Niskayuna searching for new secretary to town supervisor

Supervisor can appoint replacement, but Town Board must approve salary
Andrew Bigness
Andrew Bigness

NISKAYUNA — Town Supervisor Yasmine Syed will begin the new year without her office’s confidential secretary.

Andrew Bigness, who was appointed to the position in January 2018, and just as Syed began her first year as town supervisor, left the job on Wednesday.

The process to replace him may become a subject for discussion for the Town Board, which could balk at the appointment of a new confidential secretary at the current budgeted salary of $63,217.

Bigness was admitted to the New York State Bar Association in mid-October and said he will begin work as an attorney with a Capital Region law firm. He would not name the firm during a phone conversation on Thursday.

He said he notified Syed of his new employment in late December. He also said legal work is his chosen field.

“I think it’s always appealing to serve the community where you live,” he said of his time as secretary. “When the newly elected supervisor asks, I think it’s a privilege to serve. I’m grateful for that opportunity.

“I have nothing but good things to say about the supervisor, the deputy supervisor, the Town Board members,” added Bigness, who previously worked as a legislative analyst for the state Assembly. “It’s been an interesting experience.”

Bigness also said he has no political aspirations.

“I’m focused on beginning my law practice now,” he said.

Syed said the secretary’s duties include keeping the supervisor’s schedule, answering telephone calls and emails from residents, working with department heads, composing and editing resolutions submitted to the Town Board, preparing agendas and some bookkeeping.

The position is appointed by the town supervisor. 

“The Town Board comes into play when we set the salary schedule,” Syed said. “I can appoint a person, and then the Town Board votes on the resolution to set the salary schedule. I’d like to offer it at the current salary schedule.”

Bigness’ 2019 salary was $63,217.

Board Member Denise Murphy McGraw, the senior Democrat among the four Democrats on the Town Board, said the supervisor may appoint a secretary at a “reasonable” salary.

“The current salary for the secretary, $63,000, includes a raise and ‘longevity’ step increase granted to Mr. Bigness last month to mark his one year of service,” McGraw said in an email. “This is a lot of money for a position that serves just one person at Town Hall.

“The previous position, director of operations, served the entire town government at a similar rate of pay. I’m confident the supervisor and board can come to consensus on what’s in the best interest of the town regarding this salary, just as we did on all town salaries in the recently passed town budget.”

Syed, a Republican, said she already has a few candidates and is searching for more.

“If all works out, I will have someone to appoint by the Jan. 22 Town Board meeting,” she said.

She also said politics will not be a deciding factor in her appointment.

“I’m actually hoping for a really diverse group of people to apply — women, people of ethnic diversity,” she said. “I’m really an avid proponent for that.

“I’d love to have a bunch of people who want to apply and really want to learn what town government is like from the ground up. It’s a really unique experience; you can learn a lot.”

Syed said Bigness received a “great opportunity,” and said she will take on some aspects of the secretary’s job, for now.

“We’re all pitching in where we can, so there shouldn’t be any interruptions,” she said.

Contact Daily Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]


Categories: News, Saratoga County

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