In a political bombshell for the city, Mayor Joanne Yepsen announced Friday that she won't seek a third term as mayor.
The 58-year-old Democrat cited the 80-hour weeks she puts in for a $14,000 salary as a reason not to run, along with the demands a political campaign would bring. The Republicans in March endorsed former City Center executive director Mark Baker as their candidate for mayor.
In an open letter to Saratoga Springs residents received Friday afternoon, Yepsen endorsed Deputy Mayor Meg Kelly as her replacement, but there could be other interest following the unexpected announcement.
The city Democratic Committee is to meet at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the Saratoga Arts Center to make its endorsements for the year. Yepsen earlier appeared before the party's endorsement committee, and there has been a general expectation that Yepsen would be seeking a third two-year term.
"Serving as your mayor is the highlight of my professional career," Yepsen's letter stated. "Representing and managing the city has been an 80+ hours per week job -- one that I wouldn't want to compromise by doing any other way. With the current part-time salary (just over $14,000 a year) I simply cannot afford to continue the status quo. The part-time compensation for the necessary full-time position of mayor of this fantastic city is unrealistic."
The news was totally unexpected, even inside City Hall.
"It came as a complete surprise," said city Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan. "I don't know what to think. We're talking very last minute here."
Madigan, who has sparred with Yepsen frequently as council meetings, said she it committed to running for re-election and not interested in running for mayor.
Yepsen's letter indicated she will continue to serve through the end of the year, when her two-year term will be up.
Yepsen said she wants to devote full attention to completing several projects that are currently before the city, including completion of a unified development ordinance, bringing the Geyser Road trail to construction, establishing a schedule for implementing a "Complete Streets" policy, and establishing a cultural exchange with Nashville and other arts-oriented cities.
The letter implies Yepsen, who has a background in fundraising and event planning, has other opportunities. "New doors of opportunity have opened to me recently, which will allow me to take my dedication, policy priorities and professional public and private sector leadership to new heights, and I look forward to sharing my plans in the coming months," she said.
The mayor did not respond to a request for further comment Friday afternoon.
Prior to becoming mayor, Yepsen served eight years as a Saratoga County supervisor representing Saratoga Springs on the county Board of Supervisors. In 2010, she ran for a state Senate seat, but lost to then-incumbent Sen. Roy J. McDonald.
Kelly was appointed the city's deputy mayor last July. Previously she was founder and executive director of the Saratoga Children's Theater and a golf instructor. She holds a degree from SUNY-Brockport.
"She is known for her hard work, her compassionate advocacy, and high level of integrity," Yepsen's letter said.
Madigan said shortly after learning of Yepsen's decision that Kelly has done a "fine" job as deputy mayor, but she isn't sure if she should run for elected office. "I haven't had a chance to wrap my head around it at all," Madigan said.
Democrats currently have a 4-1 majority on the City Council, but another Democrat, Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen, has previously announced that he won't be running for re-election, and a contest for that seat is expected in the fall.
City voters in November will also decide the fate of a proposed city charter revision that would scrap the current form of government. Under it, the mayor would become a full-time head of government with ceremonial and legislative duties, but day-to-day operations of the city would be handled by an appointed city manager. Any change wouldn't take effect until the 2019 city elections.
Yepsen, who appointed the charter review commission last year, noted in her statement that she supports its work.