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Saranac Lake Trustee Jeff Branch stands at the podium during a debate last week in the Harrietstown Town Hall. From left behind him are Mark Gillis, Paul Van Cott and Barbara Rice. Photo: Chris Knight, courtesy Adirondack Daily Enterprise.
Saranac Lake Trustee Jeff Branch stands at the podium during a debate last week in the Harrietstown Town Hall. From left behind him are Mark Gillis, Paul Van Cott and Barbara Rice. Photo: Chris Knight, courtesy Adirondack Daily Enterprise.

Four vie for Saranac Lake trustee seats

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Tomorrow (Tuesday) is village election day across the North Country. One of the races to watch is in Saranac Lake where four people are vying for two seats on the village's board of trustees.

The field of candidates includes two business owners, a state Department of Corrections employee and an attorney for the state Adirondack Park Agency.

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Reported by

Chris Knight
Adirondack Correspondent

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The trustee race in Saranac Lake pits Democrats Barbara Rice and Paul Van Cott against Republicans Jeff Branch and Mark Gillis.

Rice is the part-owner of Rice Furniture in downtown Saranac Lake. A Saranac Lake native, her family has been involved with local politics for years, "I have very deep roots here," Rice said. "I know people here. My family has been invested here for many generations. I do have business experience here, which I think will be very beneficial to the village board."

Running with Rice is fellow Democrat Paul Van Cott. An attorney for the APA for the past 11 years, Van Cott has also worked for the state attorney general's office, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and spent five years in Maine as a regional director for that state's environmental protection agency, "I'm good at government," Van Cott said. "I've been an attorney for 25 years and a manager for 15. I'm very good at negotiations. I'm very good at building partnerships."

On the Republican side, Jeff Branch is the only incumbent in the race. He's been on the village board for seven years, "I have a lot of experience, and I think that's a necessity," Branch said. "I have the background with the village. I keep an eye on the details, and I'm a good money man. And I'm out there and involved in everything."

Branch is a vocational instructor at Bare Hill Correctional Facility in Malone.

His running mate is Mark Gillis, a newcomer to the village who won the endorsement of the village Republican caucus over 10-year incumbent John McEneany.

Gillis co-owns an investment banking and securities brokerage firm. He says his background in business and finance would be an asset to the village, "Just having project X in front of you, saying we need to borrow this money to do this, and here's what the payoff is. Just on that basic stuff, I think I have a better chance of applying my business skills along with common sense and making the right determination."

Unlike other recent Saranac Lake elections, this race has been marked by the lack of any hot-button issues or controversies. At a debate last week, all four candidates said they want to work to better market the village and bring more businesses, visitors and year-round residents to the community.

The two winners on Tuesday will join Mayor Clyde Rabideau and trustees Tom Catillaz and Allie Pelletieri on the Saranac Lake village board.

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