Hammond loses, Lefkaditis to lead Knox

Vasilios Lefkaditis poses with his wife and children in a photo that ran in a five-page campaign letter, which he said was key in his upset victory over longtime Knox Superintendent Michael Hammond.

KNOX — After 42 years as the supervisor of this rural Helderberg Hilltown, Democrat Michael Hammond has met his match.

Vasilios Lefkaditis garnered 478 votes, or 54.5 percent, to Hammond’s 398, according to unofficial results from the Albany County Board of Elections.

Lefkaditis lost his bid at the Democrats’ caucus and made his run solely on the Conservative Party line. Knox has only 68 enrolled Conservatives.

Hammond, 72, accepted his defeat with civility and grace. A bevy of residents, mostly Democrats, waited in Town Hall as, soon after the polls closed at 9 p.m., Alyce Gibbs read results from long rolls of paper tape.

After it became clear Hammond had lost, he told The Enterprise, “It looks like the end of a beautiful run.”

Hammond ran on his record of low taxes, a new town hall, a recently designated business district, a new website and social media presence, and work underway on a revised comprehensive plan for Knox.

Asked why he thought he was ousted, Hammond said, “These things happen.”

He added, “I’m looking forward to enjoying other activities…I had a lot of nice people to work with and they’ll continue to work.”


The Enterprise — Melissa Hale-Spencer
Waiting for the polls to close, longtime Knox Supervisor Michael Hammond, right, chats with outgoing board member Dennis Decker, left, while Earl Barcomb stands at center — all three are Democrats. 


Hammond returned a hug from Earl Barcomb, a Democrat and Knox native making his first run for town board.  Barcomb was the top vote-getter in a three-way race for two seats, earning 40 percent of the vote. Democratic incumbent Dennis Barber retained his seat with 35 percent of the vote. And the sole Republican running for the board, Howard Brown, garnered 25 percent.

Other Knox Democratic incumbents faced no opponents — Town Clerk Tara Murphy, Tax Collector Diane Champion, and Justice James Corigliano. Highway Superintendent Gary Salisbury ran unopposed on five party lines, and was the town’s top vote-getter with 839 votes.

Lefkaditis was not at Town Hall after the polls closed, but, reached by The Enterprise on Tuesday night, he said, “I want to credit Mike Hammond for running a clean campaign….I’m looking forward to working with the town board.”

He also said, “I plan on inviting all the town board members to a dinner to smooth out any rough spots from the campaign. The dinner’s on me.”

In addition to Barcomb and Barber, the other board members — Amy Pokorny and Nicholas Viscio — are also Democrats. Viscio will keep his seat on the town board as he lost his bid for the county legislature. (See related story.)

Pokorny, who was among the group at Town Hall on Election Night, noted there had been “a long time of stability.” She also said, “We’ll work together and make it work.”

She added, “It sounds like there was a big turnout.” Close to 900 people voted — nearly half of the registered voters in Knox.

Pokorny said she liked to be positive and concluded of the turnout, “It gives you confidence people will be satisfied with the results.”

Viscio, who has been on the town board for 22 years, said on Wednesday, “A lot of the operation of the town goes with Mike.”

He went on, “The only thing that’s constant is change...I certainly hope and want the best for the town and the newly elected people.”

During the campaign, Lefkaditis told The Enterprise that he is “pro-business, pro-growth, for low taxes and transparency.” He also said the government needs “new blood,” and, if things aren’t done differently, the town will “continue to see empty houses, empty buildings, and people leaving Knox.”

In the last supervisor race, two years ago, Pam Fenoff, an Independence Party member, ran a close race against Hammond, also stressing the need for change and growth. She had the Republican and Conservative lines, too, and came within 78 votes of Hammond. Fenoff has since moved to North Dakota because of her husband’s job.

On Tuesday night, Lefkaditis, said a five-page letter he mailed to Knox residents was important in his victory. He said 17 people he didn’t know called his home to say they liked the letter. He had his phone number on his election signs.

And, Lefkaditis said, “Countless people stopped me in stores, on the street, in church, and said, ‘Finally, someone put their thoughts in writing.’

“I threw my heart over the fence,” Lefkaditis said. “It was well received.”

The letter says he wants to keep taxes low, provide services for the elderly residents in town, promote local businesses that complement rural character, be available to residents, seek out qualified people for planning and zoning boards, expand hours at town hall, and provide high-speed Internet.

Knox has 700 enrolled Democrats (22 percent of registered voters in town), 421 Republicans (22 percent) and 515 (or 27 percent) who are not affiliated with a party. The rest belong to small parties.

Asked, with his victory on the Conservative line, if he was still aligned with the Democrats since he is enrolled as a Democrat, Lefkaditis said, “My allegiance is to the town of Knox, not to a political party.”

He went on, “When you label candidates, you divide the country. Nothing good comes from division.”

Asked how voters would make choices without party platforms, Lefkaditis said, “You would have a platform.” He said it would be based on an individual’s goals and values.

Lefkaditis and Barcomb are both members of the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School Board. Barcomb said, during his campaign, that, if he were elected to the town board, he would relinquish his seat on the school board and also his seat on the Knox Planning Board.

Lefkaditis said Tuesday night that, by law, he could not stay on the school board once he become supervisor.

Lefkaditis, 43, said earlier he owns and runs a hedge fund called Shaw Fund. He said Tuesday night, “I’m going to keep going ahead with the hedge fund. It’s my primary source of income.”

The supervisor’s post, a part-time job, has a salary of $16,672.

He would like to keep hours at Town Hall from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. He said he would broach with the town board the possibility of him working as supervisor from Town Hall weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., while also working on his hedge fund from the town hall.

“That should be a huge positive for residents who never know when Town Hall is open,” said Lefkaditis.

“Priority Number One is to create a cohesive unit,” he stressed of working with the board. “No one board member can work alone.”

He said, with his financial expertise, “I have no doubt I can step right in,” he said of leading town government.

The Enterprise — Melissa Hale-Spencer

Waiting for the polls to close, longtime Knox Supervisor Michael Hammond, right, chats with outgoing board member Dennis Decker, left, while Earl Barcomb stands at center — all three are Democrats. Hammond was ousted after 42 years as supervisor and Barcomb was elected to the board. Barcomb got 594 votes — 492 on the Democratic line and 102 on the Independence Party line.  Hammond got 398 votes, 355 on the Democratic line and 43 on the Independence Party line.


Barcomb, 45, who works as a high school guidance counselor in Schenectady and who also raises beef cattle on his Knox farm, garnered 594 votes, ahead of the incumbent, Barber, 60, who has retired from the state’s Department of Transportation; Barber got 522 votes.

“Voters of Knox were looking for some change,” said Barcomb on Wednesday, explaining both Hammond’s loss and his victory. “I’m not an incumbent,” he said.

He went on about Hammond, “Mike has a wealth of knowledge and experience we’ll lose. That will be a challenge. We’ll miss that. But,” he went on, “Vas has an energy about him.”

Barcomb continued, “I work with Vas on the school board....We’ve accomplished a lot. We aren’t in lockstep, we can agree to disagree and accomplish stuff. People want us to work together.”

Barcomb also said, “Vas ran a good successful campaign....My campaign was subtle...His was more contentious.”

Looking ahead to what he hopes to accomplish in the next four years, Barcomb said, “We’ll be dealing with the comprehensive plan...Interpreting what the people of Knox want will be the challenge.”

He concluded, “Re-election will be the real test.”

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