Spa City candidates wrangle in lively forum

— The mood was anything but calm at a Candidate Forum at Saratoga Springs High School on Wednesday, Oct. 19, when candidates for mayor, commissioner of public safety and commissioner of finance faced off.

Sponsored by the League of Women Voters and The Spotlight, the forum pitted incumbents and challengers against one another to debate a series of audience-submitted questions. Uncontested candidates for two Saratoga Springs supervisor positions (Matthew Veitch and Joanne Yepsen), commissioner of accounts (John Franck) and commissioner of public works (Anthony Scirocco) were also able to make a brief statement.

Mayoral challenger Brent Wilkes (D) made his opinion of current-Mayor Scott Johnson’s (R, C, I) time in office clear in his opening statement.

“The message that I hear is loud and clear; it resonates throughout the city. Scott Johnson does not listen, Scott Johnson does not plan, Scott Johnson does not manage. In short, Scott Johnson does not lead,” said Wilkes. “It is time for a change. I am running for mayor because so many people are clamoring for change.”

Wilkes said he could bring “40 years of experience in management of cities” and would improve the “effectiveness” of Spa City government because he has started his own company, created jobs and kept his employees “productive and happy.”

Johnson, who took office in 2008, said Saratoga Springs is a “much different city” today than it was when he began his term.

“When I took office … frankly, it was the subject of embarrassment often within the Capital Region in terms of how we operate in our government,” said Johnson. “I’m proud to have restored civility and professionalism and a new sense of direction to our city over the past four years.”

Working across party lines has been a prime achievement of his tenure, said Johnson.

“Presently we have a very workable team, a real team effort toward solving the problems of our city on the Council,” said Johnson.

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