Niskayuna Town Supervisor Yasmine Syed on Tuesday appointed Brian Backus to the position of confidential secretary.
Backus' name may be familiar to Niskayuna residents: last week, he won re-election to his second term on the Niskayuna Central School District Board of Education. He is currently vice president of the board.
"It happened to be perfect timing," Syed said after the evening's regularly scheduled Town Board meeting. "I needed somebody, I re-canvassed my candidates, many of them took themselves out of the running with the newly established salary, that cut a considerable amount of people out."
The salary process for the position became controversial earlier this spring. While Syed originally wanted to pay the secretary $60,000 annually, Town Board members believed that figure was too high.
In April, the board voted to fund the full-time position at $49,517.
Board members also were concerned the secretary would assist only the supervisor, and not board personnel. The title of the position eventually was changed from "confidential secretary to the supervisor" to "confidential secretary."
Backus is commander of the 139 Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron of the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing in Scotia. He earned a bachelor’s degree in human resources management from the New School University in New York City and completed Air War College at the U.S. Air Force’s Air University.
"Brian is retiring from his military career," Syed said. "I mentioned this to him in passing and it just kind of clicked. He accepted the position and here we go."
Syed said Backus' duties will include representation of the supervisor and serving the Town Board.
"That's something I made very clear, he has a very good rapport with all of the Town Board members, so I think he'll be able to fulfill that duty and obligation," Syed said.
The supervisor also believes Backus' experience in human resources could prove beneficial to the town.
"That's something we need," Syed said, adding that the town budgeted $15,000 for a human resources consultant -- a position that has not been filled.
"That's something we've wanted to do, so this might be an opportunity that he can actually help the town and serve that dual role where it's not just a confidential secretary to the supervisor, it's also helping out those human resources duties," Syed said.
Syed said she expected Backus, who has served on the town's Planning Board in the past, will begin work within the next few weeks.
Syed does not see a conflict between the secretarial position and Backus' duties on the school board, although both the school and town boards meet on Tuesday nights.
"We discussed that, he talked to a number of people, he doesn't feel it's a conflict," Syed said. "Aside from me meeting with Cos (Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra Jr.) and discussing some one-off program, there really isn't any overlap between the school district and the town."
Contact Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]