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Upsets in mayoral and trustee races in Deferiet

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DEFERIET — Village election results reflect that residents want a change.

Come January, the village board will have three new faces with the mayor and one trustee elected by overwhelming write-in votes. Former mayor John M. Pais received up to 58 write-in votes to unseat Robert J. Foster as mayor. Mr. Foster had 28 votes in the Nov. 6 election.

“It was a surprise to me, really,” said Mr. Pais, a lifelong resident of the village. “It was very surprising. I didn’t seek election formally.”

Mr. Pais said over the past few weeks fellow residents of the village of about 294 told him they planned to write him in as mayor on the election ballot.

“I did not pursue it at all. I told them do what you like. It started a ground swell,” he said. “I did not ask one person to vote for me — but the people spoke.”

Mr. Pais, who was mayor from 1984 to 2000, said he sees the greatest accomplishment of his previous term was keeping the former Deferiet Elementary building “alive.” Utilizing grant funds, the village converted the historic registry building into housing units. The village survived bad times during his tenure when the paper mill closed.

Mr. Pais said he and his wife have been discussing whether or not he should accept the mayoral position.

He is due to retire as director of the town of Wilna Housing Authority in January after 12 years.

“I’m pretty sure I will take it,” the mayor-elect said.

He said although there is a lot going on in the village, including the ongoing water project with the village of Herrings, he has been “following the issues on the outside and watching what is happening.” He feels confident that, with his previous experience and after talking with the current board to get up to speed, he will be “ready to jump in” to the village business.

Mr. Foster, who served as mayor since 2008, said he was “surprised but not really — there have been rumors of a write-in.”

When he asked who the write-in candidate was to be, he was told “it was a secret.”

“It’s despairing — I feel slighted. I have done my best for the village without a personal agenda. I think it was sneaky and underhanded. He has never been at a meeting or been involved in village politics since he was mayor. People should hear both sides — that’s where a debate would have been nice. I have read the Facebook comments. If people feel one person runs the village with no other input, the ignorance is scary. If they had researched the minutes of meetings, they would see I rarely vote. The board makes the decision and has the final say. I’m glad to rid myself of the pettiness and the personal sacrifice. I’ll be glad to restart my personal life and my career. I wish the best of luck to everyone who was elected.”

When asked if he will again seek public office, Mr. Foster said, “I’ll follow Doheny’s lead and just say I’m done.”

There were also upsets in the race for the two village trustee seats. Incumbents William S. Littlefield and Carlton H. Shettleton, receiving 31 and 26 votes respectively, were defeated by Janet M. Zando with 61 votes and write-in candidate Timothy J. Irey with 58.

Ms. Zando said she was following her father, Mario, and uncle Gino in getting involved in government. Her father was a village trustee and her uncle was formerly village mayor and served on the Jefferson County Board of Legislators.

“I did not like how some of the fiscal responsibility in the village was going. There are a lot of disgruntled citizens and I thought I could make a difference,” she said. “I was very happy. I will do my best to represent the people.”

The part-time North Country Children’s Clinic dental hygienist said she has a lot of experience in finance through community programs. As director of finance for the Miss New York State Pageant, she said she brought the organization out of debt.

“I want to keep costs down in the village. We have high taxes and I want the village to be fiscally responsible,” Ms. Zando said.

She said while campaigning for the election she found residents were concerned about the village’s finances.

“Many are unhappy about unnecessary spending,” she said, adding she felt the election results showed residents wanted a change.

Mr. Irey said he decided to throw his hat into the ring as a write-in candidate because he “wanted a change for the village.”

He said as chief of the village volunteer fire department for the past four years, he has brought improvements to the organization and hopes to aid in doing the same for the village.

In his sights are “keeping the water project moving forward” and “doing something with the taxes.”

The 1989 Carthage Central School graduate has lived in Deferiet since 1994. He is the service manager for Sweeney Auto Repair in Deer River.

“I’d like to thank everyone for their support and I hope to make this little village even better than it is.”

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