The Schenectady City Council has a new president, and elected a majority and minority leader for the first time in several years.
After some back and forth for the top spot, the seven-member council unanimously named Leesa Perazzo as president during the its organizational meeting Friday afternoon at Proctors.
“When asked recently what I thought was the greatest asset of our neighborhoods, I said our people,” Perazzo said after being sworn in for a second four-year term on the council. “Over the next two years as City Council president, one of my special goals is to strengthen those relationships further.”
The president runs council meetings, has the power to add and remove items from the agenda, and elects chairs of the council’s eight committees. Perazzo plans to name committee heads during a meeting among the council members Monday morning.
Perazzo said the city “can always do better” and that she would work to enhance neighborhoods, reduce taxes, decrease crime and strengthen affirmative action.
“I will prioritize working with my colleagues to continue to enhance the city’s beautification efforts,” she said. “I look forward to working together to do better. I’m ready. Now let’s get back to work.”
Perazzo was elected president after former council president Peggy King did not seek another term. King served
as council president the past couple of years and was on the council a total of 16 years.
Councilman Ed Kosiur, who was also vying for the top seat, was elected majority leader, with Councilman Vince Riggi, the only non-Democrat on the council, named minority leader.
The council previously did not have a majority and minority leader. The majority leader would serve as council president when the president is absent. Riggi, who is not registered with a party, joked about his new title.
“We have a new council president and new majority leader, and I’m the minority leader,” he said after being sworn in for another term. “As a matter of fact, I had my first caucus this morning while I was shaving. I didn’t cut myself, so that was good.”
Kosiur said he’s looking to work with other council members over the next four years to continue to boost the local economy, fight blight and promote homeownership.
He touted the Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor, which was approved for a casino license by the state Gaming Commission last month, as a “grand slam.”
“We got it done and again had a great team in place, business partners and leadership,” said Kosiur, who was elected for a four-year term after serving one year on the council. “So look out folks, here we come. And we want to take you along for the ride.”
John Polimeni, a Democrat, was sworn in on Friday to serve his first council term. Polimeni, who has a Ph.D. in economics, works as a professor at Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.
Polimeni said he wants to “keep the promise” of more jobs, lower property taxes and better quality of life in the city’s neighborhoods.
He mentioned a few specific goals, such as a bed tax to raise funds for sidewalk and curb replacement; a master list for residents with information on city services; and proposing legislation to improve neighborhoods.
“I pledge to work every day to make Schenectady a better place and make you proud,” he said. “These are just a few of the initiatives I have and will bring forward. First we must lower taxes, keep Schenectady’s finances improving and give citizens a more efficient government.”
The four elected council members join Democrats John Ferrari, John Mootooveren and Marion Porterfield on the council.
Mayor Gary McCarthy was also sworn in Friday for a second term by U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam. Mark Caruso, who ran unopposed, was sworn in as City Court judge by state Supreme Court Justice Vito Caruso. And Chuck Thorne was reappointed as city clerk.
In his 2016 State of the City address, McCarthy said that later this month he would announce a mayoral commission, which will work to make the city of Schenectady a “smart city.”
“Schenectady has the potential to be the next leader in wireless communication and product development,” he said. “Our evolving relationships with Wink, Cisco, GE and Verizon will enable Schenectady to take advantage of developing technology opportunities.”
Reach Gazette reporter Haley Viccaro at 395-3114, [email protected] or @HRViccaro on Twitter.