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Gilbert resigns county job to focus on run for Congress

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CANTON — Joseph M. Gilbert resigned Friday as St. Lawrence County’s emergency services director to start hitting the campaign trail today in his bid to unseat U.S. Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh.

Mr. Gilbert has held his county job since May 2012 but now plans to focus full time on his campaign to win the 21st Congressional District seat.

Voters will fill the seat in the November 2014 election. Mr. Owens won his third term last year after defeating Republican challenger Matthew A. Doheny.

A Republican and president of the Northern New York Tea Party, Mr. Gilbert served 24 years in the Army.

He grew up in Ogdensburg and now resides on Route 812, DeKalb Junction, with his wife, Laurie, and their two children. He also has two adult children from a previous marriage.

“I worked hard for the people of St. Lawrence County and now I plan to work hard for the entire district,” Mr. Gilbert said Friday. “I’m going to campaign full time to make sure the job gets done in Washington.”

County Administrator Karen M. St. Hilaire said Legislature Chairman Jonathan Putney, D- Waddington, will appoint a search committee to find Mr. Gilbert’s replacement.

Keith J. Zimmerman, the county’s information technology director, has been appointed to serve as interim director of emergency services.

He announced his campaign bid earlier this year, but was asked to remain working for the county in order to complete an intercommunications grant application.

“It was critical for the county that we get that application in. I guess he decided it’s time to kick his campaign into high gear,” Ms. St. Hilaire said.

Mr. Gilbert said he will advocate for “smaller, fiscally responsible government.”

During his county employment, Mr. Gilbert said, he trimmed roughly $200,000 from the emgergency services budget while increasing services and improving technology.

His weekend campaign stops include events in Gouverneur, Latham and Essex County.

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