18-year-old appointed to Schenectady Planning Commission

A look at Schenectady’s newest Planning Commission member 18-year-old Hayden Engert, a recent Christian Brothers Academy graduate

A look at Schenectady’s newest Planning Commission member 18-year-old Hayden Engert, a recent Christian Brothers Academy graduate

SCHENECTADY — Schenectady’s newest Planning Commission member is just old enough to vote.

City Council members unanimously confirmed Hayden Engert, 18, to the board earlier this week. The recent Christian Brothers Academy graduate is the youngest committee member in Schenectady government.

Engert of Raymond Street in the city’s Northside neighborhood started attending community meetings with his grandparents six years ago. Within the last three years, he’s taken an active role volunteering for projects spearheaded by the East Front Street Neighborhood Association, Goose Hill Neighborhood Association and, most recently, Habitat for Humanity. 

“I think kids don’t really know what they should be doing,” the City Hall neophyte said. “So I think for me, [the Planning Commission position] was kind of like, alright, I’m gonna put my name out there and hopefully maybe in a year or two years you’ll see more kids my age out there and involved.”

At the Northside neighborhood’s annual spring cleanup this year, Engert asked Council Member John Polimeni about more opportunities to get involved with the city. He was referred to Mayor Gary McCarthy, who, during a meeting with Engert, pledged that he would keep a watchful eye on any roles made available.

Michael Tearno, a 33-year-old project manager for the New York State Department of Transportation, and Engert filled two vacancies on the nine-member commission on Monday.

Council President Marion Porterfield regards Engert’s appointment as a long-term investment in the city’s future. 

“It’s not like we put eight out of nine people his age on there and said ‘hey, go do this,’” Porterfield said. “So here’s an opportunity for the older people to mentor a young person, to groom them to be a board member and to me, it’s a matter of succession planning.”

Schenectady has had its share of young public officials through the years. Now-state Sen. Jim Tedisco R-Glenville was elected to the City Council in 1977 at 27 years old. McCarthy was appointed to the Schenectady Housing Authority Board in 1984 at 26 years old.

As a member of the Planning Commission Engert will be responsible for reviewing site plans, special-use permits and subdivision plans. The group is currently run by Mary Moore Wallinger, who was appointed to the role in 2016.

City affairs critic David Giacalone sent out an email to several residents in opposition of the appointment, pointing out the appointee’s age and entry-level resume. Giacalone predicted the appointment would sail through “absent some miracle.”

Schenectady Republican Committee Chairman Matt Nelligan believes any appointee should have more relevant experience related to planning and development.

McCarthy contends that notion.

“When you come on one of these, you don’t have in-depth knowledge and expertise that some of the city staff has,” McCarthy said. “It also allows the individual to bring some perspective from their background training, upbringing and community involvement.”

The current-Siena College business major also views the opportunity as a chance to work with more neighborhood stakeholders citywide on a one-on-one level. 

Engert considers his former duties manning the supply room at CBA relevant for handling blowback in the position. Students, Engert recalled, would sometimes lash out when they couldn’t pick up their uniform straightening materials via school administration orders. In addition to his schoolwork at Siena, he has a part-time job as a caterer with 2 Shen Catering in Albany. 

“I think that I was not prepared at the full level that this will be, but I think I’m a little prepared and I think that I’m eager to learn,” Engert said. 

Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-395-3047 or a [email protected]

Categories: News, News, Schenectady, Schenectady County

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