In Berne, Incumbent highway super kept on the job

The Enterprise — Marcello Iaia

Civic rite: Julianna Britton, 5, stands on her tiptoes to aid her aunt, Laura Geel, in feeding a ballot into a scanner at the Berne firehouse on Election Night.

The Enterprise — Marcello Iaia

Another four years: After winning the election Tuesday night, Berne Highway Superintendent Kenneth Weaver sits at Peg Warner’s kitchen table. Warner, the Republican committee chairwoman, hosted Republican candidates gathered on Election Night. Weaver won int he past as the superintendent on the Democratic line, but switched to the Republican Party this fall.

BERNE — Once a Democrat, Kenneth Weaver won on the GOP line his third term as the town’s highway superintendent.

Weaver beat Democrat Scott Duncan with 54 percent of the vote. It was the only upset of the Democratic ticket, which placed new candidates in the assessor’s and the town clerk’s offices. Incumbent Democrats stayed on for supervisor, tax collector, two town council seats, and two unopposed justice positions.

“I haven’t changed, ”said Weaver on Election Night, adding that the vote showed residents approve of his work.

Weaver won previously running as a Democrat. He switched his enrollment this election, after he had declined his party nominations to retire, claiming that Democrats had broken a promise to guarantee his health-insurance agreement indefinitely after retirement. Town board members Joseph Golden and Kevin Crosier said they told him they could promise only their own votes, not those of future town board members.

“Our roads are in terrible disrepair. Our fleet is in terrible disrepair,” Crosier said on Wednesday, noting he didn’t vote for Weaver. “I don’t believe he’s the man for the job, but I have to respect the voters.”

Weaver, who has worked in the town highway department for almost 37 years, said he was concerned that, after the election, he would face tension with the town board in the future.

“I don’t think that plays into it,” said Golden. “I don’t think anything played into it in the past except the desire to have things done properly and money spent in a proper manner.”

“I think Mr. Weaver has no more credibility with the town board because he lied during the election, and I think we’ve proven that time and time again,” said Crosier.

Republican William Keal, Crosier’s opponent for supervisor, and Weaver said during the election that they feared another attempt at consolidating the town’s highway department with the county would be attempted by incumbents — the idea was pursued by Crosier in 2006 but ultimately voted down. Incumbent candidates, however, said the idea wasn’t being considered, and Duncan didn’t favor it.

Duncan, a supervising foreman for the county’s Department of Public Works and chief of the East Berne Fire Company, said he wishes Weaver well. He said he doesn’t know whether or not his background with the county had an effect on the result of the election.

“Some of the people, they were led to believe that shared services meant consolidation and, unfortunately, I couldn’t get to everybody and explain to them the differences between shared services and consolidation,” said Duncan.

Weaver got 550 votes, while Duncan got 461, or 45.5 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results from the Albany County Board of Elections. Two “over votes” — where more than the allowed number of votes for the race were cast — and 27 “under votes” — where fewer than the allowed votes were cast — were reported for the supervisor race.

As of Wednesday, the board of elections reported 62 absentee ballots for Berne, to be counted next week.

Bonnie Conklin, the only Republican member of the town board, won a seat in 2011 with Conservative and Republican lines.

“If you come in late, then you don’t have a very good chance to get the Conservative or Independence lines,” said Conklin. She said the highway superintendent race was the Republicans’ “main concern” this year.

Enrollment in Berne breaks down this way: 47 percent Democrats, 16 percent Republicans, six percent Independence Party members, three percent Conservatives, and 12 voters enrolled in small parties. Twenty-five percent, or 494, of registered voters in the town are not affiliated with a party.

Crosier, running on Democratic, Conservative, and Independence Party lines, won his seat with 632 votes, or 62 percent, over 383 for Keal. One “over vote” and 25 “under votes” were reported for the supervisor race.

“I think all the rhetoric in the campaign by the Republicans, I think people saw through most of that and saw that we’ve been doing a good job, that we’re fiscally responsible,” said Crosier. Keal could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

With 573 votes for Golden and 550 for Wayne Emory, the incumbent Democratic council members got the most votes. On the Republican line, Richard Otto had 389 votes, and Philip Stevens had 451 votes.

Stevens said he wouldn’t run again. “Probably not at my age,” he said. “I would rather help the organization.”

A lifetime Democrat, Otto said he changed his party enrollment to Republican because of the state’s gun-control legislation, the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act passed in January this year.

Asked if he would consider running again on any party line, Otto said, “Anyplace I can hang my hat, where we can get the job done.”

“I think I got a lot of votes from just being on his coattails,” Otto said of Weaver.

Democrat Anita Clayton, the town’s deputy clerk, won with 560 votes, or 56 percent, to beat Diane Dibble on the Republican line, who had 437 votes.

Crosier said Clayton won’t need extra support from town officials.

“Nope. She’s ready to go,” said Crosier, noting Patricia Favreau, retiring as Berne’s longtime town clerk, has trained her.

“Sitting in her office every Saturday morning and just having that personal conversation between the two of us, I got a lot of inspiration from Pat,” said Crosier. “I got a lot of guidance, I got a lot of really great advice on how to be a town supervisor from the town clerk.”

The town’s current justices, Albert Raymond and Alan Zuk, ran unopposed. Zuk had 51.7 percent of the vote and Raymond had 48.2, with 461 under votes.

Democrat Gerald O’Malley, the town’s longtime tax collector, received 713 votes, or 70.8 percent, and Republican Ian Conners received 293, or 29 percent. One over vote and 34 under votes were cast.

For assessor, Democrat Melanie Bunzey, with 573 votes, or 57.8 percent, beat out Republican Walter Scram with 418 votes, or 42 percent. Fifty under votes were reported.

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