PHILMONT — Write-in votes from last week’s village election helped to determine the winners of Philmont trustee seats.
Originally thought to be an unopposed race for two open trustee seats on the Philmont Village Board, the election became a four-way race when two write-in candidates received a large percentage of the votes cast in the Sept. 15 election.
Incumbent Brian T. Johnson received 55 votes; Debra Gitterman, one of the write-in candidates, received 50 votes.
They were followed by Mike Wheeler, the other write-in candidate, who received 39 votes, and incumbent Barbara Sagal, who received 37 votes, according to the website.
The two open trustee seats will be filled by Johnson and Gitterman. Sagal will no longer hold a seat.
Village Clerk Carol Pickens said the village does not typically receive this many write-in votes.
The number of total votes varies from year to year, Pickens said.
“There’s been some years when it’s been as high as 400 and some years where it’s been 70,” she said.
Gitterman moved to upstate New York in 2008 from New York City. She and her husband purchased their first home just outside Philmont in 2014 and moved to Philmont in 2018.
In 2016, Gitterman helped found the Philmont Community Action Network, a civic group that worked on a number of projects such as refurbishing the community park on Main Street, hosting candidate forums for past elections and hosting Narcan training events.
Gitterman is a co-founder of Purpose Coworking, which is a co-workers’ and makers’ space that also provides programs for Philmont youth.
“I love the village of Philmont, and I really admire the people that live here and work here,” Gitterman said. “We have a good board and I’m looking forward to learning from them and working with them.”
Gitterman is a self-described “Jill of all trades.” She works as a writer and editor, but previously worked in construction management, catering and documentary filmmaking. She has worked in law offices and has been a web developer for more than a decade.
Gitterman said she has been regularly attending village board meetings. As a trustee, she plans to continue the clean energy work she has been doing and help increase the energy efficiency of the municipal buildings and facilities.
Gitterman also wants to help work on transparency in village finances and help upgrade the village’s website so information is more readily accessible to the public.
She is also interested in working on affordable housing and continuing to increase community involvement in Philmont.
Wheeler made a statement online after results of the election were posted. He congratulated the winners and said he plans to run for trustee again in March.
The trustees hold a two-year term in Philmont. The election had originally been scheduled to take place in March, but was postponed due to COVID concerns. In addition to the write-in votes for Gitterman and Wheeler, 14 other write-in votes were cast.
In addition to Johnson and Gitterman, the village board includes incumbent trustees Douglas Cropper and Larry Ostrander.