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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 26, 2009

Mayor Gaughan handily wins second term against old foe

By Philippa Stasiuk

ALTAMONT — Mayor James Gaughan was elected for a second four-year term on Wednesday with two-thirds of the vote against challenger Harvey Vlahos; the unofficial count was 327 to 218.

“Personally, I find it uplifting because, in my heart, I knew it was right what we were doing,” Gaughan told The Enterprise as he waited for the tally to be finalized at Village Hall last night. “It reinforced that I’m on the right track for the village. It was a re-echoing of my commitment to the community and a wonderful message from the community for the last four years.”

Gaughan, who has retired from his work with the State Education Department, made his first run for public office four years ago. This time, he ran on his record, citing the village’s development of a master plan and new zoning, and stating his goal of updating the village’s aging infrastructure.

Moments before officials opened the back of two voting machines to read the votes, Vlahos spoke with The Enterprise about what lay ahead. “If I win, I win the election,” Vlahos said, “and if I lose, I win my time back. It was interesting because I got in late and there was a lot to do, a lot of preparation.”

Vlahos’s mother, Anne, added, “Don’t do it again. I can’t stand the excitement.”

Vlahos, a former trustee who did extensive work on the master plan, announced that he was running for mayor an hour-and-a-half before the deadline to enter the race on Feb. 10. Gaughan said that Vlahos’s last-minute entry as a contender for mayor also influenced the way he ran his re-election campaign.

“I admire Vlahos’s ingenuity in creating his website (www.SpiritOfAltamont.com) for the election,” said the mayor. “Because of the late arrival of my opponent, I focused on going door to door, meeting with people, and speaking to people personally, but the website idea was ingenious.”

Vlahos, who runs Altamont manor, said that, if he lost, he would work on helping the business community as much as possible. Speaking of the village’s business forum, Vlahos said, “Maybe we can do it so it’s sustained and we can make sure all local businesses get the opportunity to bid on projects.” One of the issues that Vlahos raised in his campaign was that the village did not give The Enterprise the opportunity to bid on the printing of its village newsletters.

Vlahos added that he would continue to work with Diana Greene, the owner of Bella Fleur floral shop, to help her lay out a website for Altamont’s business community “in order to make it more prosperous.”

Vlahos and Gaughan had been opponents before, in the four-way mayoral race four years ago. Vlahos had come in second. This year’s campaign was spirited as signs were posted from both campaigns throughout the village and flyers were placed and replaced on the doorsteps of village homes.

Throughout Election Day, police were stationed at Village Hall. Public Safety Commissioner Anthony Salerno said that there were two officers present all day, one to be on duty during the election and one to relieve the other one for bathroom breaks.

Salerno said that there was one incident in the afternoon when a man refused to leave the village hall after trying to vote without being properly registered. Salerno said he escorted the man out of the building and notified the Albany County Board of Elections of the incident.

When poll workers were tallying votes election night, Gaughan triumphantly hugged Salerno and shook hands with three other police officers who were also present as a crowd of about 20 people waited to hear the results read.

The expense of and role that the Altamont police play in village life were major issues in the election. Throughout his campaign, Gaughan had defended the importance of Altamont’s police, saying that the services they provide, such as checking on homes when villagers go out of town, are services that the village would be the poorer for without. Vlahos had argued that a police force of two full-time officers would be better for the community and cost less money.

In addition to the mayor’s race, Trustee Kerry Dineen, who ran on a slate with Gaughan, and Dean Whalen, who ran independently, were both unopposed in Wednesday’s election and received 342 and 311 votes respectively. Judge Neil Taber also ran unopposed for an eighth term as village judge and was the top vote-getter with 348 votes.

“I would have welcomed a challenger,” said Taber. “It would have made the race more interesting.”

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