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What you need to know for 08/22/2017

Schenectady Councilwoman Brucker makes it official: She's leaving next week

Schenectady Councilwoman Brucker makes it official: She's leaving next week

Longtime City Councilwoman Denise Brucker is officially leaving for Niskayuna, putting an early end

Longtime City Councilwoman Denise Brucker is officially leaving for Niskayuna, putting an early end to her council term.

She will resign after Monday’s council meeting, she said.

She and her husband bought a house in Niskayuna last summer, but began extensive renovations and did not move in immediately. She said then she would stay on the council until the last minute.

Now that time has come. Renters will be moving into her Schenectady house at the end of the month, she said, and it’s time to move out.

She’s leaving just as the council was back to seven members; the council has operated with six active members for most of the last two years. The council currently has five Democrats and just one non-Democrat.

Now the Democrats are soliciting resumes from party workers who are interested in the seventh seat.

Republicans need not apply.

Council President Margaret King said bluntly that the council isn’t going to appoint a Republican to the seat.

“No,” she said. “The Democrats control the council. If the Republicans controlled the council, they would be doing the same thing.”

The city Democratic Committee’s executive committee will meet on Jan. 18 to interview candidates and send its recommendations to the council, she said.

“And then the council will make a decision,” she said.

Former councilman Ed Kosiur is on the shortlist, but at least one Republican wants to be considered. Republican Joseph Kelleher, who ran unsuccessfully for office last fall, said he would submit his resume.

Several council members said Kosiur’s name was the only one they had heard so far.

But Councilwoman Marion Porterfield said she wanted someone new, someone who could provide a different perspective.

“I think we should do more of that,” she said.

King said she thought enough council members are new.

“I’m leaning more toward someone with experience,” she said. “There’s not a lot of veterans on the council anymore. When you’re dealing with some of the complex issues we’re dealing with, it just helps to have someone with experience.”

Brucker was council president in 2012 and has always been a top vote-getter among Democrats. She won re-election decisively in 2011, for a term that would have expired at the end of 2015.

She also served on the council from 1998 to 2005, but was prohibited from running for re-election under the Hatch Act. The act bans certain public employees from holding political office, and Brucker had taken a job at the Schenectady Municipal Housing Authority.

She returned to the council in 2006 after taking a job with Schenectady County Community College. She was appointed to fill a vacancy but easily won re-election.

She said she hadn’t intended to run for re-election.

“I was just going to help with the budget. It was just going to be a temporary stop for me,” she said.

But she couldn’t quit.

“You know, Schenectady city girl, I just wanted to make sure everything went well,” she said.

Her father was a Schenectady firefighter, and the firefighters strongly supported her campaigns.

Her father’s career also gave her a slight start on the steep learning curve of working on the council.

She understood some of the issues of budgets, pensions and the seniority system. And that helped.

“Because I have to tell you, no one tells you how to be a council person,” she said. “There’s no book.”

She was first talked into running by now-mayor Gary McCarthy.

As she recalled, they were both working in the county District Attorney’s office at the time, and McCarthy was looking for council candidates.

Brucker was active on several community boards, so he asked if she would be willing to run for council.

“I said, ‘What would I have to do?’ and in typical Gary fashion he said, ‘Oh, you only have to attend a couple meetings a month.’ In typical Denise fashion, I said, ‘Oh, I’ll try that.’”

She laughed at the thought of the council job being just a couple meetings. But, she said, she was glad he talked her into it.

“I really think the council gave me more,” she said. “It’s taught me that sometimes it’s better not to say anything. Patience, endurance, consensus-building.”

Monday’s meeting was the first in more than a year in which every council seat was filled, and Brucker joked then that someone should take a picture to document the rare event.

It took the council three months to fill a vacant seat last time, and it’s not clear how long it will take this time.

The council could vote as soon as Jan. 27.

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