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Rice, Van Cott win Saranac Lake village elections

Paul Van Cott gives the thumbs up to supporters in the Democratic headquarters at the Harrietstown Town Hall Tuesday, March 20 while next to Barbara Rice after finding out that they both had won four-year trustee seats in the Saranac Lake village elections. They beat Republicans Jeff Branch and Mark Gillis and will take office in April.

Paul Van Cott gives the thumbs up to supporters in the Democratic headquarters at the Harrietstown Town Hall Tuesday, March 20 while next to Barbara Rice after finding out that they both had won four-year trustee seats in the Saranac Lake village elections. They beat Republicans Jeff Branch and Mark Gillis and will take office in April. Photo by Andy Flynn.

— Saranac Lake voters elected political newcomers Barbara Rice and Paul Van Cott to the Village Board of Trustees March 20.

Rice and Van Cott — both Democrats —easily won four-year trustee seats with 542 and 417 votes, respectively, defeating Republican incumbent Jeff Branch (288 votes) and newcomer Mark Gillis (210 votes).

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Saranac Lake village trustee candidates Jeff Branch, at the computer, and Mark Gillis, far right, watch the election returns come in Tuesday, March 20 at the Harrietstown Town Hall after the polls closed at 9 p.m. They lost against Democrats Barbara Rice and Paul Van Cott, who will begin their four-year terms on the Village Board in April. Branch and Gillis were joined here by Saranac Lake Republican Party Chairman Ray Scollin, seated, and Franklin County GOP Chairman Jim Ellis, of Tupper Lake.

“I’m completely overwhelmed, completely excited, blown away,” Rice said after the results were announced. “I’m just really looking forward to getting to work ... I’m really ready to dig my feet in.”

The new trustees will join Mayor Clyde Rabideau and Trustee Tom Catillaz, both Democrats, and Trustee Elias “Allie” Pelletieri, a Conservative, at the board table in April, when the terms expire for Republican Trustees Branch and John McEneany.

Asked if having a majority of four Democrats on the board — including the mayor and three trustees — makes a difference, Rice said, “At the local level, I really truly do not think that your party has any bearing on what goes on. We’re all working for the same goals.”

Van Cott reiterated those sentiments.

“Barb and I, we’re both independent people,” Van Cott said. “We’re both smart people. We’ve got good skills, and we’re going to come to the board with the best interests of the village in mind. Whether we align with the other people on the board or not, we’re going to talk through the issues and try to come up with the best solutions.”

As the numbers came in, and it was clear that Rice had won a seat on the Village Board, she hugged her mother, Gail Rogers Rice, who had once been a trustee herself and was on the Harrietstown Town Board. Political moments like these have been part of the Rice family tradition.

“Your father would be proud,” Gail said.

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