After 36 years of serving the city in many capacities, Assessor Michael Chiara is retiring.
“This is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time and I finally just said ‘do it,’” Chiara said, glancing out over the city from the front lawn of his home on the South Side.
Chiara’s last official day is July 30, but he plans to be on vacation until then.
Chiara began his career working for the city’s Department of Public Works and took over as assessor in 1982.
John Duchessi Jr., who served as mayor from 1996 to 2003, said Chiara was dedicated to the city of Amsterdam.
“Mike is a rather enigmatic person, but he always has what he feels is the best interest of the city at heart,” Duchessi said. “He’s devoted to Amsterdam, he truly is.”
Duchessi said in the eight years he spent as mayor he wouldn’t say that he worked closely with Chiara because “Mike spent a lot of time doing things other than his job,” he said.
Chiara spent many years off and on as chairman of the Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency, where he helped pull the Edson Street Industrial Park out of bankruptcy in the 1980s.
In 1989 Chiara was instrumental in passing the city’s tax caps. The city is not allowed to raise taxes and fees more than 3 percent above the previous year’s rates and is also not allowed to tax higher than 1 percent of the total assessed property value.
“People thought the city would go bankrupt, but the residents overwhelmingly voted for it and we’re still here,” Chiara said.
In recent years, Chiara worked to improve the city’s recreational sites such as Riverlink Park. He also helped bring in Wednesday night movies in the park, by purchasing the screen and projector with AIDA money.
Chiara was also involved with many other boards, committees and commissions within the city and at the county level.
“His dedication to the city needs to be recognized,” Duchessi said. “I don’t think his work like that is finished. This will free him up to do the kinds of things he wants to do.”
Chiara said people need to get more involved with local government, especially young people. He said what the city needs is focus, belief and networking.
“People who know people, who know people, need to tell them that Amsterdam has something good,” he said. “We have enormous potential.”
Chiara said local politics has become too much about egos.
“We need to de-egotize government,” he said. “Deal in concepts and ideas. That will save the city.”
Mayor Ann Thane said she is looking for a replacement for Chiara.
“We’re talking to Real Property Services to see how to go about searching for someone else and we have an individual who is interested in working on a temporary basis,” Thane said.
Chiara said he plans to spend his retirement reading, researching and hanging out with his dog, Miss Dog.
Categories: Schenectady County