New Montgomery County board chairman ready for tough decisions

Prior to meetings, the new chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors often has a joke t

Prior to meetings, the new chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors often has a joke to share.

But once meetings begin, John B. Thomas listens to discussion and, aside from a few facial expressions, has little reaction or comment.

Now in his eighth year as supervisor of the town of Glen, the Republican Thomas was selected Jan. 1 to lead the 15-member board through 2009.

Thomas said it would be accurate to depict him as a no-nonsense kind of person with a sense of humor.

“I like to get things done but I don’t think everything has to be conducted in a funeral atmosphere,” he said Monday.

“I certainly don’t want people to make the mistake that because that’s the way I am, that I’m a weak person. I can make hard decisions when I have to, but I prefer to make those hard decisions not alone but in harmony with others,” Thomas said.

A former resident of Rotterdam, Thomas moved to Glen in 1989 and started getting involved in local government.

He served on and chaired the town’s Planning Board, the county Planning Board and the county Industrial Development Agency.

Thomas’ professional career revolved around the automobile industry. He’s worked in dealerships, for automotive glass companies, as an independent appraiser and as an adjustor for insurance companies.

In his retirement, Thomas has spent time digging graves for the local cemetery, and he currently serves on the board of the Auriesville Cemetery.

Upon his selection as chairman, one of Thomas’ first actions was to choose supervisors to head up county board committees. It’s an annual chore for the chairman, but this year, Thomas added a small note to the list he distributed: “To all supervisors, your attendance at all committee meetings would be greatly appreciated.”

The county board has a system of committees in which smaller groups of supervisors meet, discuss upcoming resolutions and make a recommendation to the full board.

But monthly full board meetings are often a repeat of the committee meetings because supervisors who don’t attend the committee meetings ask the same questions that came up previously.

Thomas said he believes monthly full board meetings would run better if supervisors have some information beforehand.

“It’s only a suggestion. It’s just a matter of keeping informed, I think it would be a good idea if they did,” Thomas said.

“I’m just looking to make things a little bit smoother for everybody,” Thomas said.

Thomas said Monday he has some ideas for his administration but he wants to run them by other supervisors before discussing them publicly.

One big issue he expects the county to face is an expected reduction in state funding under the upcoming state budget.

“It’s a tight year. I know at the town level we’ve been successful in careful spending and prudent investing to stay ahead of the state, actually. Hopefully we can continue that at the county level,” Thomas said.

“We’ve got some really good department heads that are aware of that situation, and I’ll be there to help them along in what they’ve been doing,” Thomas said.

The county board’s voting system is weighted based on the number of people in each town, so with Glen’s sparse population, Thomas said his vote hasn’t held much sway over the years.

At times, some supervisors have teamed up to make decisions, knowing a joint approach could produce sufficient weighted votes to pass a resolution.

Thomas said he’s never been part of a group like that, and said he votes according to what people in his town say.

“I do what I think is the right thing for both the town and the county. I’ve never really been privileged to a lot of this inside stuff and that’s OK,” Thomas said.

Thomas said he doesn’t plan to reinvent county government. He intends to work under the structure that’s been developed by chairmen who have come before him.

“I’m not going to upset the table that they set. Everybody brings their own personality to their job. We’re going to get by, I’m just going to put a little bit of John Thomas on the table,” he said.

Categories: Schenectady County

Leave a Reply