The city’s political campaign season has begun.
Businessman John Safford, a political newcomer, announced his Republican candidacy for mayor of Saratoga Springs on Thursday.
“I have a plan to get Saratoga Springs’ government headed back in the right direction,” he said at the Hampton Inn on Lake Avenue. “I have the business and professional experience to get the job done.”
Safford, a 70-year-old veteran, is expected to be taking on incumbent Joanne Yepsen, a Democrat. Yepsen has not announced whether she'll seek re-election. Safford already has the backing of the Saratoga Springs Republican Committee.
“Over the last few years I’ve spoken with countless Saratoga Springs residents about what they want for the future of our city and what they expect from our mayor,” Safford said. “They’ve made it crystal clear: They want an end to the dysfunctional politics and the status quo.”
Democrats currently hold four of the five seats on the council. The Republican Party has endorsed Safford for mayor, Richard Wirth for public safety commissioner and Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco, the only Republican on the City Council, for re-election.
Yepsen, 56, an organizational development consultant who will be seeking her second two-year term, said she welcomed Safford into the race.
“I am very proud of my record as a public official, listening and responding to the community, and all we have accomplished in less than two years as mayor,” Yepsen said in a statement.
Safford is currently a professional managing agent for homeowners’ associations, whose internal turmoil he thinks will have provided good training for government.
“I just have a way of making things work. That’s what I hope to bring to the council,” he said.
He spoke in favor of more downtown parking like the proposed City Center parking deck, currently stalled by a zoning ruling.
“We can’t just sit back and shoot down every project,” he said.
From 1987 to 2005, Safford was president of Retco Inc., a computer systems and software applications company that helped computerize law enforcement agencies. Safford served in the Army Security Agency from 1968-70, stationed in Japan, where he worked in a unit collecting intelligence.
He is treasurer of the Pine Grove Christian Camp and a local food bank volunteer.
“I’m not a politician, and I don’t believe that the status quo is good enough. The career politicians have had their chance,” he said.
Safford has been married for 42 years to the former Irene Googin. They have two children, Sean and Mitchell, and two grandchildren. He said he has lived on Second Avenue in the city for nearly 17 years.