MONTGOMERY COUNTY — As the rock bank “The Who” once sang: “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”
By a vote of 8-1, the Montgomery County Legislature reappointed District 4 Legislator Robert Headwell to a second consecutive term as chairman on Tuesday night at its organizational meeting.
Headwell is now the first two-term chairman of the Montgomery County Legislature, created in 2014 after a change in the county’s form of government. Headwell is the first to lead the county’s legislative body two years in a row since 2003, after a stint during which former Amsterdam 3rd Ward Supervisor Ron Barone led the county board of supervisors for four consecutive years.
Headwell, a retired teacher receiving a pension from his career at Fonda-Fulton Central School District and the former 15-year mayor of the village of Fultonville, said he does not have any ambition to serve as chairman of the Legislature for multiple years. He said he plans to consider his interest in leadership of the body on a “year-to-year basis.”
“There’s nothing to be fearful of, we’re going to continue doing what we’ve been doing. A lot of the good things that have been happening, we’re going to continue to do,” Headwell said. “This board has worked very well together, and we’re going to continue to do that work.”
District 9 Legislator Robert Purtell, a Democrat, was the only vote against Headwell. Purtell said that when the voters of Montgomery County chose a new form of government, this isn’t what they had in mind.
“This process often is followed up with threats or promises of our favored committee chair positions, pressure from our friends that helped us get elected, pressure from our fellow legislators to support a candidate,” he said.
Purtell said he would prefer the county continue its tradition of one-year chairmen. He said he favored District 2 Legislator Brian Sweet, who had indicated an interest in the position prior to the meeting, but did not advocate for himself during open session Tuesday night.
Purtell called into question the “rule of five,” a bipartisan coalition of legislators including Republican Headwell and Vice Chairman of the Legislature John Duchessi, a Democrat, who was also re-appointed.
He also called into question Headwell’s communication skills with other legislators, the county’s direction in terms of cost cutting and use of the county’s fund balance reserves to balance the budget.
Duchessi, in a moment of levity, quipped that the county could at least save money on the plaques used to designate new leaders of the Legislature, since he and Headwell would be serving back-to-back terms.
Headwell said he will maintain all of the current legislative committee chairmen from 2018:
• Economic Development and Planning Committee, Roy Dimond, District 3
• Education and Government Committee, Brian Sweet, District 2
• Public Safety Committee, Joseph Isabel, District 8
• Health and Human Services Committee, Martin Kelly, District 1
• Physical Services Committee, Daniel Wilson, District 5
• Personnel Committee, John Duchessi, District 6
• Budget & Finance Committee, Michael Pepe, District 7
Headwell said one of his goals for 2019 will be to improve communication between the committee chairmen and the heads of the county departments.