ELIZABETHTOWN - Essex County lawmakers voted unanimously Tuesday to re-elect Jay town Supervisor Randy Douglas as chairman of the county Board of Supervisors.
North Elba town Supervisor Roby Politi, meanwhile, received full backing to serve another term as the board's vice chairman. They were voted in during the 2012 organizational meeting Tuesday morning in the county courthouse in Elizabethtown.
After being sworn in by county Clerk Joe Provoncha, Douglas said he was honored to be selected to lead the board for a rare third term. It's been more than 25 years since a supervisor has served as chair for three consecutive years.
Town of Jay Supervisor Randy Douglas, left, is sworn in for a third one-year term as chairman of the Essex County Board of Supervisors Monday at the county courthouse in Elizabethtown. Joining him, from left, are wife Peggy, daughter Savannah and mother Ava. County Clerk Joe Provoncha stands at right.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Morris)
Newcomb town Supervisor George Canon, a Republican, nominated Douglas, a Democrat. Canon said Douglas has led the board with a "bipartisan attitude," providing all lawmakers an opportunity to share his or her thoughts on any particular issue.
Canon called Douglas a "true public servant" who led the board during one of the most difficult periods Essex County has ever faced. In Douglas' time as chairman, he and his fellow supervisors dealt with the closure and reopening of the Lake Champlain Bridge, the potential closure of the Moriah Shock Incarceration Facility, devastating floods, budget problems and an ongoing debate over the future of the county-owned Horace Nye Nursing Home and fish hatchery. More recently, the board passed a controversial budget that included a 10.54 percent tax levy increase and 10 layoffs.
"Given the difficulties the county has faced in 2011, that may be a reflection of a job well done, or maybe just no one else (is) crazy enough to step forward," Keene town Supervisor Bill Ferebee said. "The reality is that Randy has held this position in the most difficult of times."
Douglas said the lack of partisanship in Essex County government has attracted the attention of leaders in Albany and Washington. He added that the county still faces a multitude of challenges in 2012.
"For all of us serving as town and county leaders, we struggled with preparing very difficult town and county budgets for the new year at a time when our constituents are screaming for property tax relief," Douglas said. "What a juggling act it is when these same constituents do not want cuts or reductions to programs they or someone they know are accustomed to receiving. All this added to a time when New York state passed legislation for a 2 percent tax cap levy increase."
Douglas noted that the state, as it enacted the tax cap, also reduced aid to Essex County's Department of Social Services by $1.4 million and cut $500,000 from the home health care program - "all with no legitimate mandate relief." He urged town supervisors and taxpayers to write their state lawmakers and ask for serious mandate relief in 2012.
At one point during his remarks, Douglas was overcome by emotion as he spoke about the challenges Essex County communities faced following Tropical Storm Irene on Aug. 28. He thanked his family, his fellow supervisors and his town staff in Jay for their support. He also gave special thanks to his pastor, the Rev. Chris Lauzon of the Holy Name Catholic Church in AuSable Forks, "whose guidance, assistance and prayers I will never forget when Hurricane Irene landed on our community."
Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston nominated Politi for a third term as vice chairman. He called Politi a close friend who always gives back to his community.
"Roby has had some real personal challenges in the last couple of years," Preston said, referring to Politi's successful battle against cancer. "We as a board always look to Roby for his thoughts on issues, and we have had some tough ones lately. Even when Roby disagrees with you, he does it in such an eloquent way that you thank him afterwards."
Douglas and Politi will serve a one-year term as chairman and vice chairman. Committee appointments will be made later this week.
Four new town supervisors were also sworn in on Tuesday: Charles Harrington, R-Crown Point; Ronald Moore, R-North Hudson; Margaret Bartley, D-Elizabethtown; and Michael Marnell, R-Schroon.