Big changes in government often bring in some fresh blood — unknown candidates with new perspectives.
Montgomery County’s new government is no different. As of Jan. 1, 2014, the current board of 15 town and city ward supervisors will dissolve, turning over the county reins to a nine-member legislature and an elected executive.
Candidates are currently pursuing those new seats. As expected, there are some fresh faces — some very fresh faces.
The freshest of them all is Republican Ryan Weitz, who is running uncontested for the 4th Legislative District seat, representing the Fonda-Fultonville area. He’s just 21 years old and still a civil engineering major enrolled in Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts.
“I’ve worked it so I can graduate seven weeks early,” he said, “but I’ll still have to commute to meetings for a few months.”
Another young candidate, 25-year-old Republican Martin Kelly, is also running uncontested for the 1st Legislative District seat, which represents Fort Plain area.
Taking on a part-time role in county government isn’t exactly a common goal for the average 20-something. There are night meetings and lots of paperwork to read. Both candidates said the new form of county government lured them into politics.
“I think this shift in government is going to be a fresh start for the county,” Kelly said. “I wanted to be a part of that.”
Despite their ages, both candidates have quite a bit of experience. Kelly has a degree in biotechnology from SUNY-Cobleskill and is current president of the Montgomery County Farm Bureau board of directors. Weitz was just 17 when he started as Fultonville village historian. At the time he was the youngest historian in the state.
He said he fell in love with the area through that position, which he continues to maintain.
“I learned all about the Mohawk Valley,” Weitz said, “and what makes it special. If you talked to any of my college friends they’d say Fultonville must be the coolest place on earth because I’m always talking about it.”
Now he wants to transition from learning history to shaping the future. Based on his extensive knowledge of past county mistakes he said he has a good idea of what to do.
“It’s not easy to be a young person in this area,” Weitz said. “There’s a reason people are leaving. I want to fix that.”
The fix, as both candidates and nearly all young college graduates would agree, has to do with jobs. There needs to be more of them.
Kelly, for example, has never really been out of work. Right now he’s building his own business providing financial advice for farmers. To supplement that income he works at a small tax agency and does manual labor on two Fort Plain-area farms.
Work is a priority to Kelly and he said it should be for the county government, as well.
“We really need to reinvent our economy to bring new jobs to the area,” he said. “We need to pay attention to our infrastructure so businesses want to come here.”
Kelly also promises a return to what he called “kitchen table finances” in order make the best use of tax dollars.
Weitz’s plan for jobs hinges on a long-term county plan. He figures the new government structure will be more conducive to drafting such a plan than the current Board of Supervisors. The new districts break up the old town affiliations. Also, the county executive term is four years — making for more consistent leadership than the current board president, who sits for only one year.
Both candidates are running unopposed, essentially guaranteed a spot on the Legislature. Both are excited to get started.