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New Era In Niskayuna Politics After Leadership Shakeup Puts Republican In Supervisor Position

Leadership of an Albany-area town changes hands - Yasmine Syed is the new town supervisor
Composite photo by Dave Lucas/WAMC
Leadership of an Albany-area town changes hands - Yasmine Syed is the new Niskayuna Town Supervisor

On Tuesday, voters in a Schenectady County town elected a Republican political newcomer as supervisor.

Voters in the Schenectady County town of Niskayuna ousted 10-year incumbent Democratic Supervisor Joe Landry, backing Republican Yasmine Syed on Tuesday.

Landry, who serves as the Schenectady County Legislature attorney and is chairman of the county Democrats, lost 54 percent to 43 percent.

Wednesday morning, Syed showed up at Niskayuna Town Hall with cookies for some of the folks she'll be working with over the next two years.    "Not so much a peace offering, but kind of to say, you know, 'This is me, this is my style of leadership.' I'm an open, transparent, friendly person. I like working together with everyone."

The campaign leading up to Election Day was far from sweet. Syed and her running mates had been targeted by a bitter political mailing. Oversize postcards sent to local residents likened Syed to Alex Jones, the controversial proprietor of conspiracy website infowars.com.  The mailers stated that the Republicans' Facebook page featured racist, anti-Semitic material and disparaged Muslims. Syed, a Niskayuna native,  says her father was born in Pakistan and raised in the Muslim faith. Her mother, a Christian, is of Eastern European Jewish ancestry.   "They didn't count on the fact that the voters of Niskayuna know me, they know my family, and that just didn't work —  they saw right through it."

Sayed re-emphasized her vow to lead the town in bipartisan fashion. She says on her visit to Town Hall she had a very brief encounter with Deputy Supervisor Denise Murphy McGraw, who commented   "I'm looking forward to sitting down with her and hearing what her plans are and what the kinds of things that she would like to champion in terms of her top priorities, and having her hear from the town board members, what our priorities are moving forward."

Landry could not be reached for comment. McGraw says the outgoing supervisor has been out of town.

Syed will be the only Republican on the board in the town of about 21,000 residents. But she thinks she can provide the kind of leadership the townspeople want.   "They voted for me to be their town supervisor because they understand that I can work with people on either side. I may have been running on the Republican, Conservative and Reform lines during the campaign, but now that I've been elected and I have a Democratic town board, I have every intention of working on a bi-partisan level."

Murphy McGraw says she expects the town board will conduct "business as usual." She'd say it's all about improving infrastructure, putting a new waste water treatment plant online, making sure roads are paved, the leaves are picked up and programs are in place for kids and seniors.   "People in your line of business would always say to me 'Niskayuna, ugh, that's boring. I never wanna have to cover Niskayuna,’ cause we're never fighting and I take that as a compliment. I want Niskayuna to be a boring place to have to cover, because that means we're doing our job."

And if you're wondering about those cookies:   "I'm not sure anybody at Town Hall ate them. Somebody sent me a text and said 'they remain unopened.'"

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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