Possibly nobody was prouder inside Amsterdam City Hall on Friday than Mario Villa.
The 92-year-old, who served 12 years as city mayor in the 1980s and 1990s, had a seat of honor as he watched his son Michael sworn in as the city’s next mayor.
“He’s going to do better than I did,” the father predicted.
Republican Michael Villa, a 58-year-old former police officer who hasn’t held elected office, defeated two-term incumbent Democrat Ann Thane by a solid margin in November, and took office Friday, New Year’s Day.
He said he plans to work on getting the city’s finances in better order, addressing housing blight, and trying to attract a hotel. The Best Value Inn on Market Street, the city’s only hotel, has been closed for more than a year, and was recently sold, its future uncertain.
“It’s really imperative that we get a hotel here,” Villa said.
He also plans to eliminate the $45,000 position of city community and economic development director, now held by Robert von Hasseln, in favor of doing economic development marketing through the Montgomery County Business Development Center.
“We’ve had many encouraging conversations with them,” Villa said.
Von Hasseln will remain city historian.
At its organizational meeting after the ceremony, the City Council named attorney William Lorman the city’s new corporation counsel, at a salary of $45,000 annually. His wife, Lisa Lorman, meanwhile, was elected City Court judge in November, and took the oath of office Friday.
Roemer Wallens Gold Mineaux of Albany was named labor relations counsel, a job that was previously done in-house.
The brief City Council organizational meeting was entirely civil, though the members are split, with three Democrats and two Republicans. Villa had campaigned in part against the clashing relations between Thane and what was then a Republican council majority.
“I’m very, very optimistic we can get a lot accomplished. You take baby steps,” Villa said after the meeting.
Villa and the new council are starting the process of hiring a financial consultant to help the city improve its bookkeeping and financial management, which has been criticized in recent state audits.
Four of the five council members are new, having defeated incumbents. The new members are Democrat James Martuscello, who was named deputy mayor; Democrats Rodney Mojnar and Chad Majewski; and Republican Paul Ochal. Republican Edward Russo was the only incumbent re-elected.
Among the roughly 100 people attending the swearing in ceremony was Congressman Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, who worked closely with the senior Villa when Tonko was a state assemblyman.
“Like the new year, it’s a fresh beginning,” Tonko said. “We stand from a congressional perspective ready, willing and able to assist however we can.”
Michael Villa was a city police officer for 20 years, and wrapped up a second career as a Montgomery County welfare fraud investigator last Monday. He’ll be a full-time mayor for the next four years, at a current annual salary of $55,000.
Villa acknowledged having watched and learned from his father when he was mayor from 1980-87 and 1991-95, but cautioned: “You don’t really know until you get into it yourself.”
Villa is married, with three sons and five grandchildren. Family surrounded him as he took the oath of office.
The oaths were administered to all the elected officials by state Supreme Court Justice Joseph Sise of Amsterdam. “It’s a very proud day for the Villa family,” Sise said.
“I hope I can stand here in four years and say, ‘We didn’t bring hope, we brought results’,” Villa said in brief public remarks immediately after the ceremony.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.
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