she will establish regular office hours and there would be “no barricades up in front of my office.”
She referred to a wooden entry gate near the entrance to the mayor’s office complex in City Hall that prevents visitors from accessing the offices as they had in past years.
Yepsen was a founder of Sustainable Saratoga, a grass-roots balanced growth advocacy organization. She stressed the need for a comprehensive land use plan that “preserves our quality of life while continuing to seize the opportunity for economic growth within the city.”
“We will reactivate the open space commission and together with a proactive economic approach, we can be a model for how these two priorities can be synthesized,” Yepsen said in a prepared statement.
Thomas McTygue, a former longtime city public works commissioner and one of the city’s leading Democrats, said Yepsen is an “excellent candidate.”
McTygue and others noted that the city Democratic Committee, which was once divided into battling factions, is again united behind Yepsen and the other city candidates up for election in November. City Accounts Commissioner John Franck and city Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan stood near the podium when Yepsen made her announcement.
McTygue charged that Mayor Johnson has been “very partisan” during his tenure, appointing “all Republicans” to key positions on city committees and land use boards. He said Yepsen would try to be more evenhanded, appointing Democrats as well as Republicans to city positions.