SCHENECTADY — Two young Democrats who have never run for office are applying to fill the two pending vacancies on the Schenectady City Council.
Brendan Savage, a 21-year-old Siena College student who is politically active, and Carl Williams, 31, vice chairman of Schenectady’s Civilian Police Review Board, are candidates for the council seats being given up by Ed Kosiur and Leesa Perazzo, who are resigning.
The council, all of whose members are Democrats, is expected to make appointments in the next couple of weeks to serve through the November election, when elections for the open seats will be held. It isn’t yet clear whether others will seek the seats.
Savage, who is the son of former Schenectady County Legislature chairwoman Susan Savage, confirmed his candidacy on Tuesday, saying he wants to focus on making improvements in the city’s neighborhoods. He grew up in Niskayuna and now lives in the city’s Northside, in a home he owns with his brothers.
“I want to further investment in all of Schenectady’s neighborhoods and continue the revitalization that has taken place in the city,” he said. “I believe our city has a bright future, and I want to be part of that future.”
Savage said he’s particularly interested in addressing housing blight. While abandoned and deteriorating housing is concentrated in some neighborhoods more than others, he said it is a citywide problem. “There are zombie properties in neighborhoods throughout the city,” he said. “It’s a big quality of life issue for the neighbors.”
If appointed, Savage would be the youngest person ever to serve on the council, though a handful of others, including now-state Sen. James Tedisco, R-Glenville, have served on the council while in their 20s.
Savage will graduate from Siena this fall and is considering further studies or law school, but he expects council service to be a major focus, regardless of what else he does after graduation.
Savage serves as outreach coordinator for the Schenectady County Young Democrats, and has served on the Schenectady City Democratic Committee since 2018. He has interned at the Capital Region Land Bank and the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority, “where I learned a lot about city issues such as vacant and dilapidated houses that are a blight on the neighborhoods.”
Last spring, he took a semester off from college to work for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign during the Democratic primaries.
Williams, who lives in the vicinity of Central Park, is a former active duty member of the Air National Guard who continues to serve as a reservist. His background is in health care administration. In addition to his Police Civilian Review Board role, he is a member of the city’s NAACP chapter and is on the steering committee helping the city comply with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s police reform initiative.
Williams said he is seeking the appointment, and will be running for the seat in any primary or general election contest. “I’m interested in taking advantage of the current opportunity and running,” Williams said on Tuesday.
Williams, who has lived in the city except when on active duty since age 12, said he would like to see improved communication with residents by the city, and also see the city be more receptive to feedback from residents. “I think there are a lot of residents who have valuable ideas to contribute,” he said.
Another interest, he said, is increasing the representation and empowerment of young people. “Our city needs to empower young people to want to invest in and stay in the community,” he said.
In 2020, Savage launched an organization called the “Savage Victory Fund” to help young and diverse candidates in Schenectady County. Savage said his fund plans to back Omar McGill, acting chairman of the county Human Rights Commission, for a seat on the Schenectady County Legislature, and Williams for the other council vacancy.
“I look forward to running on what I believe will be the most diverse slate in our city’s history in 2021,” Savage said.
Kosiur, 64, said last month he was retiring from both his council seat and a full-time job in county government later this month. Perazzo has announced plans to resign, but the timing is uncertain, pending sale of her home and a move to Saratoga Springs.
In addition to filling the vacancies, three other council members have scheduled elections in November. Those seats are currently held by City Council President John Mootooveren and Councilwomen Marion Porterfield and Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas.