Schenectady County Legislature fills vacant seat

A man and woman smiling

Haileab Samuel, left. At right is Legislator Cathy Gatta

SCHENECTADY — The Schenectady County Legislature has a new member.

Haileab Samuel was unanimously appointed by lawmakers Monday to fill the vacant District 2 seat left after Jeffrey McDonald abruptly resigned last month. Cathy Gatta, a District 3 representative, was appointed to fill McDonald’s vice-chair position.

Samuel’s appointment is no surprise and is a logical choice for the Legislature controlled by Democrats.

He is the Democratic-endorsed candidate in November’s election to replace McDonald, who was not seeking reelection. McDonald resigned on May 19 to focus on his construction business following 15 years in the Legislature. No Republican candidates are vying for the District 2 seat, which represents a large swath of Schenectady.

“We’re excited to appoint Haileab Samuel to represent District 2 in the County Legislature,” Anthony Jasenski, chair of the Legislature, said in a statement. “His extensive business experience and community involvement will be an asset to the legislature and the residents he represents.”

Samuel, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, will serve out the remainder of McDonald’s term, which expires at the end of this year, and is poised to be elected to a full four-year term during the Nov. 7 general election.

“I’ve been working hard to make it to this point, and I don’t take this position lightly,” he said after being sworn in. “This is a big charge that I have right now and I want to work with you and make this a better place going forward.”

Samuel is no stranger to politics. Two years ago, he ran for Schenectady City Council seeking to fill one of the two unexpired terms available at the time. He earned the Democratic endorsement, but ultimately lost in a primary to Doreen Ditoro, who was elected along with Carl Williams.

“This is an amazing day for me. Over the past couple of years, I have been trying to get into a position where I can help Schenectady County and the city of Schenectady,” Samuel said after being sworn.

A partner and CEO of [s]Cube Inc, a private software firm based in Schenectady, Samuel is an active community member who serves on various boards throughout the city and county of Schenectady, including the Boys & Girls Club, county public library and the civilian police review board in Schenectady.

He is also the chair of the Schenectady Municipal Housing Authority’s board of commissions, and has worked with local school districts to create pathways into the IT sector through [s]Cube’s Summer Technical Internship Program.

Gary Hughes, a District 2 representative and the Legislature’s majority leader, nominated Samuel, calling him “a fitting replacement” for McDonald.

“He’s a strong presence in our community,” Hughes said.

Gatta, meanwhile, was appointed the Legislature’s vice chair. She has served on the Legislature for the past 12 years and represents District 3, which includes the village of Scotia and the towns of Niskayuna and Glenville.

Michelle Ostrelich, a District 3 representative, nominated Gatta for the position and touted her extensive volunteer service to the community.

She’s one of those volunteers that sees something that needs to get done and just does it without fanfare,” Ostrelich said.

Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: [email protected] or by calling 518-395-3120.

Categories: News, Schenectady, Schenectady County

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