Rotterdam’s Tony Jasenski will lead the Schenectady County Legislature in 2014.
A caucus of the majority Democrats unanimously selected him earlier this month to replace outgoing Chairwoman Judy Dagostino. Jasenski’s nomination for the chairmanship is expected to be forwarded and ratified by a majority of legislators during the organizational meeting Monday. Once confirmed, he’ll fill the vacancy left by Dagostino, who took over as chairwoman in 2011 but didn’t run for re-election this year.
Now in the middle of his second term on the Legislature, Jasenski said he was honored by the selection and looks forward to leading the group. He said replacing Dagostino and Susan Savage — her predecessor — will be difficult, but believes the Legislature now has a good group of lawmakers ready to help with the transition.
“My strength has always been building a consensus and bringing folks to a common ground to move issues forward,” he said.
Jasenski will retain veteran Legislator Karen Johnson as vice chairwoman and has tapped Phillip Fields, a District 1 legislator who is chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, as his deputy.
As chairman, Jasenski said a priority will be reducing the impact of state mandates on the county. He is also reconfiguring some of the Legislature’s committees, creating in the process a Neighborhood Revitalization and Housing Committee and a Public Safety and Firefighting Committee.
“We’ve got a great group of folks who are there,” he said. “All 15 of our legislators are there for the right reasons, and I look forward to working with them.”
Jasenski served as Rotterdam’s police chief from 1996 until his retirement in 2001. He was elected to the Town Board in 2002 and served two years before resigning in 2004 to free up more time for business pursuits.
Jasenski returned to politics in 2007, when he was picked as a replacement for Kent Gray, the Legislature’s majority leader, who left to take a job with the state Department of Motor Vehicles. He went on to win a full four-year term in 2008 and another in 2012.
He is chairman of the Labor and Civil Service and Intergovernmental Cooperation committees. He also serves as vice chairman of the Consumer Affairs and Public Safety Committee and the Rules Committee and is co-chairman of the Volunteer Firefighters subcommittee.
“If Tony Jasenski is elected chairman, the county government will be in good hands,” said Brian Quail, chairman of the Schenectady County Democratic Party.
James Buhrmaster, who will again lead the Legislature’s Republican minority, is cautiously optimistic about Jasenski’s new position. He’s hoping Jasenski will continue to include minority legislators in the discussion process — something he said appeared to break down amid a hyperpartisan rivalry between Savage and former Minority Leader Robert Farley.
“I’m hoping there will be open dialogue,” Buhrmaster said. “That fell apart with Susan Savage and Bob Farley.”
Jasenski, who has presided over Rotterdam’s Democratic Committee since 2009, said he intends to resign that leadership post once he becomes chairman of the Legislature. He led the town Democrats during a period of success, in which they secured a firm grip over nearly all elected positions in the town.
That grip loosened in November, when Republicans secured two seats on the Town Board and the highway superintendent’s position. Town Democrats also lost one of four District 3 seats to the Republicans.
Jasenski also will preside over a smaller caucus. The Legislature’s 10 Democrats and two of its Conservative members are expected to form one voting block, while Buhrmaster and fellow Republican Brian McGarry are expected to caucus with Conservative Grant Socha.
“The dynamics have changed a little,” Buhrmaster said.
Jasenski said he intends to run the Legislature in a manner that can be most effective for the county. And that means putting partisan politics aside at times, he said.
“My philosophy has always been that good government is good politics,” he said.