Lake George Village’s Mayor Blais Seeking Re-Election
By Anthony F. Hall
Lake George Village’s longest-serving mayor, Bob Blais, will seek an 11th, four year term in March. Blais announced his decision to seek re-election in a letter to Lake George Village voters in January.
“I am approaching one of the longest tenures as mayor in state history, and with the support of my family, your support, and the grace of God, I want to continue my journey as your Mayor,” Blais wrote.
In his letter, Blais also discussed his recent diagnosis of prostate cancer.
“Three weeks ago I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and am presently undergoing treatment at the Glens Falls Hospital. My outlook is very positive and while my activities will be curtailed over the next six to eight weeks, I have no doubt I will be able to carry out my duties as your full-time Mayor. Seeking re-election will give me added incentive as well.”
Blais told the Mirror he had postponed a decision on an eleventh term until he was certain that his health would not incapacitate him.
Had a vote to dissolve the Village been placed on the ballot and approved in March, Blais would have felt even more compelled to run for another term, he said.
“I would have wanted to be here to assist with the transition,” Blais said.
In November, however, Lake George Village’s Board of Trustees decided not to put the question to a vote in March.
Too many questions about the costs to taxpayers and the future of municipal services if the Village dissolved and merged with the surrounding township remained unanswered, and answers were unlikely to be forthcoming, the trustees said.
Blais was first elected to office in 1971. After serving only one term as a Village trustee, he defeated the incumbent mayor, Robert Caldwell.
During Blais’s tenure, the Village transformed itself from “the Coney Island of the Adirondacks” to a family-oriented resort town.
“In the 1950s and 60s, the Village was not a comfortable place for families,” said Blais. “But with the changing of the legal drinking age from 18 to 21, by prohibiting drinking in public and by upgrading our facilities, we became one of the top-rated family resorts in America.”
In recent years, according to many observers, Lake George Village has become less renowned for its teen-age riots than for banning jet skis, limiting the size of signs and for its civic amenities, such as the Visitors Center and the lakefront walkway. The walkway, which extends from Lower Amherst Street to West Brook, gives Lake George’s residents and visitors more access to water than any other community within the Adirondacks.
“Everything we as a municipal government can do to lead the community in a new direction, we’ve done,” said Blais. “But we have no control over people who want to display obscene t-shirts in their windows or who refuse to support our efforts.”
The Lakefront Walkway, the renovations of Canada Street and Beach Road, the Lake Avenue Park and the Visitors Center were constructed with the aid of grants, and Blais has been effective in securing funds from the federal and state governments.
During the past several years, Lake George Village has been awarded more than $9 million in grants, said Blais, adding that since he has been mayor, the Village has also received five awards from state-wide organizations for innovative public policies.
“Our biggest challenge is serving a tourist population of 20,000 people a week without burdening our year-round population of 1000 people with heavy taxes,” said Blais. “We’ve had to be innovative.”
In 2007, Blais received The Fund for Lake George’s James D. Corbett Award for his efforts to acquire the former site of Gaslight Village and restore it as a conservation park.
The property was purchased in 2008 and the work of planning and designing the park is now underway.
In October, Lake George Village and two lake protection groups purchased the Town of Lake George’s 19% share in the conservation project for $210,000.
Lake George Village will assume responsibility for operating and promoting a 2.5 acre festival space on the property.
“Users will be charged based on what similar open spaces charge as well as for utilizing additional services such as electricity, staging, security and garbage collection, among other things,” said Blais.
“The Village also anticipates using the space to park vehicles during their fireworks shows, holiday weekends and other special events.”
Managing the festival space, designing and constructing the conservation park, improving the waste water collection system and completing the renovation of Canada Street will be among Blais’s priorities during the next two years, he said.
“I feel good, my family is proud of me and I want to continue to serve,” said Blais. “I’d like to become the nation’s longest serving Mayor, but if that didn’t happen, I wouldn’t mind. I never look back. There’s always a new challenge out there.”