Three seeking mayor’s post in Johnstown
JOHNSTOWN – Economic development is a top priority of the city’s three mayoral candidates.
Running for a four-year term in the Nov. 5 general election are Conservative 3rd Ward Councilwoman Helen Martin, Republican Water Board member Scott Jeffers and Democratic retired pharmacist Michael Julius.
Jeffers defeated Martin in the Republican primary to capture the GOP nomination. He has been endorsed by the Johnstown City Republican Committee.
The mayor’s position is considered part-time. Two-term Republican Mayor Sarah Slingerland – who was paid $18,241 for 2013 – is stepping down. The new mayor will take office at the start of 2014.
The three candidates say job creation in the city is a major priority.
Julius said economic development and job creation are on the minds of the people he talks to in Johnstown.
“I sense the people of Johnstown feel their economic security is slipping away from them,” he said. “They are looking for work.”
The 63-year-old Julius said he encourages bringing in high-tech industries and supports a proposed regional business park that has been dormant for several years because of a lack of agreement between the city of Johnstown and the town of Mohawk, where the land is located.
“I’m very much for it,” Julius said, including a revenue-sharing agreement that would have no expiration.
Julius said he wants to be a “full-time mayor” in a part-time job.
He said he’s been frustrated by the city’s inability to reach deals with other municipalities that could help job creation.
“I don’t think sewer and water should be used as a wedge,” he said, referring to the city’s ability to negotiate extending sewer and water services to other municipalities.
When Julius announced in April he’s running for mayor, he issued a three-point plan, with the first being to try to bring in more high-tech business, such as small “computer feeder” corporations. He also said the city needs quality housing as a way to attract corporations. Third, Julius said, the local work force needs to be retrained.
Julius said he’s not in favor of a full consolidation with Gloversville. He said his “first priority” is with the taxpayers of Johnstown, but he would support deals for the sharing of services and would work with other local officials.
He said he hopes to put more “bite” in local ordinances that control code enforcement and blight. He’s also interested in renewing a contract with the Gloversville Transit System for bus runs in the city.
“My position is if a person lives in upstate New York and doesn’t have a car, they’re stuck,” Julius said.
Julius said he wants to improve downtown, which has been in an “unfortunate pattern” with aesthetic and environmental “erosion.” He said government, business and non-profits can work together, although success “won’t happen overnight.”
“We could do things to change the look of Johnstown,” he said.
Julius, who ran the former Broadalbin Pharmacy for many years, lives at 134 E. Montgomery St. He is a 1967 graduate of Johnstown High School and a 1972 graduate of the Albany College of Pharmacy.
Martin, a 62-year-old exports director for Milligan & Higgins in Johnstown since 1991, has represented the 3rd Ward as a councilwoman since 2010. She also is chairwoman of the city’s Tourism/Special Events Committee.
She is married to attorney Russell Martin, and the couple live at 9 E. Montgomery St. She and her husband have lived in Johnstown since 1990.
Martin has been active in numerous community organizations. She obtained an associate degree in humanities from Fulton-Montgomery Community College in 2007 and a bachelor’s degree in public history from Empire State College in 2012.
“I’m seeking the mayor’s position because I feel I have the most experience and want Johnstown to move forward,” she said.
Martin said the biggest issue facing the city is unemployment, and what city officials can do to create more jobs.
“I think that issue is a big point in the mayor’s job,” she said.
As mayor, Martin said she hopes to work together with other municipalities. She said she hopes Johnstown can work with other groups to reach out to companies to bring their jobs to the area.
“I realize this is a tall order,” Martin said.
She said the city must move forward.
She said the city should try to find companies for the Johnstown Industrial Park. She also said she would like to improve the marketing of Johnstown.
If she’s elected mayor, she said, she would not support consolidation with Gloversville. From a “financial standpoint,” she said consolidation of the two cities wouldn’t benefit Johnstown.
“Johnstown is on a level basis,” Martin said. “We have not raised taxes in a number of years. We’re not looking to take anybody else’s financial burden.”
Martin said the city can work closely with the Fulton-Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce.
“We’ve got to bring business into the city,” she said. “For a new mayor going in, that person is going to have the opportunity to research all the options.”
She said people who own property downtown also have to make their rents affordable.
“I think we need to have a heart-to-heart with our downtown business owners and apartment owners,” Martin said.
She said one of her “first moves” will be to reach out to Mohawk to try to get the business park created.
“Let’s sit down and see how it can work out,” Martin said.
She added, “I think Johnstown is a great community and a great city, anyway.”
The 29-year-old Jeffers, an area substitute special-education teacher, lives at 214 W. Second Ave.
“I’m running because I can offer a different vision for the city,” Jeffers said. “I’m younger. I have some clear ideas.”
He lists job creation, in the form of companies coming to Johnstown, as his No. 1 priority.
“I think it’s economic development, trying to get businesses here,” Jeffers said.
He said he wants to see both blue- and white-collar jobs come to the Johnstown Industrial Park and downtown. Jeffers said there might be “tax-rate incentives” for businesses to locate in the city.
He said he supports the idea of a regional business park. Although he doesn’t want an unlimited number of years built into a revenue-sharing plan between Johnstown and Mohawk involving the park land, he said 60 years, with a re-examination at the 25-year point, might be in order.
“I’m not for giving [Mohawk] forever,” Jeffers said.
Jeffers said he doesn’t think Johnstown and Gloversville should consolidate. But the Water Board member said localities can combine or share items such as trucks.
The city is going in the right direction seeking downtown grant money, he said, but the city also has to meet with local businesses and listen to their concerns to help them improve and flourish.
Jeffers said he wants the city to “keep the lines of communication open” with leaders countywide. He said Johnstown has “great resources.”
“I want to try to get local entities involved in cleanup projects,” he said. “I’d like to try to get young kids to clean up the city. I think it will be good for the city.”
Jeffers is in his second year serving on the city Water Board. He serves as vice chairman of the city Republican Committee. He was an unsuccessful candidate for councilman-at-large in 2007.
He is a lifelong resident of the city and a 2002 graduate of Johnstown High School. He has a master’s degree in secondary social studies education from the State University of New York at Cortland.
Jeffers has been associated with a number of social organizations, has volunteered and coached sports in Johnstown at the middle school and high school level, and has been involved in city politics for several years.
In Martin’s 32-day pre-general election campaign financial disclosure report, she listed $689 in contributions and expenses. Jeffers listed “no activity.” Julius listed $8,000 in contributions and $6,519 in expenses.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.