A key Board of Supervisors’ committee on Wednesday endorsed the appointment of a recent college graduate as director of the Saratoga County Animal Shelter, despite criticism of her as inexperienced and questions about the role of campaign donations in her selection.
The Law and Finance Committee’s unanimous vote sends the proposed appointment of Christina Abele of Halfmoon to the full board for final approval or rejection Tuesday.
Public comment will be taken at the meeting in the county board rooms in Ballston Spa. So far, nine people have signed up to speak about the appointment, according to the board clerk’s office.
Abele, 22, is the daughter of Chris Abele, a Halfmoon builder whose companies have donated more than $12,000 to Republican campaign coffers since 2005. Among the Law and Finance members who voted for Abele’s appointment was Halfmoon town Supervisor Mindy Wormuth, who has received campaign donations in the past from Chris Abele. The county board is heavily Republican.
Abele’s appointment was recommended last week by the county Personnel Committee from among 62 applicants for the position, 10 of whom were interviewed. Three shelter employees were passed over, leading to a wave of criticism from people who currently volunteer at the shelter.
On Wednesday, Abele met with the Law and Finance Committee for about 10 minutes in a closed-door session before the committee vote. It also approved the appointment of Felipe Moon of Charlton as the new director of veterans’ services.
“I think it’s controversial to some people, but we’ve gone through the selection process,” said Law and Finance Committee Chairman Paul Sausville, R-Malta. “At the end of the day it comes down to temperament, to poise, to having the ability to deal with people. We expect the full board to appoint them.”
Abele graduated from Siena College in December with a degree in business management. She did business internships in college and has worked most recently as a special events waitress for Mazzone Hospitality.
She has also volunteered for the last five years at the county shelter and has organized annual pet adoption clinics in Halfmoon for as long.
“I’m really excited,” she said of the pending appointment.
She defended herself against the recent criticism of her lack of experience.
“My parents have always been supporters of the Republican Party,” she said. “There’s a lot of business things I’ve done that the public isn’t aware of. I went through the same interview process as everyone else.”
Those who conducted the job interviews consistently said she made an impressive presentation that included ideas for how to improve shelter operations. She told The Daily Gazette she has ideas for increasing shelter revenue, such as offering pet training classes and selling items like dog leashes, pet food and cat carriers in the shelter lobby.
If the appointment is finalized, Abele would replace Dan Butler, who retired last week after 35 years with the county, most of them as director of the animal shelter. Abele would earn the base salary for the position, $62,413 a year, and would start on March 20.
People who want to speak to the Board of Supervisors about the shelter appointment must sign up in advance. They can register with the board office in Ballston Spa until 4 p.m. Monday, said Board Clerk Pam Hargrave.