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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 21, 2011

GOP councilmen moving on and moving up from contentious Guilderland town board

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — The landscape of Guilderland politics is shifting.

For the past four years, two Republican candidates who ousted Democrats on the town board in an upset victory, have been at bitter odds with the Democratic supervisor. Their terms are up in 2012.

One of the Republican councilmen, Warren Redlich, is moving to Florida, and the other, Mark Grimm, said he is considering several options, including running for another term on the board, running for town supervisor, or running for county executive. (Michael Breslin, the Democrat who has been the Albany County executive since 1995, announced earlier this month that he won’t seek another term.)

Guilderland Supervisor Kenneth Runion said this week that he is committed to running for a seventh two-year term.

Two years ago, he hesitated to run, then said he got his “adrenaline” back, and won against Peter Golden, an author and political newcomer, with 56-percent of the vote.

“On the local, grassroots level, there isn’t much of a philosophical difference between political parties,” Runion said this week.

Indeed, Runion had started his political career as a Republican at the end of an era when the GOP had dominated town politics for decades, then became a Democrat before his first run for supervisor.

Redlich, an attorney, said his reasons for moving are only loosely tied to politics. In addition to sitting on the town board, Redlich ran for Congress twice, and ran for governor on the Libertarian line in 2010.

“The endless stream of attacks does wear on you,” said Redlich, but, he went on, his primary reason for moving is the weather.

“I don’t like winter,” he said, and by moving south, he hopes to live a lifestyle that is more active.

Headlines in Newsday, a Long Island daily newspaper, said Redlich was leaving because of nasty politics.

“There’s no perfect option,” said Grimm of his future course. He has a communications business in town. He had launched a run for town supervisor in 2009, but backed out and kept his post as councilman instead.

Matthew Nelligan, chairman of the Guilderland Republican Committee, said for the 2011 election, the party is focusing particularly on filling the posts for two town board members and the highway superintendent.

“Those positions have been held by Republicans, so we’re super focused on maintaining them,” Nelligan said yesterday. The long-time highway superintendent, Todd Gifford, resigned in December, and the bipartisan town board couldn’t agree on an appointment.

Nelligan wrote a letter to the Enterprise editor this month, putting out an open call for candidates, and said this week the committee has gotten a good response.

“I’m very happy, we’ve had a couple of screenings and been very successful,” said Nelligan. The party’s main goal is to keep the process open, he said. The committee will decide which candidates to back for which positions within the next few weeks.

“People can decide which positions they’d like to run for, but ultimately, the committee makes that decision,” Nelligan said.

“I give Warren credit, he certainly made meetings more interesting, and I wish him and his family well,” concluded Nelligan.

Political difference

Redlich was sworn in as a Guilderland Town Board member on Jan. 1, 2008. Almost immediately, he was asked to appear before the Committee on Professional Standards, after Democrats Donald Csaposs, the town’s grant writer, and Richard Sherwood, the town’s attorney, cited a conflict of interest.

Csaposs and Sherwood questioned whether The Redlich Law Firm could handle cases in Guilderland Town Court. Redlich went back and forth with the committee for over a year before he filed a lawsuit against the members of the Committee on Professional Standards. 

“I think if you look at the people making the complaints, it’s largely Albany County Democrats,” said Redlich when he filed the suit.

At the end of February 2011, the federal court handed down a decision citing a valid conflict of interest. The judge chastised Redlich for displaying “an apparent disregard for the time and resources that this court must expend in interpreting his poorly-drafted pleadings.”

While Redlich blamed local politics, Csaposs responded in a letter to the Enterprise editor, “I had nothing at all to do with a court decision I had no way of knowing would ever be rendered.”

During his three years on the town board, Redlich has forced a more transparent budget process, by pushing for public budget workshops and bringing sales-tax revenues and pension contributions to the forefront of discussions. He also drew attention to the budget deadlines outlined by the Guilderland Town Code, and made sure each was being met.

Though he was not successful, Redlich advocated for freezing or reducing town board members’ salaries to save money, while opposing overtime cuts for police and paramedics in order to avoid a reduction of public safety coverage.

Redlich was the target of political attacks during his run for governor, when a flier imitating a police notice was circulated, falsely describing him as a sexual predator. The mailer called him a “sick, twisted pervert,” and referenced a blog post he made in 2008 after pictures of Miley Cyrus caused controversy. It encouraged people to call police if they saw him anywhere near a public school, in the neighborhood, or near a family. Redlich has never been arrested for or convicted of a sex crime.

“It was very hurtful, it’s very clear the purpose was personal; they were trying to hurt me, my wife, and my children, and they were successful,” said Redlich shortly after the November election.

“The way politics work is that you attack your opponents economically to get them out of politics,” Redlich said. After the election, he said he would not run for public office again. Later, in February, after the court decision was handed down, he said he would not run until his youngest child goes to college. This week, he said he won’t run for office in Florida, either.

“I’m sure politics are just as nasty in Florida,” he said. He does plan to stay active behind the scenes in the Libertarian party, particularly on the Ron Paul campaign.

Under state law, the town board could appoint someone to fill Redlich’s vacant spot, or it can choose to leave it open until the election in November.

“I think I’ll recommend to the board that we leave the spot open until the election,” Supervisor Runion told The Enterprise this week. There aren’t many board meetings left between now and November, he said, and nothing controversial is coming up soon.

Redlich said he plans to continue working on current cases in the area with his law firm, and then provide counsel to his current law partner, who plans on opening her own firm after he moves.

“My income isn’t tied to this area,” said Redlich, who also runs an online directory of town and criminal courts throughout the country.

“Guilderland is my hometown; I grew up here,” Redlich concluded. “But a constant stream of attacks wears away at your attachment to your hometown.”

Redlich’s house has been on the market for almost 50 days, and he said he’s hopeful that it will sell by the summer.

Grimm’s options

Grimm said he would be sad to see Redlich leave.

“Warren showed a lot of guts,” said Grimm. “Part of his decision to leave was the nastiness; the nastier the Democrats are, the more secure they become, and that’s terrible.”

Redlich once said he only ran for town board to keep enough votes on the line for Grimm to win out over the Democrats, and was surprised when he was elected.

Grimm said he’s proud of the things he himself has accomplished on the board.

“There are definitely some things that would not have happened if I hadn’t been on the board,” Grimm said. He cited the restoration of the Community Caregivers’ funding in the town budget; the new permit process for home businesses; and the blocking of a $2,500 tax for new homeowners; and restoring funding for seniors’ bus transportation.

Grimm said he thinks he’d be a good candidate for town supervisor because of his private sector experience and strong record on the town board.

“I’ve been honored by my peers for my private sector work, and I’m the top Republican vote-getter in any town board or supervisor race in the past 12 years,” Grimm claimed. He said that, though several people have suggested he run for county executive, it is “unlikely” he would campaign for that position.

“That would be a heavy lift and a heavy financial burden, but I do have options now,” Grimm said. He will decide which position to run for within the next few weeks.

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