The day after her election victory, Yasmine Syed delivered a tray of cookies and greeted employees at Niskayuna Town Hall.
While not everyone saw her election as sweet, Syed said Wednesday that she is determined to work with people on both sides of the aisle and represent Niskayuna well.
“It won’t be a challenge for me to work on a bipartisan level,” Syed said. “I’m ready to do it.”
In the aftermath of a highly contentious — and at times personal — election cycle, Syed acknowledged the road ahead may be bumpy, but she said she was committed to meeting with board members and department heads to ensure the town continues to run smoothly.
“We need to put it all behind us,” Syed said. “The voters have spoken, and it’s time to go along and get along for the benefit of the residents.”
As she prepares to take office in January, Syed is assembling an advisory council and scheduling meetings with department heads and employees. She is also looking to challenges that loom in the coming year. Chief among those, she said, are property taxes.
The tax reform bill before the U.S. Congress could have a direct impact on Niskayuna property owners, and Syed plans to use her position to talk to congressional and state representatives, she said.
Of primary concern is the potential loss of a rule that allows property owners to deduct the amount they pay in state and local property taxes on their federal filings.
“We need to make sure something done in Washington doesn’t hurt Niskayuna,” Syed said.
Town Board members had varied views on the big issues facing the town, with some speaking frankly and others taking a more diplomatic tone.
“I think having an incoming supervisor coming in with no public policy or public administration experience is an issue,” said board member Lisa Weber, in an email response to questions. “There are a lot of intricacies involved in the day-to-day running of a town government, so I hope Ms. Syed is a quick learner. Fortunately, as a Town Board, we have the experience, the knowledge and the majority needed to keep Niskayuna moving in the right direction, and under the leadership of our Deputy Supervisor Denise Murphy McGraw, that is exactly what we will do.”
Newly re-elected Councilman John Della Ratta acknowledged Syed’s lack of experience and knowledge of the ins and outs of government administration, but he said the town is in good shape and running well, so there shouldn’t be major issues as a result of the administration change.
“She’s stepping into a very smoothly operating machine,” Della Ratta said. “There are not a lot of challenges because we’ve been doing a good job for years to avoid it. We’re in good fiscal shape. I will work with the new supervisor in the best interest of our residents.”
Councilman Bill McPartlon echoed Della Ratta’s statement on the town’s financial stability and plans for the future.
“As a Town Board member, I will continue to work with my fellow board members for the residents of Niskayuna,” McPartlon said in an emailed response to questions. “We have the best bond rating in New York, best possible score on the state comptroller’s fiscal stress test, and recently updated infrastructure that has the town poised for continued growth.
“Next year, the town will complete years of work on several environmental upgrades and will be making other key investments. I will continue to work on protecting vital services, being fiscally responsible and making intelligent investments for the future.”
Councilwoman McGraw, the deputy town supervisor, also emphasized stability.
“I see the issues in the town the same as I always have and the same as I tried my best to articulate over the last few weeks: maintaining our financial stability that has been recognized as the best in upstate New York; continuing to make improvements to our infrastructure; ensuring our roads are safe and passable; and providing the best community programs in the Capital Region,” Murphy McGraw said in a prepared statement. “This is a great town, and I will continue to work hard to keep us on the same strong path for the future.”
Syed said that, as of Wednesday afternoon, she had not heard from her opponent and current Town Supervisor Joe Landry, nor any of the Town Board members, save for Murphy McGraw, whom she ran into while delivering cookies.
Between now and the end of the year, the Town Board will pass a budget. Syed said she is looking at the proposed budget and plans to thoroughly analyze it and give her opinion about it.
“I will look at it like I look at the hospital budget,” said Syed, who works as a senior budget analyst at Albany Medical Center. “There are differences because it is a town, but I will look at it and make recommendations.”
At present, she does not plan to make staffing changes, preferring to have a transition period first.
Syed defeated Landry, the 10-year incumbent, by an unofficial vote of 3,631 to 2,897, or 54 percent to 43 percent. Green Party candidate Elmer Bertsch earned 204 votes.
“I’m excited to roll up my sleeves and get work done for the residents of Niskayuna,” Syed said.