APA attorney wins election in Park’s biggest community

There was an era when the Adirondack Park Agency and local governments inside the blue line were barely on speaking terms in the best of times, and downright confrontational at their worst.

These days that’s changed dramatically, and nothing symbolizes this evolution more than the election of Paul Van Cott on Tuesday to Saranac Lake’s village board.

Van Cott, you’ll remember, is a top APA enforcement attorney who famously tangled with Essex farmer Sandy Lewis back in 2009 and was eventually demoted after calling Lewis “a sociopath” in an email.

In the election, Van Cott’s APA credentials drew a couple of scathing letters to the editor of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.

“Do we really want to bring a Park Agency attorney into our local village government?” asked local resident Bruce Darring.

Apparently the answer is Yes.

But in fact, I’d say Van Cott’s Agency history was mostly a non-issue.  He was elected handily after campaigning on a “jobs and community spirit” message, along with fellow Democrat Barbara Rice.

The vote occurred on the same day that the Park Agency was convening its Local Government Day session in nearby Lake Placid.

I attended that session and speaker after speaker noted the tone of detente and cooperation that now exists between local elected leaders and state officials.

So what do you think?  Does Van Cott’s election represent another sign that the battle lines in the Park have blurred?  Do you think views of the APA are changing in local communities?

As always, your comments welcome.

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14 Comments on “APA attorney wins election in Park’s biggest community”

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  1. You had me at ‘jobs’, Paul. Now, let’s talk #craftbeer, HERE in/around the Blue Line of the ANCA counties. ADKBREWCO says ‘welcome’ & Na zdravi!

  2. Lily says:

    Saranac Lake: are you INSANE? You will live to regret this decision; Vancott has nothing of value to offer.

  3. mark wilson says:

    This election was won largely on the strength of the Democrat’s organization and attention to detail. Paul Van Cott went door-to-door in our neighborhood twice in the past two weeks (once with the mayor). Neither of the Republican candidates did so. A minor point to be sure, but the Democrats’ lawn signs were simple and legible, unlike their opponents’ signs. Of course it helped having Barb Rice, a local, well-respected businessperson, on the ballot. As for the Van Cott/APA connection, I think personal contact did much to dispel the undeserved caricaturization his detractors have put forward in various media outlets in recent years.

  4. I think what it illustrates is that contrary to popular belief, not ALL residents of the Park want development at all costs. The simplistic dichotomy of Evil Outsiders Wanting to Choke the Life out of the Park vs Noble Residents is… well… simplistic.

  5. brian mann says:

    I think the thing that’s most interesting here is the fact that Van Cott’s APA credentials were sort of a non-issue. I think once upon a time it would have been a central question in his campaign. Sometimes the dog that doesn’t bark is the real story…

    –Brian, NCPR

  6. OnewifeVetNewt says:

    This is really amazing, I did not think Paul had much of a chance against one well-known Republican and an attractive new one. In the last election a pretty conservative , anti-regulation, pro-unrestrained guy won fairly easily, as I recall. Mark’s points above about organization about a well-organized and hard working Democrat team explain a lot.
    With Mayor Clyde in there, it should be an interesting couple of years in Saranac Lake.

  7. Susano says:

    Mark Wilson – I tried to click “like” on your comment, but I hit “dislike” by mistake, and I can’t figure out how to “un-dislike” it!! Sorry – ignore that – I LIKE your comment!! :-)

  8. OnewifeVetNewt says:

    WOW! Rice and Van Cott did not simply win, they clobbered their opposition! From P-R :

    Rice earned 542 votes and Van Cott earned 417, beating Branch, with 288 votes, and Gillis, with 210.

    As nearly 30 year resident of the Village, now living just outside of it, I find this margin truly amazing! Someone who did not know the integrity of SL Village elections might even say “Putin-esque.”

  9. Paul says:

    I think his affiliation with the APA is a “non issue”. I don’t think that electing him has anything to with people’s views on development. The guy is an attorney. It is not “his” views that he advocates for one way or the other in his position. He represents his client, the agency, plain and simple. A defense attorney doesn’t condone murder when he is defending a client that is a suspect he is just doing his job.

  10. Peter Hahn says:

    This is a “hard work pays off” story. both Barb and Paul went door to door to talk to people multiple times. They are both genuinely nice people. That goes a long way to overcoming any knee-jerk evil-APA sentiment.

  11. tourpro says:

    His background at APA wasn’t really an issue because nobody (in the media) bothered to bring it up.

    Not that I really care, but perhaps Sandy Lewis or Leroy Douglas might of had some fun opinions to share.

  12. brian mann says:

    Tourpro – We mentioned it in our story about the race. The Adirondack Daily Enterprise mentioned it in their stories about the race. It was mentioned in a prominent op-ed that the Enterprise ran. So we definitely brought it up.

    What’s more interesting is that Van Cott’s opponents didn’t bring it up.

    –Brian, NCPR

  13. tourpro says:

    Brian, I guess I didn’t really notice it – and probably you are right, most people don’t think his role there is an issue. While I may actually side with him/them on the issues, I think his actions in those two cases both humanize him, but also speaks to his temperament.

    For sure, in a “small-town” it’s impossible sometimes to avoid perceptions of conflict-of-interest – I think it’s a very interesting aspect of Adirondack life that we have these cross-connections.

  14. tourpro says:

    Oh yeah, in regard to the opposition using that against him….

    Getting the Lewis/Douglas endorsement would be crazy-fun. Might as well hire Norfolk to be campaign manager!

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