Citing increasing vitriol, Bill McKenna suspended his campaign, leaving council member Bennet Ratcliff as the sole candidate for town supervisor and heir-apparent to the top seat.
“The last year and several months have become unbearably toxic for me. I am not alone in this feeling. National politics have invaded our little town,” McKenna said in a prepared statement at the end of the regular town board business meeting on April 18.
“There is less caring about our town and more pushing of personal hidden agendas with no concern or understanding for process. I find myself very frustrated, spending more time dealing with dispelling the blatant twisting or ignoring of the truth and less time doing the people’s work. Some folks seem to think if you repeat a lie often enough it becomes truth,” he said, fighting hecklers in the room and at one point, telling them he would call police and have them removed.
“I had intended to retire as supervisor at the end of this term. I allowed concerned citizens to convince me to run for another. While I share their concerns, I have come to the decision I must do what’s best for myself and my family. For that reason I am suspending my campaign as supervisor.”
McKenna recounted his successes during his long tenure of town service that began in 1996 on the Zoning Board of Appeals, including 18 years on the Town Board, with the last eight as supervisor.
“Along the way, we’ve completed three major building projects and have another one under way. We saw most of our bridges replaced and many other infrastructure improvements. We adopted local laws protecting our wetlands and streams, our steep slopes, our wellhead areas. We regulated 5G to protect our residents. We adopted a comprehensive plan after decades of not being able to do so. We maintained a beautiful community, one people want to be part of. We helped our residents through a pandemic and ensured their protection with vaccine clinics. It is a record I’m very proud of. However, they say all good things come to an end.”
Ratcliff has been at odds with McKenna almost since the beginning of his term in 2022, including a draw-out fight over the budget process that extended a largely pro-forma meeting with department heads from days to weeks.
The tension was high through the night of the announcement, with Ratcliff disputing a vote to appoint a new chair of the Woodstock Environmental Commission, citing former chair Alex Bolotow’s conduct. McKenna said the vote was taken after the board left executive session and re-entered the public portion of the April 11 meeting. Ratcliff said it did not take place that way.
“We did not vote on a WEC chair in a public setting. We did not do the executive session in a public setting,” Ratcliff said.
But council member Laura Ricci insists the executive session had ended and a motion was made to enter public session.
“Like Donald Trump, you can’t keep repeating things that aren’t true and expect them to become true,” McKenna countered.
“Bill. You’ve been doing things that aren’t true and you expect them to come true,” Ratcliff replied.
Then council member Maria Elena-Conte chimed in with her response.
“Today at the press conference at the Dominion versus Fox News trial, there was a quote that says ‘Truth Matters. Lies have consequences.’ Certainly, those minutes did not reflect what actually happened.”
Ratcliff attempted to offer a resolution to appoint Bolotow as WEC chair, arguing last week’s vote was not proper, but was unsuccessful.
Ratcliff also challenged a resolution to allow a committee to submit a Greenway grant for work on coordinating zoning updates.
“When you’re ramming these things through without letting people look at them, what’re we supposed to do,” Ratcliff asked.
McKenna explained the grant application hasn’t been filed and the resolution simply allows the process to take place.