SCHENECTADY — Councilman John Mootooveren is in line to take over as City Council president next month.
Mootooveren confirmed Thursday he had secured enough votes to clinch the post.
First elected in 2015, Mootooveren is now midway through his second term.
A key goal, he said, is ensuring a smooth relationship between stakeholders.
“I’m not confrontational,” he said. “When we’re doing things for the residents of the city, I want to make sure we’re on the same page moving forward. That’s something I will strive for.”
The leadership position traditionally changes hands every two years, said outgoing City Council President Ed Kosiur.
But the process hasn’t been without bumps:
Councilwoman Marion Porterfield, who is the second-longing serving lawmaker on the seven-member board, also sought the leadership position, but opted not to contest the matter once she learned she couldn’t wrangle up the required four votes.
The decision to tap Mootooveren, she said, was preordained.
“A decision was made early on because I’m not part of the exclusive group that sticks together,” Porterfield said. “Since I’m not in that group, they had the votes in place a while ago.”
Porterfield believes she drew the ire of her colleagues for two reasons: She isn’t afraid to buck the majority during votes, and she backed several grassroots candidates in recent years, including Omar McGill, who unsuccessfully challenged District 1 Legislator Peggy King in November for a seat on the county Legislature after King was endorsed by the city Democratic Committee.
“Those were the reasons stated to me as to why they would not support me,” said Porterfield, who has long said elected officials need to be more diverse in order to reflect their constituencies.
Mootooveren declined to discuss Porterfield’s assertion at length.
“Sometimes those things happen,” he said. “Every action carries a reaction — I was chosen by others because they feel I have the leadership abilities to lead.”
Kosiur called both candidates “outstanding,” but ultimately opted to support Mootooveren, an accountant who lives in Mont Pleasant.
“What he can bring to the table will be outstanding, and his ability to work with his colleagues on the council — it’s a different style.”
Councilman John Polimeni will continue to serve as majority leader on the Council, which will tilt to all-Democratic membership following the departure next month of Councilman Vince Riggi, who lost his bid for re-election.
Councilwoman-elect Carmel Patrick will take his place.
If he is formally approved by the City Council at their reorganizational meeting Jan. 6, Mootooveren will be the first Guyanese to assume leadership of the body.
Kosiur said all incoming presidents face a transition, from learning new procedures to establishing connections with the mayor’s office, police and fire chiefs and the city clerk's office.
City Council presidents are responsible for setting the agenda of the city's legislative body, which meets biweekly in its full capacity.
“It’s a role of keeping the council united; keeping the issues on the forefront that the majority will support — and when folks are at odds, to overcome that," Kosiur said.
Mootooveren said ensuring sustained community engagement on Mayor Gary McCarthy's Smart Cities effort, to which lawmakers allocated an additional $2 million in capital funding this year, remains a priority.
He said it’s not a bad thing that the City Council will be under one-party control.
“I don’t look at that aspect,” he said. “We’re there to provide service to people. We have seven Democrats. The people chose seven Democrats because they have faith and trust in us.”
Heading into the next term, Porterfield wants to ensure the city's economic revitalization efforts benefit all residents and hopes the city can continue to promote home ownership among middle-class city residents.
“And we need to make sure the services we pay for are provided at an excellent level — not an adequate level,” Porterfield said.
That may require staffing increases, which came under scrutiny after City Hall pinned its much-maligned snow response earlier this month on a lack of bodies.
“We need to look at our staffing, and see when we do the budget, we put enough staff in place to make sure the job can be done,” Porterfield said.