Businessman and Greater Ogdensburg Chamber of Commerce President Jack F. McGrath announced Thursday he will run for mayor of St. Lawrence County's only city.
With family and friends looking on, Mr. McGrath, 57, said he wants to take the city's economic development efforts "to the next level."
He will challenge three-term Republican William D. Nelson.
Mr. McGrath, 57, is owner of Oscar's restaurant, 1222 Ford St. He is also president of the Greater Ogdensburg Chamber of Commerce. He retired in 2003 after 25 years as an executive with Johnson & Johnson, and worked another two years, 2006 to 2008, for Muitina Inc., a Quebec manufacturer of luxury buses, railroad cars and flight simulators. He purchased Oscar's in 2009 and is now in the process of selling it.
Mr. McGrath declined to be critical of Mr. Nelson or his administration.
"It'll be up to the people to determine if they're happy with what's going on," he said.
In a prepared statement, Mr. McGrath explained he why he is running for mayor.
"After buying Oscar's I became very vested in the town from a business perspective," he said. "I thought, how cool, I now own the neighborhood bar and restaurant that I have so many memories of hanging out with family and friends.
This venture gave me my first real look at the city of Ogdensburg from the perspective of a business owner, which is what motivated me to become active in the Chamber of Commerce."
Mr. McGrath said that the city can thrive economically without losing that small-town feel that he believes people expect.
"There is nothing that can compare to that small town feeling, when you walk through a store or down the street and you know most of the people you pass and they greet you," he said. "It's that small-town feeling that always draws us home."
Mr. McGrath is 1971 graduate of Ogdensburg Free Academy. He graduated from SUNY Canton in 1974 with associate's degree in accounting and from Clarkson University in 1976 with a bachelor's degree in accounting and finance.
Mr. McGrath said he wanted to create an economy strong enough to reverse a trend in which family members and friends have made a "difficult decision to leave home, but one that was necessary, as it is for most of our young families today."
Mr. McGrath has not been a full-time city resident. For the last two years, he has moved between a home in Lisbon that has been intermittently for sale and a rented home in the city. The latter, he said, will become his primary residence if he wins the election. According to the St. Lawrence County Board of Elections, a successful candidate for elected office has 30 days after the election to move into the municipality he or she will serve.
There are also questions about whether Mr. McGrath's chamber affiliation would conflict with his mayoral duties. According to the chamber bylaws, the organization "shall be non-partisan,non-sectarian and shall not engage directly or indirectly in any activities of a political nature."
The matter will be discussed at the chamber's Aug. 17 meeting. Mr. McGrath said he will step down if the directors ask him. But he would expect the same scrutiny for Mr. Nelson and city council candidate William D. Hosmer, both chamber directors.
But Mr. McGrath said doubts it will go that far.
"I don't see it as an issue," he said. "I don't see a conflict."
Mr. McGrath and his wife, Tamara, have three daughters, Dr. Amber McGrath Shiflett, Jackson, Miss., Nadine McGrath Glassman of Odessa, Texas, and Sadie Brown, Ogdensburg, and four grandchildren, Allison, Jacob, Avery and Andrew.