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Joseph Gilbert declares he’s running against U.S. Rep William Owens

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Joseph M. Gilbert, St. Lawrence County emergency services director, declared Saturday afternoon that he will run for Congress against U.S. Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh.

“The job is not getting done,” Mr. Gilbert said. “Someone’s got to do it.”

Mr. Gilbert, a Republican and president of the Northern New York Tea Party, announced more than a week ago that he was considering a run against Mr. Owens, who defeated Republican challenger Matthew A. Doheny, Watertown, to win his third term last year.

Mr. Gilbert said some of the reasons he decided to run were his four children.

“I want them to have the same America that I grew up in,” he said. “I want them to remain free and prosperous.”

Mr. Gilbert is a native of Ogdensburg who lives in DeKalb Junction. He and his wife, Laurie, have two children: Mackenzie, 5, and Ethan, 3. Mr. Gilbert also has two adult children from a previous marriage, Cameron, who is serving in the Air Force in the United Kingdom, and Nicholas, who is in the Army and based at Fort Hood, Texas.

Mr. Gilbert, a 24-year veteran of the Army, was appointed emergency services director in May 2012.

Running for office in an area as sprawling as the 21st Congressional District would be a strain on anyone with a full-time job, and it could make Mr. Gilbert’s career hard to manage.

Mr. Gilbert said the status of his job would be “up to the county.”

“I serve the people of St. Lawrence, and I think I’ve made an impact,” he said.

County legislators from both parties said they would expect Mr. Gilbert not to slack off on his duties while running a campaign.

Legislator Frederick S. Morrill, D-DeKalb Junction, voted against Mr. Gilbert’s appointment as emergency services director in part because he thought his tea party political partisanship on the Internet while applying for the job did not show good judgment, but Mr. Morrill said it wouldn’t be Mr. Gilbert’s politics that could prevent him from continuing employment with the county.

“I would not ask him to resign because he runs for office. I would expect him to be a full-time emergency services coordinator and nothing less,” Mr. Morrill said. “I wouldn’t think it possible to do both and do a thoroughly good job. I think it would be a challenge. I can’t imagine him doing both during the heat of the campaign.”

Legislator Joseph R. Lightfoot, R-Ogdensburg, also thought Mr. Gilbert would struggle running for office while being a full-time department head for the county.

“It would be difficult to run for an office like that,” he said. “He would certainly have time available to him as far as vacation. It would take more time than what he’s got available.”

Mr. Gilbert could ask Administrator Karen M. St. Hilaire for a leave of absence of up to a year, although there is no requirement it be granted, county Director of Human Resources Christopher S. Boulio said.

If Mr. Gilbert were successful in unseating Mr. Owens, his employment with the county would have to end if for no other reason than the Hatch Act, which prohibits local government employees whose salaries are paid for with federal money from running for partisan office.

The county Office of Emergency Services receives funding through the Department of Homeland Security and at least part of Mr. Gilbert’s salary comes from federal dollars, said Legislator Vernon D. “Sam” Burns, D-Ogdensburg.

“If even one dollar comes from the federal government, the Hatch Act applies,” he said.

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