Election Day for most of New York’s village governments arrives March 19 this year, and the overwhelming number of local candidates seeking to serve as mayors or trustees have no reason to campaign hard.
That’s because they have no opposition.
Local political leaders say it has become increasingly difficult to find people willing to run for village offices. Many citizens, they said, are focused on their careers, raising their families, caring for aged parents or pursuing other pastimes.
“As a trend, there are fewer citizens willing to run for public office, including village offices, because of time constraints — and because of the ugliness of it at times,” said Peter Baynes, executive director of the state Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials.
“It can get personal in a small community, and once something gets personal it hurts even more,” added Baynes, noting that in villages those on opposite sides of issues are often neighbors.
Getting involved in village government can require a significant investment of one’s time — for little pay.
Richmondville Mayor Kevin Neary, who is running unopposed on March 19 for the job he has held for 16 years, said he — serves to give back to the community where he was raised — not for the $92 a month he gets in take home pay for his service.
“We politicians would like to believe that we don’t have anyone running against us because we’re doing such a great job,” Neary said with a laugh. “Maybe it’s because it’s just too much work.”
Now working as a freelance consultant after retiring from a managerial job with the state Emergency Management Office, Neary reflected on his own reasons for becoming involved in his village government.
“You do it for the satisfaction that you get when you can do something good for your community,” he said. “It’s a way to become involved and help shape the policies and the future of your community.”