September 8, 2010

Rabideau, a man of many ideas

Clyde Rabideau is not your average mayor, if there is such a thing. He'll perform most of the services you'd expect from a mayor, of course, as any responsible executive would. But he'll also give you something else: ideas.

Rabideau was mayor of Plattsburgh for a decade or so in the 1990s. Now, he's mayor of Saranac Lake.

He was mentioned in a Press-Republican Sports Lookback on Aug. 25 for having two hits in helping his East Morrisonville Pony League team complete an undefeated season 40 years ago, in 1970, with a 13-6 win over South Plattsburgh.

Rabideau was also an outstanding wrestler for Saranac Central. He spent a year at West Point before moving on to Clarkson, where he got his degree.

All of these elements tell you something about the kind of mayor Rabideau turned out to be. He was tenaciously competitive — in Plattsburgh, he often butted heads with adversaries, and sometimes even friends. He had a relationship with PARC and its own mercurial leader at the time, Dan Wieneke, that could best be described as wary. If the two were playing poker, they would certainly make sure they saw each other's cards before conceding the pot.

Rabideau could also be charming, behind a lectern or mingling with a crowd. All of these qualities would serve any mayor well.

But his best asset as an executive was his ability to come up with ideas.

He once devised a plan for the city to manufacture its own electricity. It failed to come to fruition for a number of good reasons, but it was a good idea with promising results.

It was his idea to install period street lights downtown. He coined the term "The Lake City" for Plattsburgh and had signs installed with that identifier. He had many other ideas for new special events or ways to enhance current ones. Some people resented his one-person initiative in these projects or balked at the expense, but others appreciate the enduring legacies.

As mayor of Saranac Lake, he came up with another scheme to promote his constituency: He borrowed Plattsburgh's Mayor's Cup regatta and celebration, imported it, adapted it and brought it to life as a marquee event in the village's calendar. It now looks very much as if the Saranac Lake Mayor's Cup Regatta may become one of the outstanding items on the Tri-Lakes agenda.

He also knows a good idea when he hears one; he got strongly behind Cherrie Sayles and the Women's Civic Chamber when they suggested Daffest, a new daffodil festival planned for early May.

The best mayors combine fiscal constraint with visionary ideas because a community is more than just the bottom line of a budget; it is also judged by its vitality and creativity.

Like him or not, Rabideau has always been a guy with big ideas.

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