When Saratoga County supervisors convene for their first 2014 meeting Thursday, there will be six new members since a year ago — and the fewest female members in more than 30 years.
Having a half-dozen new faces on the 23-member board is the biggest turnover since 2008, when there were seven.
The number of women on the board will drop from six to two, but the Republican Party’s firm control of the board won’t change.
Edinburg town Supervisor Jean Raymond, one of the two remaining women, said she doesn’t see any great significance to the abrupt drop in the number of female supervisors. The other remaining woman is Anita Daly of Clifton Park.
“I don’t see a pattern,” Raymond said. “I think it’s just the way it worked out. I don’t see a pattern having anything to do with gender.”
The departing women include Mary Ann Johnson of Day and Patti Southworth of Ballston, neither of whom ran for re-election; Joanne Yepsen of Saratoga Springs, who was elected mayor of Saratoga Springs; and Mindy Wormuth of Halfmoon, who resigned in November after being indicted. All are being replaced by men.
There have been at least two women on the board since 1980, after A.C. Dake was elected from Saratoga Springs and Joyce Wheeler from Day.
“I don’t know what it says. We’re seeing more and more women in politics, and that’s a good thing,” said Charlton town Supervisor Alan R. Grattidge, the 2013 board chairman.
The towns of Ballston, Greenfield, Galway, Halfmoon and Day all have new supervisors, and one of the two county representatives from Saratoga Springs is also new.
Among the new members are Preston Allen of Day, who succeeds Johnson; Democrat Peter Martin of Saratoga Springs, who succeeds Yepsen, a fellow Democrat; and Paul Lunde of Greenfield, who replaces Richard Rowland upon his retirement.
When the Board of Supervisors meets at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in the county board rooms in Ballston Spa, the Republican majority is expected to elect Paul J. Sausville of Malta as the 2014 board chairman. He will succeed Grattidge under the tradition in which board chairmen serve one-year terms and leadership is rotated.
The Republicans’ longtime dominance of county government will continue, with the GOP majority actually growing from 19 seats to 20. Ballston town Supervisor Patrick Ziegler is a Republican who is replacing Southworth — an Independence Party member and former Democrat who was also the board’s most consistent critic of the GOP majority’s decision-making.
Grattidge said he believes all the new supervisors will do a good job.
“From my meetings with them, they all look like really solid supervisors,” Grattidge said. “I’m looking forward to working with them.”
The issues the county board will be grappling with this year include establishing a new economic development program, Grattidge said, and deciding what role the county should play in addressing financial troubles at the Luther Forest Technology Campus, a county industrial park.
Another issue will be determining what role the county should play as the state decides where to locate casinos. The county board is on record supporting a full-fledged casino at Saratoga Casino and Raceway, but significant opposition to that location has emerged since state voters in November approved a gambling amendment to the state Constitution. Most Saratoga County residents voted against it.
Two of the new supervisors have already taken office. Kevin Tollisen was appointed Halfmoon supervisor in November following the resignation of Wormuth, who quit after her indictment on federal and state corruption charges. Wormuth had earlier lost party support and decided not to seek re-election.
Wormuth was in line by seniority to chair the powerful Law and Finance Committee in 2014, and potentially to chair the Board of Supervisors in 2015. Six-year incumbent Matthew Veitch of Saratoga Springs is now heir to those assignments, with Arthur “Mo” Wright of Hadley expected to follow Veitch.
In Galway, meanwhile, former county emergency preparedness director Paul Lent took office Dec. 1, after George Hargrave resigned with a month left in his term. Hargrave had earlier decided not to run for re-election, and Lent was elected to replace him.
Martin, a retired lawyer who has acting county clerk, was elected to the supervisor seat being vacated by Yepsen. He will be one of just three Democrats on the board. The others are Preston L. Jenkins of Moreau and Thomas Richardson of Mechanicville.