Supervisor George J. Hargrave, R-Galway, was elected 2008 chairman of the county Board of Supervisors Thursday, and declared he will “dedicate the year to our taxpayers.”
That means trying to keep county taxes low, even if the going gets rocky, he said.
“I will be asking you to turn a critical eye toward every task we set ourselves to; always look for ways to conserve our taxpayers’ money and insuring that as far as humanly possible, they can keep their hard-earned dollars in their pockets,” Hargrave told colleagues in his inaugural speech.
Elected unanimously at the board’s annual organizational meeting in Ballston Spa, Hargrave succeeds 2007 board chairman Philip C. Barrett, R-Clifton Park.
The new leader immediately made a groundbreaking political appointment, placing Democrat Richard Hunter of Providence on the powerful Law and Finance Committee, which has traditionally been all-Republican.
“If anyone deserves it, he does,” Hargrave said afterward. “He’s a good man.”
Hunter, 65, an enrolled Democrat who has represented the tiny town of Providence for 20 years, will also be chairman of the board’s Buildings and Grounds Committee. It is the most powerful committee a Democrat has ever chaired, with critical projects before it this year.
“Excellent,” was the soft-spoken Hunter’s reaction. “It took somebody like George Hargrave to pull it off.”
Democrats, who are outnumbered 18 to 5 on the county board, have complained for years about lack of representation on the county’s most powerful panel. Chris Sgambati of Mechanicville, now retired, served 30 years without getting onto the committee.
Hunter, while a Democrat, has often had the Republican endorsement as well in Providence town elections.
The Law and Finance Committee reviews all potential county board actions for their fiscal impact, and does the detailed review of each proposed county budget. It will be chaired this year by Supervisor Arthur Johnson, R-Wilton, which puts Johnson in line to succeed Hargrave as board chairman in 2009.
Hargrave, 71, who has been Galway supervisor since 2001. He rose to the chairmanship through a Republican-controlled seniority-based system.
As Law and Finance Committee chairman in 2007, Hargrave oversaw development of a 2008 county budget that he said held the equalized countywide tax rate steady, despite predictions of weak sales tax revenue increases.
“I intend to continue that philosophy all through the year,” he said.
Hargrave said the Buildings and Grounds Committee will be a focal point this year, with decisions to be made about moving forward with a new animal shelter and new public safety building. He also expects the new emergency radio communications system to be built this year.
Hargrave said he expects private investment in the county to boom, and Advanced Micro Devices to follow through on plans to build a computer chip factory in the Luther Forest Technology Campus. He noted the county is currently constructing a water system to Luther Forest, and said the water system will benefit the entire county.
“Our policies of cutting taxes, controlling spending and eliminating red tape are working,” Hargrave said.
Under a state incentive deal, AMD has until July 2009 to make a final commitment to the Luther Forest project, but some observers have expressed skepticism based on the company’s $1.6 billion in recent losses and its falling stock price.
“I fully expect to see AMD build their next fabrication facility in the Luther Forest Tech Park,” Hargrave said.
The one spending program Hargrave singled out for praise was the county’s open space preservation fund, which is being increased from $500,000 to $750,000 this year.
The program “will provide our future generations with the same rural beauty our county is known for,” Hargrave said.
Key chairman’s appointments, in addition to those of Hunter and Johnson, included Frank Thompson, R-Milton, as chairman of the Public Safety Committee; Alan Grattidge, R-Charlton, as chairman of the Public Works Committee; and Anita Daly, R-Clifton Park, as chairman of the Economic Development Committee.
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