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Across County, Sellers' Legacy Remains

Written By Editor on 10/15/13 | 10/15/13

Normally, the legacy of a giant in local politics hangs heavy over an area-- even after their retirement or death. There are still many that fondly remember Arlington van Dyke's tenure as Middleburgh's Mayor and Supervisor, as well as Chair of the Board of Supervisors and Assemblyman. A positive influence of a man or woman involved in local community groups, politics, and business can be a legacy that is tried in earnest to meet.

But this is not always the case.

Take the tenure of Cobleskill Mayor Michael Sellers from 2005-2009. He defeated former Mayor Bill Gilmore and Robert LaPietra. Sellers was elected with under 50% of the vote in the contentious race. Sellers was reportedly surprised as anyone by his victory-- and his governing style showed it. The campaign was heavily dependent on SUNY Cobleskill students re-registering to vote in the local election and was able to secure the victory.

Sellers came into the office with no allies on the Board and no political experience. With no legislative or executive experience, the young mayor was quickly sidelined by a Board eager to pursue different interests. His rival Gilmore carried a 2007 trustee race and appeared set to run for mayor again in 2009 but died early that year.

Mr. Sellers' lack of a firm platform played havoc with his attempted accomplishments. A move that he lauded-- taking out flouride from drinking water-- was overturned by his own administration in 2009. His waffling in regards to the proposed facility at Guilford Mills and Lowe's left Cobleskill's economy rudderless.

Meanwhile Mayor Sellers planted the seeds for future discord in Cobleskill politics. His alliance with then-Trustee Galasso to begin a dissolution study is handicapping the future of the Village. Galasso won in 2009 on the dissolution platform and now that the potential effects are being felt, voters are feeling a bit gunshy. Sellers' reputation of being boxed in was on display when pushing the process forward in 2009. The same was seen in the fact that due to the four year slog of Sellers' administration, the Village of Cobleskill switched to a two-year term system for both the Mayor and Trustees.

The instability continued even after Sellers quietly left office in 2009 without running for re-election. The damage was done as the "law-and-order" candidate Mark Nadeau quickly ruined his career while using the N-word with Supervisor Tom Murray. After a short caretaker administration, Mark Galasso swept into office in 2010 and was re-elected in 2011. Cobleskill has had four different mayors since November 2009 and ten since 1990.

Sellers' legacy is a complicated one but an overwhelmingly negative one. Residents of the County that were willing to take a chance on an inexperienced 21 year old in Cobleskill could be shy to support even an experienced candidate like Shawn Smith of Fultonham, Sean Jordan of Jefferson, or Matthew Avitabile of Middleburgh. This hesitancy is understandable-- but could prevent hangers-on like Dan Singletary or William McCabe from getting the boot after their expiration dates.

Mayor Sellers also muddied the water of Cobleskill's electoral politics-- almost forcing a pendulum shift towards candidates like Nadeau and Galasso. Ultimately, if Sellers' dissolution study forces the end of the Village he would have another notch in his resume. Still, for most Cobleskill residents it is a record that they wish he did not have at all.
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1 comments:

randy said...

Excellent article with perceptions that most of us had forgotten. Well done !

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