John Duchessi, Montgomery County legislator, former Amsterdam mayor, dies

John Duchessi in 2018
John Duchessi in 2018

AMSTERDAM — John “Duke” Duchessi, Montgomery County District 6 legislator and former Amsterdam mayor, has died. He was 73.

“On behalf of us all at Montgomery County, we offer our deepest condolences, prayers and love to the Duchessi family,” Montgomery County Executive Matthew Ossenfort said Friday.

Duchessi last fall was re-elected to what would have been his fourth consecutive term on the Montgomery County Legislature. He was unable to participate in swearing in ceremonies conducted this week.

“John was not just a colleague, he was a mentor and someone I looked up to with great respect,” Ossenfort said. “He was one of the most loyal, funny, family-centered and intelligent men I have ever met. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to have known him.”

Since suffering a heart attack at the end of 2020, Duchessi’s lengthy recovery and subsequent health issues prevented him from attending county meetings for much of 2021 and 2022.

The long time public servant was Amsterdam’s mayor for two terms from 1996 through 2003. He also served as alderman of the city’s 3rd Ward from 1994 through 1995.

Before holding public office, Duchessi was a career firefighter with the Amsterdam Fire Department and served as chief from 1988 to 1991. He later worked as executive director of the Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency from 2018 through 2020.

“Duke saved lives as a firefighter and fire chief and performed his duties as the mayor of the city of Amsterdam and Montgomery County legislator with integrity, professionalism and a great sense of humor,” Legislature Charmain Robert Purtell said.

A proponent of local revitalization, Duchessi left his mark championing initiatives to rid Amsterdam of blight, while simultaneously promoting growth. Amsterdam’s Community and Economic Development Department was established during his first term as mayor.

The city became a brighter place through a project spearheaded by Duchessi in partnership with then Assemblyman Paul Tonko that led to the installation of Victorian-style street lamps downtown in 1998. The stylish lights complemented the city’s historic areas and were more energy efficient than the street lights they replaced.

Redevelopment of the city’s waterfront was another priority for Duchessi, who supported the once contentious development of Riverlink Park. Construction of the 10-acre park was briefly stalled by funding shortages and the discovery of contaminated soil.

The state funded project opened in phases following remediation. The initial area featuring an amphitheater, playground equipment, a gazebo, docks, green space and walkway across four-acres finally opened on Duchessi’s 52nd birthday in 2001.

In planning for the city’s future, Duchessi also recognized the need to preserve the city’s past and advocated for the restoration of City Hall following its addition to the State and National Register of Historic Places in 2001. The former mansion home of carpet magnate Stephen Sanford was built in 1869.

Throughout his tenure on the Montgomery County Legislature, Duchessi was valued by his colleagues for his opinion and his ability to help the board reach consensus during controversial discussions and contentious debates.

In the past, Duchessi expressed his joy working to advance the community with his fellow lawmakers, even on the tough issues.

“John Duchessi was a great man who loved his family, his friends and his community,” Purtell said. “The world was a better place with John Duchessi in it.”

Reach Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.

Categories: Fulton Montgomery Schoharie, News, News

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