Eitzmann win is a lesson in politics

One of the few interesting races on the Republican side in yesterday’s primary was a very obscure one: Three candidates seeking two seats on the Malta GOP committee.

The top vote-getter in Malta Election District 10 was insurgent Kathy Eitzmann, who got 86 votes, compared to 59 for Nicholas Wilcock and 23 for Flo Sickels. That means Sickels, the Malta town clerk, will lose her committee position.

Eitzmann and her husband live in an old farmhouse on Round Lake Road west of Northway Exit 11, and will lose a small portion of their property when one of two roundabouts planned for the road is constructed next year. Opposition to the roundabouts was her main issue, but her campaigning on it did not come across as self-serving. For one thing, she broadened her complaints about road conditions beyond the roundabout issue. She also campaigned vigorously and openly, which is unusual in a committee race, and made it about the democratic process.

Most residents of the Round Lake Road area appear to agree with Eitzmann in opposing roundabouts, which they have made very clear to the Malta Town Board. The majority of the board chose to ignore those complaints and build the roundabouts, which, strictly on the merits, was in my opinion the right decision. GlobalFoundries is only the most obvious indicator and driver of Malta’s growth, which continues to bring more traffic into the town. People complain about the other roundabouts in Malta, but they seem to me a reasonable way to deal with the traffic problem — and the project, when it is built next year, will also provide a crucial sidewalk under the Northway going into the village of Round Lake.

But when, as in this case, politicians take an unpopular position, there can be consequences like Eitzmann’s victory. The numbers also make one wonder about other aspects of Malta’s political future. Sickels was re-elected as town clerk last year, despite a mini-scandal that broke just before the election. Is that catching up with her now, and/or are people unhappy with town spending on a new dog park which she helped establish? Or was she punished for being part of the establishment, even though she didn’t have a vote on the issue of roundabouts?

All current elected officials in town government are Republicans. Sickels’ daughter, Councilwoman Tara Thomas, is seen by some as a potential successor to Supervisor Paul Sausville. And Cynthia Young, the Democratic candidate who lost by one vote to Sausville in the last election, is expected to run again for supervisor next year. None of that is directly connected to a party committee race in one election district, but the numbers there were striking enough to get the attention of anyone interested in Malta politics.

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Reporter Bob Conner has worked 21 years in various positions at the Gazette of Schenectady, and before that four years as a reporter at the Glens Falls Post-Star. He won two first-place writing awards from the New York Associated Press Association for newspapers with circulation between 50,000 and 250,000. Bob has a Phi Beta Kappa bachelor’s degree in journalism from New York University, and an associate’s degree in chemical dependency counseling from HVCC. He is a published author and is currently writing a historical novel about the last four months in the life of Ulysses S.Grant

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