MONTGOMERY COUNTY – Hagaman resident Rita Francesa Loffredo Friday announced her intention to run as the Democratic Party candidate for Montgomery County Executive.
She said she also intends to seek the endorsement of the Conservative Party and the Working Families Party.
“I think that there are lot of issues in Montgomery County that aren’t being addressed,” she said. “Someone needs to have the courage to stand up and ask these questions. I think we need to have someone who really understands the problems of working class people.”
Loffredo, 23, is a political newcomer. She has the support of Montgomery County Democratic Committee Chairman Terry Bieniek and would be the first Democrat to run for county executive since the first election for that position in 2013 when incumbent Republican Matt Ossenfort ran against former St. Johnsville Supervisor Dominick Stagliano, a Democrat. Ossenfort ran unopposed in 2017. Loffredo would also be the first woman to run for the position.
Loffredo said she had been working as a financial analyst as part of the Consumer & Wealth Management Division at Goldman Sachs, out of their Cohoes office, since November of 2019, but she quit that job on Friday to focus on her first political campaign. She said she wanted to work for Goldman Sachs due to her interest in tax policy and research.
“So I started applying, they denied me, many, many times. I finally got an interview, and they rejected me again to my face, and then I kept applying, and I finally got a job there,” she said.
Loffredo is a 2015 graduate of the Greater Amsterdam School District and earned an Associate of Arts and Sciences at Schenectady County Community College in 2017, and a bachelor of arts in political science from Binghamton University in 2019. Her interest in politics led her to complete a campaign training program at the Yale Campaign School aimed at helping increase the number of women candidates for office. She also received a certificate of studies from the D.C. Summer Institute of the Duke University School of Law where she studied institutional, statutory and regulatory law and policy making.
Loffredo has a passion for music and playing the piano. In 2014 she was one of 20 young pianists in the U.S. selected to play at the Winners Recital Program held in the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
She said her campaign will have three main points of emphasis each beginning with the letter ‘R’: Revamp, Revive and Restore.
“I want to work to revamp our communities and our infrastructure, revive our small businesses and bring back manufacturing jobs and restore integrity and accountability in Montgomery County,” she said.
Loffredo was critical of her declared Republican opponent incumbent County Executive Matt Ossenfort’s handling of the collapsed intermunicipal solid waste disposal agreement with Fulton County.
During Ossenfort’s first term as county executive the two counties inked a 10-year intermunicipal agreement that allowed Montgomery County to haul its garbage to Fulton County’s landfill at a reduced tipping fee price. The tipping fee was $37.95 per ton in 2018, which ended up being the last year of the deal.
Fulton County unilaterally pulled out of the deal, accusing Montgomery County of taking in waste from other counties, charging those garbage haulers Montgomery County’s tipping fee of $72.50, and pocketing the difference, raking up an alleged $2 million profit over the course of the deal.
Both counties filed lawsuits against each other. The suits were ultimately settled in June 2019 with Montgomery County agreeing to pay Fulton County $450,000, with $225,000 up front and the rest by the end of 2020.
Ossenfort that although Montgomery County did come out ahead with a “net positive position to the county budget” the intent had never been to profit off the differences in the tipping fees, with the extra revenue being put into reserves and used for repair and maintenance of the county’s transfer stations, including replacement of a $100,000 scale at one of the transfer stations.
Ossenfort has argued Fulton County officials either knew or “should have known” that waste from outside Montgomery County was coming to its transfer stations and being hauled to Fulton County.
The intermunicipal deal between the counties required detailed reports to be filed at the Fulton County landfill by Montgomery County’s private garbage hauler GottaDo Contracting, which should have provided the origin of the garbage being delivered to the landfill and provided Ossenfort’s office with annual reports detailing the origin of the garbage going into the transfer stations.
Ultimately Montgomery County has renewed its relationship with GottaDo, which transports Montgomery County’s garbage 130 miles away to the Seneca Meadows Landfill, in Seneca County.
Ossenfort has argued that although Montgomery County has been forced to raise its garbage tipping fee per ton to $81 to compensate for the transportation costs, the tipping fee remains lower than several other neighboring counties, although not lower than the tipping fee at Fulton County.
Loffredo said there remain many unanswered questions about what happened with the collapse of the garbage deal. She wants to know whether the private garbage hauler GottaDo was complying with rules of the intermunicipal agreement and filing reports with Fulton County and Montgomery County detailing the county-of-origin of the garbage being transported through Montgomery County’s transfer stations. She said when Ossenfort first ran for office he had seemed willing to look for a long term solution to the county’s garbage disposal problems, but so far hasn’t found one.
“Why are residents of Montgomery County being held accountable for the county executive’s mistakes?” she said. “We’ve been left with higher fees and no long term solution, and we ended up paying [approximately] $500,000, usually the people who pay are the problematic ones.”
Loffredo is also critical of the way salaries were increased for the county executive, sheriff, county clerk and county treasurer during Ossenfort’s first two terms.
The Montgomery County Legislature in 2016 voted 7-2 after a public hearing to approve a local law creating an “Elected Official Salary Schedule” which established the non-bargaining personnel policy for the county’s elected officials.
The policy was passed as Resolution No. 62 of 2016, which increased the county executive’s salary from $85,000 to $110,000. The policy also increased the sheriff’s salary to $105,000, increased the county treasurer to $80,000 and county clerk to $80,000. The prior salaries of the sheriff, treasurer and clerk were a combination of lower base salaries plus longevity pay raises.
The salary schedule law established a practice of the county personnel officer, currently Nicole Yaggle, filing a report with salary recommendation changes for the elected office with the county legislature by March 31 of the final year of the term of each of the elected offices. It is then up to the legislature to approve or not approve the suggested salary change, if Yaggle suggests it should increase, but the changes would only go into effect at the start of the next term of the elected official, without respect to who won the election.
Ossenfort said because any salary change that is approved by the legislature would occur at the start of the next term of office, it is not subject to the public hearing requirements of changing the salary of an elected official during the term of office of that elected official. He said he did not argue in favor or against the passage of the elected official schedule, and it was meant to address discrepancies between candidates for office who would be entitled to higher or lower salaries based on longevity increases, such as former Sheriff Michael Amato who had been receiving longevity pay increases, potentially offering his opponents the rhetorical advantage of saying they would be working for a lower salary if they defeated him. He said if Yaggle recommends the county executive’s salary should increase for the next term he will oppose it. He said he also opposes changing the salaries for any of the other elected offices.
“If the legislature passes that I will veto it,” he said.
Yaggle said her report to the legislature before March 31 on the county executive’s salary will be the first she’s been required to file since the elected salary schedule policy was passed. She said her recommendations will be based on comparing the county executive’s salary to other similar elected officials in counties with similar census demographics. She said she will not be influenced by Ossenfort’s statement that he would veto a pay increase if the legislature wanted to give him one.
Loffredo said she thinks there should be a public hearing whenever the salary is changed for any elected official, irrespective of when the salary is meant to go into effect.
She said another thing she would hope to do in office is reach out more to Amsterdam’s Hispanic community. She said family is very important to her, having been raised by her single father, who was born in Brazil immigrated to Italy and then to the U.S.
She said her family has been touched by tragedy more than once, her mother was killed in a car accident when she was about two years old and her eldest brother died of a rare disease when he was five years old.
She said if she was the county executive she’d like to see an early voting polling station put into the downtown area of Amsterdam, rather than a proposal being discussed now to put an Amsterdam early voting station at the former Recorder building on Venner Road, on the outer edge of the city.
She said as county executive she would fight to bring CDTA busing to Montgomery County, but she wants the county to have a lower local share than a proposal Ossenfort had been working on which was ultimately not approved by New York state.