Retiring Margaretville Mayor Bill Stanton looks back fondly on public service years
By Julia Green
On April 1, the winner of last Wednesday’s mayoral election in the Village of Margaretville will move into the mayor’s office on Main Street. Vacating that space will be current Margaretville Mayor Bill Stanton who, after six years in office, opted not to seek a fourth term.
“It’s time to have some fun,” Stanton said in an interview last Tuesday. “I’m going to enjoy my grandsons.”
Without hesitation, Stanton said that serving the people has been the most rewarding thing about his position.
“The mayor job has been great. I love talking to people, I love getting something accomplished in the village,” he said. “I love this village, and I enjoyed running it, and I had a good board.”
A number of projects were completed under Stanton’s leadership, including the replacement of two bridges on Walnut and Orchard streets in the village, the Swart Street retrofit project, the well house behind the Macintosh building, and the completion of the new pavilion. Stanton was also the head of this year’s tremendously successful holiday parade.
“He’s accomplished quite a bit in the past four years since I’ve been there as far as infrastructure is concerned,” said board member and Deputy Mayor John VanBenschoten. “I think he set a precedent for what a mayor should be. He’s been a good role model for the next generation.”
Iris Mead, who was re-elected to her fourth term as a member of the village’s board of trustees, echoed that sentiment.
“Bill’s devotion to the village and its problems, both past and present, has been much more than people are aware of,” she said. “During his terms, he and the board have had to deal with three major floods and the emergency repairs that were required. Being the mayor of a small village is not as easy as some may think.”
Stanton acknowledged that his tenure in the mayoral seat has not gone unscrutinized, citing specifically the issue of the lack of water in the Binnekill Stream and the village’s dispute with a local landowner Lauren Davis regarding access to the bulkhead.
“I’ve been accused of lying and bad leadership, and I don’t think I’m either,” Stanton said. “My mother always said, ‘You can always trust a thief before you can trust a liar.’ I don’t lie; I’ve never lied a day in my life. I’m proud of my record.”
Mead added, “So much is taken for granted by the populace, but despite the many problems that have arisen in the past six years, Bill has always been proactive and out there getting the problems resolved. I’ve enjoyed working with him and will miss him.”
Stanton, a veteran who served in Vietnam with the United States Air Force, worked for NYSEG for 35 years, retiring as a chief lineman. His wife, Maryann, worked as a nurse for 33 years.
“She’s a darn good nurse,” Stanton said. “Loving, patient… I’ve seen her do things most nurses can’t do.”
With the Air Force, Stanton was a jet engine mechanic, working on B-52s and F-16s, among others, at an air force base in Selma, Ala. He remembers working with 20 other servicemen and one from Alabama in a workshop with a sign over the door that read simply, “Teamwork” – an approach he applied to his work for the village as well.
“It’s not one person, it’s the board,” he said. “One of my duties is to delegate but to hold responsibility – that’s the duty of the mayor. [Former trustee] Rob Allison told me, ‘The biggest problem you have is you try to please everybody.’ But I’m willing to work with you if you’re willing to work with me.”
He added that there are a number of issues facing the village, citing the firemen’s contract, the city’s efforts to get the assessment on its property lowered, and the current economic climate of the area and the nation, all of which will undoubtedly contribute to an increase in taxes.
“They’re the issues,” he said. “I think the village is in good shape, infrastructure-wise. There were issues when I became mayor, and are there issues as I’m leaving? Yeah. That’s how government works. But we’ve come a long way in six years. I’m proud of my record.”
VanBenschoten added that one of Stanton’s strengths was his propensity to solicit a variety of people for ideas on how to solve problems facing the village, and his team-oriented approach to resolving issues that arose.
“I think Bill understood what it took to keep a village going day to day,” VanBenschoten said. “He always put the people of Margaretville and their interests first and foremost. He always put the people first. He understood the value of community and treated the village like it was a family, and I’m honored that he made me deputy mayor and asked me to run for his seat and finish the job he started.”
For his part, Stanton said he doesn’t have much concrete advice to offer his successor, beyond keeping in mind who he or she is serving.
“The mayor’s got to do what he or she thinks is right for the people, not what’s dictated by some group,” he said. “But I won’t give advice, just the best of luck. They’re both good candidates.”
Looking forward, Stanton already has a game plan for his retirement.
“I’ve got three grandsons. They’re my life and joy now, and it’s time to take them to baseball camp and to watch soccer and watch them grow up.”