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Old rivals face off in Watertown mayor's race

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The race for mayor has begun in Watertown, with two longtime rivals in city government facing off against each other.

The race pits incumbent Jeffrey Graham against city councilman Jeffrey Smith.

Joanna Richards has the story.

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Joanna Richards
Watertown Correspondent


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Watertown's elections are non-partisan, so political parties take a back seat. Both candidates are small-business owners with years of experience in city government. Both highlight their commitment to fiscal discipline.

Mayor Jeff Graham is running for his fifth term. He owns the bar Fort Pearl on the city's north side. He's a radio personality on the popular midday political program, “Hotline” on WATN. He just suspended his show until after the election. His background is in broadcast journalism.

Graham says he's proud of the city's growth and fiscal health. His reelection would result in no change of composition on the City Council, since Jeffrey Smith would continue in his role as councilman for another two years.

“So I think if you like the way things are, if you're satisfied with the course of events in the city, I would make the argument that you would leave things the way they are,” Graham said.

Jeffrey Smith is a physician's assistant, and he and his wife own the urgent care clinic Quik Med. He says he's proud of his role in buying down city debt with general funds, and of the city's sidewalk maintenance program. He says his priorities for the city include continuing to reduce debt, developing recreational opportunities for residents and looking ahead to how renewable energy might reduce the city's long-term costs.

“Such was done with hydropower back in the '90s, early '90s – late '80s, early '90s – today it is our fourth-largest income generator. Well, we have to continue to plan for the future and make ourselves better and I've been an advocate for that,” Smith said.

Jeffrey Smith and Jeff Graham will face off in November for a four-year term. Two other City Council members, Joseph Butler and Roxanne Burns, are running unopposed to keep their seats.

For North Country Public Radio/WRVO, I'm Joanna Richards in Watertown.

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