Thane hits the ground running

Even when Amsterdam’s first Common Council meeting of the year was called to order Tuesday afternoon

Even when Amsterdam’s first Common Council meeting of the year was called to order Tuesday afternoon, Ann Thane couldn’t seem to stop smiling.

Just moments earlier, applause filled the atrium of City Hall as a crowd of supporters watched County Judge Felix Catena swear in the first woman to ever be elected mayor of Amsterdam. Thane, a Democrat, handily won the office after running a campaign based on bringing new blood to government and increased economic vitality to the city.

“We have big changes ahead, which I look at as opportunities,” she said following the council’s organizational meeting.

Thane stepped down as director of Amsterdam’s Walter Elwood Museum in October and has repeatedly pledged to market the city aggressively and effectively to businesses and developers. She soundly defeated former mayor John Duchessi, and Republican 2nd Ward Alderman Anthony “Babe” Pallotta in a three-way race for the office.

And staying true to her campaign promises, Thane appointed a new board of directors for the Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency, the organization charged with attracting new business and expanding business opportunities within the city. The seven new members are a cross section of business and civic leaders Thane selected in an effort to breathe new life into the agency, which critics faulted for being bogged down by city politics.

“We have no ax to grind,” said Daniel DeRossi, a lifelong Amsterdam resident and one of the new members appointed to the board. “The bottom line: We’ll do whatever it takes to move Amsterdam forward.”

Also sworn in Tuesday were new council members Daniel Roth, a Republican, and Kim Brumley, a Conservative and former city comptroller. With the re-election of 1st Ward Alderman Joseph Isabel and 5th Ward Alderman Richard Leggiero, Thane faces a Republican majority on the council.

During the council’s organizational meeting. Thane appointed Gerard DeCusatis, a county public defender, as the city’s corporation counsel, a position carrying a $56,270 annual salary with health benefits. He replaces Robert Going, who served in the position since 2004.

The council unanimously approved Thane’s appointment of Susan Alibozek as the city’s new clerk. The former county Board of Supervisors clerk replaces Jane DiCaprio, who retired last month.

Thane selected fellow Democrat and longtime 4th Ward Alderman William Wills as her deputy. Wills, who was the lone Democrat elected to the Council, spoke glowingly about the prospect of working with Thane and the new council.

“It’s going to be an open government,” he said of the new administration. “It’s a dream come true for me.”

In one of her first initiatives, Thane asked the council to allocate $16,500 to hire a “confidential aide to the mayor” for a trial period of six months. Though the position already exists in the city charter, it hasn’t been filled in more than a decade.

Thane said the aide would assist her in formulating policy, help with marketing the city and administer Amsterdam’s first municipal Web site. The salary would be drawn from $20,000 worth of funding given to the city by AIDA to create the online service.

“They will be able to work as I direct,” she said.

Though the resolution intended to fund the position was tabled, the council did allot $3,500 of the AIDA funding to create the Web site. Thane said she envisions the site as an “e-government” where residents will eventually be able to register complaints, download municipal documents and even pay their taxes.

“These are things we’re working on for the future,” she said, acknowledging the city was lagging behind many others that already have established sites. “But again, you need to start at ground zero and work your way up.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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