Press-Republican

April 24, 2013

City mayor won't run again

By JOE LoTEMPLIO
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — City of Plattsburgh Mayor Donald Kasprzak will not seek re-election this fall to a second three-year term.

“I have been humbled and very grateful for the support of city residents during my tenure,” he said in a statement issued Tuesday. “I believe we have done our best to represent the majority of the taxpayers during one of the most difficult periods in our history.”

FINANCIAL CHALLENGES

Kasprzak, 57, was elected in 2006 to fill the final year on the term of then-Mayor Daniel Stewart, who left the city to take an appointment as a State Commission on Corrections commissioner.

A Republican, Kasprzak first defeated Councilor Michael Drew of Ward 1 in a primary before besting Democrat Kevin Duniho in the special election.

He won re-election to a full three-year term in 2007, running unopposed, and was victor over independent candidate Kathryn McCleery for another three-year term in 2010.

During his time in office, Kasprzak has dealt with difficult budget issues, as the city had been faced with severe tax increases in the final two years of Stewart’s administration.

Tasks and issues the mayor took on successfully included the mandate to close the former city landfill on Akey Road, replacing outdated water tanks, replacing the sewer system near the Macdonough Monument, paying more than $1 million in Workers Compensation costs and solving a $1 million deficit at the Municipal Lighting Department.

He also was able to negotiate health-insurance-premium contributions from most city employees and dealt with a devastating flood in the spring of 2011.

“I think the mayor was exactly the mayor we needed at the time he was elected,” Councilor and Mayor Pro Tem James Calnon (I-Ward 4) said.

“The six-plus years he has been mayor have been very good years, and I wish him the best.”

MANY GRIEVANCES

Kasprzak served as an alderman, the former title for councilors, from 1990 to 1994. He also worked for New York State Department of Parks and Recreation from 1998 to 2005.

While he was able to solidify the city’s finances, he had many high-profile battles with union leadership. He fought openly with Denise Nephew, the former head of the American Federation of County State Municipal Employees over contracts, and with the Fire Department’s Plattsburgh Permanent Firefighters Union.

Contacted about Kasprzak’s decision, Nephew, who was succeeded as AFCSME president last year by Chris Bleaux, would say only that she was “looking forward to the future with Plattsburgh growing once again.”

Bleaux, who has avoided public battles with the mayor, said he never saw the value of such street fights.

“I don’t think anything good comes from that,” he said. “I am glad he (Kasprzak) made his decision. He probably needs some rest. It’s a tough job to run a city — it’s like running a big business, and someone is always tugging at your coattails.”

Firefighters Union President Terry Feazelle said the union filed only three grievances with the city in the 15 years prior to Kasprzak becoming mayor — and 45 since he has been in office.

“We look forward to working with the next mayor and getting back to the days where we sat down and talked about our differences in private,” Feazelle said.

‘HONORED, HUMBLED’

Kasprzak was out of town Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.

His statement said he has been “humbled and very grateful” for the support of city residents during his time as mayor.

“It has been a privilege and honor to represent the City of Plattsburgh for four years as an alderman and seven years as mayor.

“I have been very fortunate to meet and work with so many wonderful people from all walks of life.

“There is no better place to live and raise a family than in the North Country. I hope our community leaders continue to focus on the outstanding quality of life our residents expect and deserve. 

“I wish everyone the best as Plattsburgh moves forward.”

‘HARD WORKER’

Councilor Timothy Carpenter (D-Ward 1) said the mayor had his pluses and minuses.

“He did a very good job in some areas, and he did things differently in some areas than I would have,” he said.

“He is not exactly the relationship builder that I am, but he did a good job keeping taxes in line.

“But I was a little uncomfortable with the way he dealt with the Fire Department sometimes.”

Councilor Chris Case (D-Ward 5) said Kasprzak has been one of the hardest-working mayors the city has ever had.

“On Saturday and Sunday mornings, early, he was there for three or four hours, and he was always in his office by 7 a.m. or 7:30 a.m. every day,” he said.

Case said one of the more underrated achievements of the mayor was how he helped the city restore its bond rating to a healthy AAA level.

“He turned this city around financially,” he said.

Email Joe LoTemplio:jlotemplio@pressrepublican.com