SARANAC LAKE -The slate of candidates is set for the upcoming elections in the village of Saranac Lake, and apparently there will be a contest for the post to lead the municipality.
On March 16, Democrat Clyde Rabideau will square off with current trustee and Republican Jeff Branch in the race for village mayor.
The Saranac Lake Republican Party's selection of Branch as the candidate for mayor at their Jan. 26 caucus wasn't a surprise, as he was the only member of the group interested in the seat.
But t the caucus wasn't devoid of the unexpected, as about 40 party members plucked a non-Republican for one of the two vacant village board seats.
Of the three individuals interested in running for village trustee, two were registered Republicans, while Elias "Allie" Pelletieri is a registered Conservative.
And when the votes were tallied, NBT Bank financial advisor Diana Howard was the most favored among those in attendance while Pelletieri finished a close second.
For Village Justice, Republicans chose longtime Harrietstown Justice Tom Glover for the vacant four-year post and corrections officer Ken McLaughlin for the two-year Justice seat, vacated last fall by Charles Bell.
Branch said this week the vote for Mayor will test the public's opinion on the community's future growth.
He said that the current board has been too selective in deciding which businesses to allow in the village and that many local residents disagree with a municipal law that all but excludes large national chain stores from setting up shop.
"I have great concerns about the retail size cap," he said. "The community has said they don't want it and it's being forced upon them."
Some Republicans questioned Branch's conservatism because of his involvement in a proposed village law that would ban the smoking and chewing of tobacco in and near all municipal parks.
And for local resident Bob Brown, kicking smokers out of village parks is an encroachment on civil liberties.
"It sounds to me that I couldn't even walk along this sidewalk here because I'd be within five feet of that park," Brown said. "I spent 12 years building the River Walk, and when I built it I expected it would be for all citizens. I think it's a discriminating thing and I'm having trouble with your candidacy."
But Branch said that although he introduced the legislation, he hadn't had a chance to review the proposal until Monday night.
"My only interest was moving smokers away from the places where kids play," Branch said. "I had no hand in the bill that was tabled by the board last night."
The smoking ban will be up for public hearing Feb. 8.
Branch, Pelletieri, Glover and McLaughlin will also appear on the Conservative Party line.
Just a block away at the Harrietstown Town Hall, Rabideau was the easy choice for mayor. Tom Michael, who currently holds the post, has said in recent weeks that if it's the Democratic Party's wish to nominate Rabideau, he'll step aside.
"As I've said before, if the committee chooses Clyde, I will support him 100 percent," Michael said following the recent caucus. "He understands that our issues go beyond the village limits. He understands our issues need to be addressed on a broader scope."
Rabideau was formerly mayor of Plattsburgh and now lives in Saranac Lake.
A former Saranac mayor, Tom Catillaz, and a current trustee, Susan Waters, will run for the two open trustee seats.
Jon Vinograd was nominated to run for the two-year justice seat; Paul Hermann is signed up to run for the four-year justice seat.