PLATTSBURGH — The Plattsburgh City Common Council will vote Thursday on the mayor's appointment of Caitlin Bopp to Ward 5 councilor, a seat left vacant since Patrick McFarlin's early July resignation.
Bopp, a city resident and children's health home care manager, said the incumbent approached her about the open position, thinking she would be a good fit.
Admitting she was at first "taken aback," Bopp mulled it over.
"The reason I decided to move forward was because I care very much about the city; I care very much about our community and the members of our community. This is about trying to help promote healthy positive growth in our community in a way that honors the members of it now, helps attract people that we want to come to the area and it seems like it's just that next level of being able to serve my community."
The City Charter requires the mayor appoint a new representative, subject to the confirmation of three councilors, within 30 days of the resignation or request a special election to occur no sooner than 90 days and no later than 120 days from the resignation date.
"The special election would have fallen between Sept. 30 and Oct. 30, just shy of the general election," Mayor Christopher Rosenquest said.
"That would have required the city to pay for a competing election with an already scheduled general election and it didn't seem responsible."
Rosenquest met with three Ward 5 residents interested in holding the vacant seat until the fall election.
"Primarily what I'm looking for are people who can look at an issue from all sides; they're not going to come in with a particular position," the mayor said. "Certainly they have their own perspective on life which is valued, but, when we are elected or appointed to an elected position, our job is to look at things objectively and from the position of the constituents, regardless of our own opinion, and make a decision based on that.
"All of the people who showed interest would have been very good for the position. At the end of the day, it felt best to appoint Miss Bopp to this position."
'FELL IN LOVE'
Bopp, 39, grew up in Albany and earned a bachelor's degree at SUNY Albany there, as well as a masters in educational psychology and research methodology.
Living only a couple hours south of Plattsburgh, she had quite a few friends in the North Country and visited often.
"I knew eventually I would move here. I just fell in love with the city. Not only is it beautiful, but also a thriving, cool city with a good music scene, art scene. That really appealed to me, plus it’s on a lake, so it was the best of both worlds."
Bopp made the move in 2017 and works for Albany-based organization Northern Rivers Family Services, which has an office in Saranac Lake and aids more than 19,000 families statewide.
Bopp services families in the Clinton, Essex, Franklin and occasionally Warren counties.
Asked her plans as a councilor, Bopp pointed to what she called "smaller issues," like needing more garbage cans, pedestrian-safe intersection infrastructure and parking solutions.
"On a bigger scale, promoting mental health awareness and substance abuse care. Helping people to find paths to that and trying to help create a city that promotes that kind of well-being and reduces the stigma. That's important to me."
She did not have a stance on the city's possible Plattsburgh Boat Basin/Naked Turtle buy, saying she needed time to become acclimated with all of the information.
Bopp expected similar issues to pop up.
"About how we grow in a way that is fiscally responsible, but also promote what we want to see from the city. It's about how we balance that fiscal responsibility and progress. I expect that I will be learning a lot about that."
Councilors will vote on the appointment at a special meeting Thursday, scheduled for 4:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers of City Hall.
If OK'd by the council, Bopp will hold the Ward 5 seat until Jan. 1 and plans to vie for it again in the fall 2021 election.
"Her addition will create the most diverse Common Council, which will now include two people of color and three women," Rosenquest said. "I look forward to her partnership and what she'll bring to the table."
Asked her thoughts on possibly joining the Lake City's six-member council in this manner, Bopp said she was honored.
"I think to a certain extent people could be watching a little bit closer. I think it really means that, as with anything, we need to make sure that we are comporting ourselves with integrity and really representing the groups in a way that is positive and also that is promoting them."
Bopp said she vowed to ask herself: Who could be hurt by this decision? What could we do to mitigate that? Should we not go forward with the decision based on that?
"In everything I do I try to look at who stands to gain, but it's also important to look at who stands to have a cost."
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