Hudson’s mayor sets sights on county seat

HUDSON – “I’m not tired of being mayor, I’ll never get tired of being mayor,” Mayor Richard Scalera said this week. “It’s time after 14 years for somebody to come in and just take over. I’ll do whatever I can to ease the transition. I’m never tired of helping people. I’m looking for a new challenge.”

But even though the veteran mayor, 61, has not tired of his current job, he announced recently that he’s leaving the post at the end of his term in December and will seek a seat on the county Board of Supervisors in this fall’s election.

The mayor, a registered Democrat now in seventh two-year term, will most likely face Republican Bart Delaney.

First elected mayor in the mid-1990s, Mr. Scalera has voiced his frustration with the way the Board of Supervisors makes decisions that are not in what he believes are the best interests of his city. Now he wants to join the board to help improve communications between the county and its only city.

He plans to run for supervisor from Hudson’s 5th Ward, which abuts Greenport and, with 1,300 voters, is the largest ward in the city. But he is not certain that Hudson needs 5 supervisors, as it is currently apportioned, saying that in any case each city supervisor “should go into the position… with entire city of Hudson in mind and work at representing the city. I have no problem working on issues for each ward.”

Right now, he said, “I’m not confident — it’s easy not to be — that the city has been well represented. Hudson could use another voice at the county level. Billy Hughes puts in a lot of time and could use more help,” he said.

In particular he says he has been frustrated by decisions made about the county Department of Social Services that have not taken the city’s best interests into account. The short-lived effort by former Board of Supervisors Art Baer (Hillsdale) to buy the St. Charles Hotel for a homeless shelter and placement of homeless people in transitional housing without adequate supervision, a move that disregards local zoning ordinances, have caused friction between the city and county in recent years, not to mention the proposal to move the department to Claverack.

“The county has been dealing with the City of Hudson from a distance. The only time we know what’s going on is when the county has already made a decision. It would be nice to be part of the decision, and not have to battle them,” Mr. Scalera said.

The board has both legislative and executive authority in the county. The supervisors of each town have a seat on the county board and a weighted vote based on population. Only Hudson elects supervisors whose only job is to serve on the board. The Hudson supervisors also have weighted votes.

“I don’t believe the county supervisors understand all the details of what’s going on in the City of Hudson,” a community he believes “is going to be the driving economic force for the county.” With that in mind, he hopes to be able to “promote Hudson to the supervisors.”

He said he recently met with noted performance artist Maria Abramovic, who bought the Community Tennis building and plans to develop it as a center and school for performance art. “We talked about how we are going to work together. Her plan is ambitious. She chose Hudson because it just fits.

She is very excited and so are we.”

The mayor mention the decision by the popular online marketing company Etsy to open an office here and the opening of Club Helsinki as indicators of the city’s vibrancy. “We have the Opera House, the restaurants and bed and breakfasts,” said the mayor.

He retired from the state Department of Corrections with a pension and is required by the state to give back $15,000 of his salary, money he uses to fund local causes like Arts on the Hudson and Senior Yoga.

Once before he declined to run for reelection and ran for supervisor instead. That was a decade ago, and he lost in a tough race that he says taught him a lot. “It won’t happen again,” he said. “I was disappointed for 15 minutes, then decided to fight back. I understand politics. Everyone thought politically I was done.”

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