A man who leads seldom steps forward without kicking up the opinion of others. Now in his sixth year in office, Bethlehem Town Supervisor John Clarkson certainly has not fallen short of that.
Clarkson’s professional career was in state government. He and his family moved to Slingerlands more than 20 years ago, and later, he worked with the town through involvement with a local citizen group. It sparked an interest in local government that coaxed him to run for supervisor in 2011. A race he would win.
Clarkson first earned residents’ confidence on a campaign emphasizing the need for ethical government, sound fiscal planning and an update to the town’s business practices — all of which he cited as successes in last week’s written statement announcing that he’d had enough.
As a neophyte supervisor, Clarkson acknowledged there would be tough choices ahead of him. He said the town would succeed by listening to its residents, and without partisan politics. How successful his administration has been with the latter goal depends on where your allegiance lies. For half a dozen years, Clarkson has been a Democrat supervisor in a town with a long history of Republican leadership. Those Republicans never did go away. In 2015, Clarkson’s challenger, Republican Jim Foster, came within a handful of votes of taking a two-year residency in Town Hall.
Now, residents are wondering who will be the next to step forward. It’s still too early to say. Both parties continue to accept submissions from those interested in running for office this year. We speculate voters will see familiar faces announcing their intent very soon.
Foster, who has continued to maintain the same social media channels he opened two years ago, will likely surface again for the Republicans. And, for the Democrats, current town board member David VanLuven is expected by many to make an attempt this year, too. This kind of prognostication has less to do with the proverbial reading of the tealeaves, and more with listening to the rumblings already audible throughout town.
The odd numbered year usually marks an odd political season, and 2017 is already shaping up to fit the bill. Bethlehem residents are going to have to think about who they want to lead this town. An ethical government with sound fiscal planning and efficient business practices should be the standard for any administration — regardless of what color tie you wear.
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.