Saratoga County

Panel backs candidate to run Saratoga County animal shelter

After running into controversy and rejecting the appointment of a 22-year-old called too inexperienc

After running into controversy and rejecting the appointment of a 22-year-old called too inexperienced, Saratoga County supervisors are turning to someone with nearly 30 years of experience to run the county animal shelter.

The Board of Supervisors’ Personnel Committee, meeting Monday in Ballston Spa, recommended the appointment of Deborah Oligny of Gansevoort to the $62,413-a-year position heading the shelter on County Farm Road in Milton.

Oligny has an associate degree in veterinary technology from SUNY-Delhi and a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Cornell University. She has spent a career working in veterinary practices and animal hospitals. She currently works at the Ballston Spa Veterinary Clinic in Milton, and owns North Country Critter Sitters, a pet care service. She also owns a garden business in Gansevoort.

The proposed appointment of Oligny, 48, follows the controversy in March over the proposed appointment of Christina Abele of Halfmoon to the post, which opened when long-time shelter director Dan Butler retired in early March.

Abele, a December graduate of Siena College, was a volunteer at the shelter, but was criticized by shelter supporters as too inexperienced to run the shelter. There was also criticism because members of her family have been donors to local Republicans, creating an appearance of favoritism. Her hiring was recommended by the board’s Personnel Committee, but after the public controversy erupted, the appointment was rejected by the Board of Supervisors on March 19.

In the aftermath of the controversy, the job description was changed to set minimum education requirements and require more experience. The position was then re-advertised. This time, there were 42 applications received, down from 62 applicants the first time. There were interviews of the new crop of candidates in the last month.

“Her qualifications are tremendous. She graduated from Cornell. She has worked in veterinary clinics. She has owned her own business, so she knows budgets and she’s dealt with hiring and firing,” said county Personnel Committee Chairman Art Johnson, R-Wilton.

He said Oligny was well-prepared at her interview, including having a plan for how to improve shelter operations. “I think she’ll get along well with the employees and with the fundraising groups,” Johnson said.

Oligny also applied for the shelter director position the first time, but wasn’t selected for an interview. Johnson said supervisors interviewed 10 candidates, and Oligny was ranked 11th.

This time, Johnson said 11 candidates were interviewed, and three were asked back for second interviews. There were no second interviews during the earlier selection process.

If her appointment is approved by the Board of Supervisors on July 16, Oligny will start work on Aug. 2.

“I’m looking forward to getting started, working with the shelter employees and shelter volunteers to continue the progress being made at the shelter,” Oligny said.

She said the county interview process was “rigorous, thorough and professional.”

The shelter, which primarily cares for and tries to find new homes for stray and abandoned dogs and cats, has 13 employees and an annual budget of about $831,000.

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