First-term mayor and trustee turned out
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
Challengers swept the elections on Tuesday (March 19) in Nelsonville, winning the mayor’s seat and two trustee positions.
Trustee Chris Caccamise, who opposed Mayor Bill O’Neill, the first-term incumbent, won by 15 votes, 110-95, or 54 percent to 46 percent. Caccamise was appointed in August to the Village Board to fill a vacancy. He noted to The Current that he believes he is the first Mexican-American mayor of the village.
Newcomers Dove Pedlosky and Lisa Mechaley defeated first-term incumbent Alan Potts to fill the two open trustee seats. (Nelsonville voters in 2017 approved an expansion of the Village Board from three to five members.) Pedlosky received 117 votes, Mechaley won 116 and Potts had 103. Pedlosky and Mechaley will join Trustees Michael Bowman and David Moroney.
Nelsonville has 413 registered voters. In 2017, O’Neill, running unopposed, received 86 votes, and Potts, also running unopposed, received 81. In the Tuesday election, 203 voters participated, for a turnout of just under 50 percent.
The new mayor and trustees will be sworn in at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 2, at Village Hall. The term for each position is two years.
At a meeting of the Nelsonville Village Board the day after the election, Caccamise said: “I’d like to compliment Alan and the mayor. They’ve done a wonderful job. The mayor has amazing ideas. I would just simply approach them from a slightly different way.”
During board member remarks, O’Neill said, “Thanks to everybody. It’s been a privilege. I’d like to think the Village for offering me the privilege of serving over the last two years. I hope I can walk away with some sense of achievement.”
Potts said: “It was a privilege to serve this village for the past two years. It takes a special kind of person to devote their time and energy to the governing of our village. It’s not a glamorous position, but it is worthwhile and important. Thank you for the opportunity, and I wish the incoming board members much success.”
The rhetoric before the vote was less reserved, much of it centered on how the Village Board has handled an application to build a cell tower overlooking the Cold Spring Cemetery. After the application was denied, Homeland Towers, Verizon and AT&T sued the village in federal court. (O’Neill said Wednesday that negotiations had broken down and he expected the cases to go to trial.)
Also at issue was whether a conservation easement should be applied to a 4-acre, village-owned plot in the Nelsonville Woods that would limit what the municipality could do with the land.
The campaign involved a clash of personalities. In a post at highlandscurrent.org during the week before the vote, Caccamise accused O’Neill of conducting himself “in a dictatorial fashion, not as a first among equals. He has concentrated power, making unilateral decisions, limiting the flow of information among the trustees and restricting our access to the village attorney, on whose counsel the entire board relies. He has treated his colleagues and the public with disdain and disrespect.”
O’Neill responded that Caccamise had been “a disappointment” as a trustee. “Meeting after meeting he sat quietly, never offering any perspectives whatsoever. Perhaps my supposed dictatorial style intimidated him.” He described Caccamise and the two challengers for trustee positions as a “nasty insurgency coalition.”
“There is more to running a village than cell towers,” wrote Potts in one post, charging that the challengers were part a group of residents called the Philipstown Cell Solutions Group had “morphed into a political action group with the goal of gaining control of the Nelsonville board.” The three challengers insisted they were not running exclusively on that issue, or the proposed easement.
Statements from New Board Members
“I am deeply honored and humbled to have been elected mayor of Nelsonville. We face a number of challenges as well as fantastic opportunities to improve our village in the immediate future. I am looking forward to facing these issues with the enthusiastic participation of the very capable and knowledgeable members of the Village Board of Trustees. I also wish to encourage participation in local government by as many of our citizens as possible. We need active participation by our constituents so that we can accurately and best represent them.”
“I want to thank everyone for choosing me to represent Nelsonville as a village trustee. I want to thank everyone who participated in this election, and I look forward to working with our mayor-elect and the other trustees to tackle issues like sewers, land preservation and parking.”
“It is an honor to receive the support of residents, my friends and neighbors. This village inspires me every day. My intention is to work hard for this community we all love. I encourage everyone in Nelsonville to voice their hopes and ideas as we work together in the months ahead.”