BETHLEHEM John Clarkson has won a third term as Bethlehem town supervisor following a close election that came down to absentee ballots.
Clarkson beat Republican candidate Jim Foster by just 12 votes once counting finished on Thursday, Nov. 12. There were a total of 427 absentee ballots and affidavits to be counted, which first began last Tuesday. The results remain unofficial until they are released by the Albany County Board of Elections.
Both candidates said they knew the race would be close.
“This race was difficult and I’m sure it was for my opponent, as well,” said Clarkson. “I knew it was going to be close. I didn’t know it was going to be this close.”
Clarkson said going forward he and the Town Board are going to work to make sure Bethlehem has the best suburban police force in the region, but they are going to continue to make sure they do so “within a reasonable amount of resources.”
“We value the officers and their services very much, and we’re going to try to find ways for win-wins in the bargaining agreement, so we can also have a better relationship. That’s important, and that’s my goal,” said the supervisor.
Clarkson said he was happy for the win because he does not feel the goals of his administration are complete. He still wishes to see the Delaware Avenue enhancement project, the waterfront plan, park enhancements and traffic safety go forward.
“I’m very happy for the chance to do so, although narrowly,” said Clarkson.
Foster said he was disappointed in the loss, but felt the next steps were to see how the town can better support the community.
“That’s something I plan to continue to do,” said Foster. “As we’ve seen, 49.99 percent of the voters wanted change and think that we can do better. I want to make sure we continue to explore ways to make our community a better place.”
Clarkson and the town’s other Democrats faced criticism over the last year after the Town Board made changes to police scheduling procedures in an effort to reduce overtime, which some officers have said led to a worsening work environment. The town has also not been able to renegotiate police contracts, with these matters becoming major parts of the campaign. The town’s police unions endorsed Republican candidates, with former police officer David Harrington running for Town Board.
“Over the last several months, we were amazed at the positive feedback our members received from the Bethlehem residents, their families, and all the supporters who worked so hard,” said the town’s two police unions in a joint statement. “Jim Foster ran a great campaign, and while we are disappointed with the results, the margin clearly shows our message resonated. Moving forward, we will continue to do what we have always done. We will work with every local elected official in good faith to make our town the kind of place you want to live and raise your family.”
Foster said he plans to stay in town, and will be looking for a job locally now that the election is over. He also will continue on as a volunteer firefighter within the Elsmere Fire Department and remain active in the town’s Republican party.
“I certainly would encourage more folks to become involved in the process,” said Foster. “If anything from all this we’ve seen how every vote counts. This was a tight race that came down to a dozen votes. I would emphasize to the people become involved, become informed, get to know the candidates and you can certainly be part of the change.”
Moving forward the Bethlehem Republican party has called on those newly elected to appoint a Republican to the Town Board to replace the upcoming vacancy as Bill Reinhardt goes to the county legislature.
Democratic Chairman Jeffrey Kuhn, who decided not to seek reelection to the Town Board this year, said he would not be putting his name forward for the position.
“It’s inappropriate for me to insert myself into that process because I’m not a member of the Town Board anymore. I think those who were recently elected are more than capable of making that decision.”
The Democratic board did appoint a Republican to a vacancy in 2012 in former councilman George Lenhardt.
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