SARATOGA COUNTY -- The chairman of the county Board of Supervisors is shifting from one of the county's most populated towns to its most sparse town.
The board on Thursday elected Preston Allen of Day -- population 856 -- to chair the board in 2020, succeeding Kevin Tollisen of Halfmoon, which has a population of 21,535.
"He has impressed everyone with his integrity, dedication and skill," said Waterford Supervisor John E. Lawler, who seconded Allen's nomination. "He is simply the right man at the right time for this county.”
Allen, 60, who has been Day supervisor since 2014, said his biggest new initiative will be trying to ensure the county -- by some measures the fastest-growing in the state over the last 50 years -- receives an accurate U.S. Census count in April.
"One of our most critical endeavors this year will be to promote public awareness about the 2020 Census," Allen said in a brief inaugural speech.
County officials said the census response rate in the county in 2010 was 83 percent. The official population count that year was 219,607, but many town leaders, including Allen, believe their towns were under-counted that year. Estimates put the county population at over 225,000.
"Reapportionment of congressional seats, redistricting, and the distribution of billions of dollars in federal funds are determined using census data and we need to ensure our fair share," Allen said. "I have directed the county administrator to apply for state funding to underwrite the costs associated with maximizing census participation within our borders by developing and implementing outreach initiatives to capture parts of our population that have not been counted."
The 2010 census response rate for Saratoga County was 83%, and the new committee will explore and recommend ways to achieve a higher response rate.
Allen named Edinburg Town Supervisor Jean Raymond, who has been on the board for more than 30 years, to head a special census count committee. It will focus on using the internet, social media and other avenues to encourage census participation.
"This is my fourth census, but there have been a lot of changes," Raymond said after the board's organizational meeting in Ballston Spa.
Greenfield Town Supervisor Dan Pemrick was named vice chairman of the board and chairman of the Law and Finance Committee, making him heir apparent to chair the board in 2021, under the leadership system in which the Republicans who control the board rotate the leadership.
Before becoming supervisor, Allen served 14 years on the Day Town Board alongside the last county board chairperson from Day, Supervisor Mary Ann Johnson, who chaired the board in 2005. Allen, a lifelong town resident, is retired from the county Highway Department, where he served for more than 32 years.
Allen said he is also committed during 2020 to recognizing the county workforce -- about 1,400 people -- and expressing appreciation to them.
"The dedicated employees of Saratoga County work hard every day to provide the essential services our residents rely on," he said. "We look forward to recognizing the entire county team for their hard work and professionalism."
He also promised fellow supervisors "I won't let you down," even as he acknowledged there will be many unknowns as the year goes forward.
"I am sure issues will develop that we haven’t yet contemplated. The key to our success will be to remain true to our basic values and continue to do the things we have done that got us to our current position," he said. "Again, I thank each of you for your support and look forward to the upcoming year as your board chairman."