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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.

— Barbara’s father, George “Bob” Rice, had also been a trustee on the Saranac Lake Village Board, plus a councilman and supervisor for the town of Harrietstown.

Amidst the sea of smiles and handshakes in a crowded Harrietstown court room, Gail — grinning from ear to ear — was a beacon of family love and pride. For a moment, during the embrace, only mother and daughter existed. It was a symbolic passing of the political torch from one generation to the next.

“That was special,” Barbara said. “I think my dad would be proud. It’s really nice to be carrying the legacy on, with both my parents being on the Village Board, and I’m proud to do it.”

Democrats celebrated their victory later at the Downhill Grill.

The mood among Republicans in the Town Hall after the votes were counted was sobering. Branch and Gillis didn’t march off into the night ignoring the winners as some politicians do after losing an election; they hung around, congratulating the winners and thanking supporters.

“Maybe I’m still digesting it, but I’m not surprised,” Branch said. “I had a feeling going into it that it’s going to be a close race, and wasn’t really a close race. They had a resounding victory. Congratulations. They ran a good race.”

Branch said he’s not thinking about running for village trustee again in the future.

“It’s too early to think about that,” Branch said. “I’ve just got to get on ... I’ve got a whole list of other things I want to do and accomplish, and I’m going to work on those.”

Going into the election, Gillis took some advice from his grandmother in Massachusetts.

“She said, ‘Hey, it’s going to be tough for you to win. It doesn’t matter if you’re the Pope; it’s going to be tough to win,’” Gillis said. “She said, ‘Just try your best, speak the truth, and just don’t forget who you are.’ And that’s what I did during this election.”

Gillis wasn’t surprised that he lost, and he gave credit to all the candidates.

“Everyone’s heart is in to the common goal, and that’s the most important thing,” Gillis said.

Gillis said he’s not thinking of running again for trustee in the future, but he hasn’t ruled it out.

Judge Ken McLaughlin ran unopposed on March 20 and was re-elected to a two-year term with 613 votes.

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