The Halfmoon Republican Committee passed over the incumbent Tuesday night to endorse former town justice Kevin Tollisen for town supervisor.
Tollisen won the endorsement over three-term Supervisor Melinda “Mindy” Wormuth after interviewing with the committee Tuesday.
Wormuth has always been endorsed by the committee until now, said town GOP Chairwoman Regina Parker.
“People wanted a change,” Parker said Wednesday, adding that the vote “has nothing to do with” controversy over Wormuth’s support of a candidate for director of the Saratoga County Animal Shelter.
Parker said Wormuth served the town well, securing $6 million in grants and maintaining the town’s zero property tax in her tenure.
Parker added she is a personal friend of Wormuth’s and does not vote in the endorsements as chairwoman unless there is a tie. She would not comment further on the endorsements.
“I’ve known both of them a long time,” she said of Wormuth and Tollisen.
Wormuth was appointed to the Town Board in 2002 after Tollisen, who had served on the board starting in 1998, was elected town justice, where he served until last week. Wormuth served out the rest of Tollisen’s Town Board term and then ran unopposed for re-election in 2003.
She was appointed supervisor in early 2007, after Kenneth DeCerce stepped down, and she won re-election that fall. The supervisor term is two years.
Wormuth did not return calls for comment, and it is not known whether she will mount a campaign against Tollisen and force a primary.
Tollisen’s campaign began just last week, when he resigned as part-time town justice April 3 and spent most of that night drawing up a new resume and letter asking for the GOP’s endorsement, he said.
He called the endorsement “very humbling.”
“I was just very blessed to have an overwhelming number of people support me,” he said.
He said Wednesday that he wasn’t asked to run for the supervisor seat, but decided to do it to help plan for the town’s future.
“Halfmoon is at a crossroads, and we need to move the town forward,” he said. “Halfmoon’s got unprecedented growth.”
In addition to a burgeoning population and housing developments, the town also has businesses and farms, he pointed out.
If elected supervisor, Tollisen said he would like to see the town update its master plan, which is 10 years old, and possibly change some zoning laws in connection with changes to the master plan.
“We’ve doubled in size since that plan was developed,” he explained.
He also wants to focus on being fiscally conservative with taxpayer money, something he said town officials have done but perhaps could be honed even more.
Tollisen, 41, is married with two sons and was raised in Halfmoon. He has a law office in Mechanicville.
On Tuesday, the committee also endorsed four incumbents: Walter Polak and Paul Hotaling for town councilmen, Karen Pingelski for receiver of taxes and Lester Wormuth for town justice. Lester Wormuth is Mindy Wormuth’s brother-in-law.
The GOP-endorsed candidates will campaign together, Tollisen said.
“In Halfmoon, it’s always been that we go door to door” and meet residents, he said. “We work together as a team, we run together as a team and we coordinate our efforts as a team.”
The committee also endorsed Halfmoon resident Craig Hayner for Saratoga County clerk. He is currently a town councilman whose term runs through the end of 2015.
Halfmoon Democrats have yet to put forth a slate of candidates. Democrat Deanna Stephenson ran against Wormuth in 2011 and said last week she may run for a local office again.
The GOP has an enrollment advantage in Halfmoon: 39 percent of Halfmoon voters are registered Republicans and 27 percent are Democrats. The rest belong to other parties or do not declare a party.
Wormuth came under fire last month for supporting a 22-year-old candidate to be director of the county animal shelter. The young woman’s father, Chris Abele, and his company donated more than $12,000 to Halfmoon Republican Party coffers since 2005, including to two of Wormuth’s past campaigns.
Also, even though Wormuth was listed as a reference on Christina Abele’s resume, the supervisor served on the selection committee that forwarded Abele’s candidacy, and Wormuth voted three times in favor of Abele in committees and before the full Board of Supervisors.
Providence town Supervisor John Collyer last month criticized Wormuth for not recusing herself from the votes. Though Wormuth voted in favor of hiring Abele, enough other county supervisors voted against her that the appointment was shot down.
Wormuth has said Abele was the most impressive of the 10 candidates interviewed and the past donations from her father’s company “never weighed on my mind.”
A year ago, Wormuth stepped down from the county Board of Supervisors’ Public Works Committee during a controversy over land she sold to a local developer whose company expressed interest in buying the county landfill.
She sold two properties on Route 146 — her home and the house next door — to a company owned by Scott Earl, former CEO of County Waste of Halfmoon, which he sold two years ago to Waste Connections of California. He said at the time he didn’t make business decisions for the company anymore, including its interest in the landfill, and Wormuth defended her sale of the properties.