Schenectady is training its own new assessor, in hopes of getting a specialist who actually lives in the city.
Mayor Gary McCarthy has insisted on city residency for his department heads — but for many years, no city assessor has lived here. He did not renew the most recent assessor’s contract because she would not move here and instead tapped retired county real property director Nicholas Barber to fill in while he searched for a homegrown alternative.
Now, he’s found it in a former grad student. Molly MacElroy, who first met the mayor when she began analyzing the HOMES program as a Union Graduate College student, is taking classes to become the next Schenectady assessor.
She’s working as deputy assessor while she learns the ropes, also taking the required classes online. She expects to have enough experience under her belt to be a “qualified assessor” in three months and then finish her classes and become certified within two years.
Barber is returning to his retirement Aug. 1. Niskayuna’s assessor, Amy Houlihan, will work part-time to oversee the office until MacElroy can take over, McCarthy said.
This is a tough time to learn the job — the city may start a reassessment during her apprenticeship — but MacElroy said she’s ready for it.
“I think, looking at the equalization rate, it’s pretty high. Something’s got to give,” she said.
Becoming an assessor wasn’t her life plan. She earned a bachelor’s degree in health care administration, then began teaching at Union College and got a master’s degree in education. After that, she went to Union Graduate College to study for a master’s in business administration.
And that led her to the assessor’s office. Her Capstone project, with several other students, involved analyzing the mayor’s HOMES program, which tries to market houses in the city.
MacElroy fell in love with the city and told McCarthy she’d love to keep working on the city’s housing if a job ever opened up. He called her shortly after graduation to ask if she’d consider assessing.
“It wasn’t even on my radar,” she said. “I’d never really known what an assessor was.”
Now she visits houses with the city’s data collector, pores over recent sales and is learning from everyone in the office, she said. She recently measured and toured a firehouse.
Seeing “neat old buildings” is one of the highlights of the job, she said. For the Glenville native, it’s like coming home.
“We like this area,” she said of herself and her boyfriend.
MacElroy already rents in Schenectady and is looking for a house to buy in the city, she said.
“On a Friday, we can park our car and walk wherever we want to go,” she said. “It’s a very walkable city.”
She expects to get a good deal on a house, too, because she’s buying while home prices are low.
“There’s a lot of great houses and great neighborhoods you can get for great value,” she said.