Niskayuna town Supervisor Yasmine Syed won’t seek re-election because she is preparing to move to Syracuse to reunite with her husband, who is stationed there.
“We’ve been actually living apart for the last year,” she said. “It’s been tough, but my husband has supported me in my decision to stay here. We talked about it and it was at this point the best decision, we feel for our family, at this time for me to join him in Syracuse.”
Syed married Matthew Murray, a U.S. Air Force Medical Service Corps officer at the 174th Attack Wing, in February 2020.
Schenectady County Republican Party Chairman Chris Koetzle said Syed leaving is a huge loss for the community, but wished her family the best.
“She was a great supervisor and I appreciate everything that she did for Niskayuna,” he said. “She was great to work with and I am proud to have counted her as a colleague and friend. I wish her and her husband all the best.”
The party’s committee on vacancies decided March 29 on someone to run for Syed’s seat. Koetzle said the candidate’s name would be released once the paperwork is filed.
“Although we will miss Yasmine and she will leave huge shoes to fill, we’re excited to announce our candidate soon and are confident that this candidate will carry on Yasmine’s tradition of putting people first, serving the town with integrity and working with all residents, regardless of party,” Koetzle said.
Town Board member Denise Murphy McGraw also said she had been hearing for months that Syed was moving to Syracuse.
“I wish her well,” she said. “There was public perception we did not get along. That was not at all true. We worked very well together and I enjoyed getting to know her. I’m grateful for her service to the town.”
Murphy McGraw said the pair worked closely together on budgets over the years, and said she appreciated Syed’s “willingness to put the taxpayers first,” which led to far better budgets than originally introduced.
Syed, who was born and raised in Niskayuna, was a newcomer to the town’s political scene in 2017 before taking over the supervisor’s role in January of 2018. During her time on the board, Syed said, she was proud to have accomplished a number of items, but two in particular stand out: creating guidelines for the town’s use of its fund balance it has at the end of the year and helping establish the town’s farmers’ market.
Creating guidelines for the use of fund balance — revenue left over at the end of the year after all expenditures and revenue have been accounted for — was a first for the town, Syed said.
“It was something I felt strongly about,” she said.
It also gave Syed an opportunity to use her corporate finance background.
The guidelines established what the leftover money could be used for, something the Office of the State Comptroller recommends.
Syed also said she is elated to see how much the farmers’ market has grown.
“We’re looking forward to our third farmers’ market season,” she said. “We have more vendors than we’ve ever had before.”
Not being able to see residents at the market every weekend is one thing Syed said she will miss.
“It’s definitely bittersweet,” she said. “I’m just going to miss interfacing with the residents. That was the most important part for me and that’s why I loved the farmers’ market so much. It gave me the weekly opportunity to see them on a Saturday outside the realm of my day-to-day job.”
Syed is looking to finish at least one more item on her to-do list before her term is up: creating a plan for a new senior center. The current one is located on Aqueduct Road.
“The senior center itself I don’t feel serves our seniors the best that it can, so I would really like to provide them a state-of-the-art facility where they could all come together and really enjoy all of the offerings that we have,” she said.
Syed said that during her tenure the biggest learning experience came from dealing with the COVID pandemic, during which she’s had to worry about the safety of not only town employees but the town as whole.
It will be the first time in about a decade that Syed has lived away from her hometown. However, Syed said, she’s thakful that it’s just a two-hour drive from Syracuse to Niskayuna, so she can easily visit her family and vice versa.
Syed said she will look to get involved in politics in Syracuse.
“For sure,” she said. “The draw to public service is always going to be there. That’s not going to change. So I’m looking forward to getting involved in the local committee out in the Syracuse area, and hopefully they’ll have me if the opportunity presents itself to be a public servant again.”
She said the best advice she can offer to the next supervisor is to always put the residents first.
“As long as the focus stays on the residents and making sure that you’re doing the best that you can to serve them, then that’s all you really need. That’s the best advice,” she said. “Don’t do it for yourself, leave your politics at the door and just make sure it’s about the town, always.”