BETHLEHEM John Clarkson officially became supervisor of the Town of Bethlehem this evening and pledged to residents not only a responsive and responsible town government, but one free of partisan politics.
Clarkson and other winners of the November elections took their oaths of office in a ceremony at Bethlehem Town Hall. The room was packed with well wishers, including but not limited to Rep. Paul Tonko, newly-minted Albany County Executive Dan McCoy and Colonie Supervisor Paula Mahan.
Naturally, a who's who of Bethlehem town officials was also on hand, including now-former supervisor Sam Messina.
In his speech, Clarkson said going door to door during the campaign was a humbling experience. The new supervisor was a relative latecomer to the race and challenged Councilman Kyle Kotary in a primary for the Democratic line, making the fact Kotary had gained endorsements from the Republican and Democratic parties a part of his early campaign. The primary race was heated at times.
“I feel that partisan politics should end when you take this oath of office,” Clarkson said tonight.
He acknowledged there would likely be tough choices ahead, but also praised the caliber of the town's citizenry.
“Where we haven't succeeded is when we simply have not been able to follow through with the recommendations of our citizen groups,” Clarkson said.
The new supervisor had a long career in state government, but his involvement in Bethlehem's affairs has so far been limited to his work with the 20/20 Committee, a citizen group convened to analyze the town's long-term future.
“It's one thing to study local government in theory on the state level ... but when you're looking at your own town's issues ... it's somehow more tangible. It's somehow more important,” Clarkson said. “It lit a fire.”
Clarkson reemphasized the need for several points he campaigned on, such as cementing a full long-term financial plan for the town, revisiting the town's ethics policy and updating Bethlehem's business practices. When it comes to state mandates that can make things difficult for municipal governments, Clarkson said he'd like to “give Albany a nudge” towards changing state policies, noting many of Albany's movers and shakers make Bethlehem their home.