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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, February 2, 2012

Dermody quits, Lounsbury steps up to be deputy super

RENSSELAERVILLE — Just one week after Marie Dermody resigned from her job as town supervisor, and Victor La Plante as deputy supervisor, the town board has appointed former Councilwoman Valerie Lounsbury as deputy supervisor.

While the board has not yet decided when or how or it will go about finding Dermody’s replacement, some board members said this week they would likely favor making an appointment over holding a special election. According to Rachel Bledi, the Republican commissioner at the Albany County Board of Elections, a special election could cost $4,000 to $5,000.

Elected to the supervisor’s post in 2009, Dermody left her seat on the town board the following January to take on her new job. She was halfway through her first four-year term as supervisor when she turned in her letter of resignation last week.

She wrote in her letter to the town, “The ‘culture’ created by the present town board majority has made it almost impossible for me to continue making forward progress for the town of Rensselaerville.”

For the first two years of her term, Dermody was one of three Democrats on the five-member board. In November, a Conservative and a member of the Independence Party were elected to the board, leaving just two Democrats — Dermody and Democratic Party Chairman John Kudlack.

When The Enterprise called Dermody’s home seeking comment this week, her husband declined comment on her behalf, and Dermody did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Should the town board appoint a replacement, he or she would serve through the end of 2012. The town would have an election this fall, the winner of which would serve in 2013, finishing out Dermody’s term. There would then be another election in the fall of 2013, the winner of which would begin a new four-year term.

Lounsbury told The Enterprise this week that, while she would accept the appointment to the supervisor’s post if offered, she is undecided on whether or not she would run for election this fall.

“I need some time to get my bearings here before I make a decision on whether I would run to fill Marie’s term,” Lounsbury told The Enterprise this week.

Lounsbury, a Republican, served a four-year term on the town board in the 90s, and had served as deputy supervisor under the late Robert Lansing. At the time that she was on the board, Lounsbury ran her own business doing bookkeeping and tax preparation. When she got a call from Councilwoman Marion Cooke last Tuesday, informing her of Dermody’s resignation and asking her to join the board, she felt she was ready to step up to the plate.

“They told me the situation,” said Lounsbury this week, “and I got thinking about it, and I know how to do payroll,” and, with bookkeeper Sarah Hunt going on maternity leave, “I thought that I could do it. I felt, in a tough situation, I could help them out.”

Those at Town Hall are hard at work to make for a smooth transition, she went on.

“There’s a lot of unfinished business that has to be taken care of,” she said. “The first thing that we had to deal with was getting the banking set up, because there was no one to sign checks for anything. So, I had to contact the bank, and get to the bank; get signature cards filled out; insurance is due in March, so we have to do that. I have an appointment with our accountants in February to try and get the annual report for 2010 done, and there’s been an extension filed for the 2011 annual report. There’s an audit coming up,” and a hearing with the Public Employment Relations Board is approaching, she said.

After learning of Dermody’s resignation, La Plante, a former longtime judge who was appointed as Dermody’s deputy supervisor on New Year’s Day, resigned as well.

“That’s just a matter of ethics,” La Plante told The Enterprise. “I was appointed by Marie Dermody, who resigned. If the person who appointed you resigned, shouldn’t the new supervisor have the same opportunity to appoint a deputy?”

But, ethics aside, La Plante said he quickly realized that his health would not allow him to serve as deputy in the supervisor’s absence. He said last month that it was his health that led him to retire from the bench.

“I’ve said it a thousand times, this town has so much talent to draw upon,” said La Plante. “It’s not like, if Victor La Plante resigns, the difference would be so appreciable, because there is always someone with a great deal of talent to fulfill the obligation. If I cannot continue for health reasons, why should I not step aside and let someone who can fulfill the obligation do it?”

What comes next

Councilman Robert Bolte, along with councilwomen Cooke and Margaret Sedlmeir, said this week that they don’t think the town could afford the cost of holding a special election before the fall. Kudlack could not be reached for comment.

“With the shortage of money everywhere, and the fact that elections are expensive, I think it’s unnecessary,” Bolte said, adding that he supports the idea of appointing Lounsbury as the town’s supervisor.

“I think she’s a brilliant person,” said Bolte. “She knows accounting, and I think she’s got the town’s interest at heart. You really need to have someone who’s well versed in accounting, and most people that are well versed in accounting are out in the private sector working.”

And, as the town currently has only a deputy supervisor, board members are concerned that, if the town were to hold a special election, too much time would elapse during which the town was without a supervisor.

“If something were to happen to Valerie, we’d be in the same dilemma,” Bolte said. Cooke expressed the same concern Wednesday.

“We could have gone in and put her in as supervisor that night,” Cooke said of last Wednesday’s special meeting, at which Lounsbury was appointed, “but everything happened so fast, and she wanted some time to think about it. And then, we thought, ‘What if something happens to her?’ We’d be right back in the same boat, with no one to sign checks again.”

Cooke, like Bolte, thinks that a special election would be an expense that the town cannot afford.

“We didn’t put the town in this position,” she said. “The two people that resigned did.”

Bolte said that the board will likely discuss the issue further at its work meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 7, and at its regular meeting on Thursday, Feb. 9.

— By Zach Simeone

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