CORRECTION: An earlier report indicated this year’s race would be the first open-seat race since 1993. This is technically incorrect because the mayor at that time, Carolyn Seymour (D), did run for reelection but was defeated in the Democratic Primary, thus removing her name from the general election ballot. She still campaigned as a write-in candidate.
JAMESTOWN – Mayor Sam Teresi (D) won’t be seeking a sixth term in office.
During the Jamestown City Council work session on Monday night Teresi announced that he has opted not to run for reelection.
“I Shall not seek, nor shall I accept, the nomination of my party to serve a sixth term as the mayor of this wonderful city,” Teresi said.
The announcement makes the 2019 race for mayor an open contest, guaranteeing the general election ballot in November will feature the names of individuals who are currently not holding the office. That hasn’t happened since 1993 when then-mayor Carolyn Seymour failed to get her party’s endorsement and as a result didn’t appear on that year’s ballot.
Teresi said that he wrestled with the decision for several weeks, but after talking with friends and family he came to the conclusion the time was right to step away from a position he’s held since January 2000.
“I’ve been giving this a lot of thought. My family does not want it and if my wife Beckly could tell the truth, while she’s been very supportive over the years, I don’t think she would have wanted me to run in the first place,” Teresi said. “But it’s been a passion. I think it’s been a calling. And I think it’s been the best thing that could have ever happened to me personally and hopefully at the end of this year we will have left things a little better than we found them. It’s been a true honor and pleasure.”
Upon learning the news, several council members thanked the mayor for his years of service, including fellow Democrat and current city council president Marie Carrubba (Ward IV).
“I’ve personally seen up close, before I was on council, how hard you’ve worked and everything you’ve done. Whether you’ve been in the department of development as the director or as the mayor, you really have done a lot to turn things around<” Carrubba said. “I can remember some of the days when things were very dark and not looking to promising, but you have shown a light on this city. I have never heard anyone speak as passionately about the city of Jamestown and the best it has to offer, the goodness of the people and everything that’s right about this city as you have.”
Ranking council member and Republican Tony Dolce (Ward II) also thanked Teresi for his years of service to the city, saying he will be difficult to replace.
“It’s been an hour to work with. Politics aside – there have been differences and we’ve had our differences – but it’s a bittersweet moment and I know it’s a difficult moment for you,” Dolce said.
Teresi said that he’s not certain what the future may hold after he leaves office, other than being able to spend more time with his family. In the meantime he said he plans to work each and every remaining day of his final year in office.
“I am planning on finishing out this term, right until noon or thereabouts on January 1, 2020,” Teresi said. “We have a lot of work to do and we’re going to continue doing it like we’ve always done it, together with the best management team and public workforce that you’re going to find anywhere in this country.”
Teresi defeated Republican incumbent Richard “Dick” Kimball in the 1999 mayoral election. Four years later Kimball ran as a challenger but lost yet again to Teresi. In 2007 Teresi ran against and defeated former city clerk and Republican Shirley Sanfilippo. He ran uncontested in both the 2011 and 2015 elections.
When he took office in 2000 he inherited a city government that was dealing with a multi million dollar budget deficit. During his first term in office he worked to eliminate the deficit by making significant cuts to the city’s labor force, including reductions to in city administration, public safety, and public works departments. Teresi has also rolled out several cost-cutting measures and shared service initiatives to battle an ever-challenging city budget that’s seen continued growth in expenses while revenues remain mostly stagnant, with the exception of an ever-increasing property tax rate. In his final term in office the city saw its property tax levy reach its constitutional limit, meaning it couldn’t be increased any further unless there is a significant spike in taxable property value.
Prior to running for mayor in 1999 Teresi worked as the city development director.
POSSIBLE CANDIDATES FOR MAYOR?
With Teresi choosing not to run for another term in office, the stage is now set for the first open seat mayoral race the city has seen in nearly 80 years and the first time a sitting mayor has not appeared on the general election ballot since 1993.
One candidate has already announced his intention to run. On Saturday first term Jamestown City Councilman Andrew Liuzzo (At Large), a Republican, announced his campaign for mayor. But while Liuzzo was the first city Republican to put his hat in the ring, it’s not a given that he would receive the Jamestown Republican Committee’s endorsement.
City Republican Party chairman and fellow city council member Brent Sheldon (Ward I) said the committee will meet on Feb. 13 to discuss who they will endorse for mayor.
Among the names being floated around is ranking city councilman Tony Dolce, who’s also currently teaching in the Jamestown Public School district. WRFA asked him Monday night following Teresi’s announcement if he planned to make a run for mayor and while Dolce did acknowledge it’s something he’ll seriously consider, he wasn’t ready to commit one way or the other.
“I’ve always thought about it. I still have my job at Jamestown High School. So there’s a lot of things that have to come into play and it’s a decision that would have to come from the committee and I have some soul-searching to do in thinking about it as well. [Teresi’s announcement] obviously took my by surprise. We’ll go from here and again we’ll look at all different options and then move forward,” Dolce said.
In addition to the Republicans searching for a candidate to run for mayor, the Democrats will also work to identify a candidate. WRFA was unable to make contact with Democratic Party chairman Jim Walton on Monday night to get his reaction on Teresi’s announcement as well as what the party’s strategy will be in the coming weeks.
WRFA did ask former city councilman and current city development director Vince DeJoy if he planned to seek the Democratic party’s nomination. He said as of Monday night it’s something he would think about but hadn’t put much thought into it, saying he was unaware Teresi wasn’t going to run again until he made the announcement at the city council work session.
Due to new election laws in New York State, candidates must begin circulating petitions to get their name on a ballot this month, with a deadline to hand in the required number of signatures set for the first week of April. If more than one candidate runs for a party’s nomination they will then have to square off in a primary in June.