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First Two Hats In The Ring: Race For Albany County Comptroller

Composite photo Dave Lucas / WAMC & facebook

With two hats in the ring, the race is on to replace retiring Albany County Comptroller Mike Conners.

"In one of the worst-kept secrets in Albany political history, I'm announcing my run for Albany County Comptroller in the County of Albany."  

Albany City Treasurer Darius Shahinfar announced his plans Tuesday at Hibernian Hall, speaking to supporters.  "The comptroller plays an integral role, not only in county government, but as a partner to Albany's cities towns and villages to help their government work. We will be transparent. We will perform and publish post audits of the county finances. We'll improve data access online of county finances and information, which will make it easier for the public and the media to analyze facts and figures. We'll demand public service excellence. We'll staff the office with talented and skilled individuals including those currently working there. We'll pro-actively and properly audit revenues and expenses in the nearly $700 million county budget. And we will start every year with an audit plan, partnering with the executive offices first, to find out what it is they want us to audit. We'll not be beholden to the executive branch in county government. That's why I will not take and nor I will make any endorsement of these individuals whom I will be auditing. We'll also establish an audit advisory board of auditing professionals and others including people from within and outside Albany County government, and we'll also continue the ongoing work on shared services across our region. I will be the watchdog for Albany County, and I can tell you that nothing's gettin' passed this big dog."

Meanwhile, the Democrat envisions changes involving his present post – Albany City Treasurer.   "It might bear a larger discussion on whether or not the position as treasurer should be an elected position as all."

Less than 24 hours after Shahinfar announced, fellow Democrat and first-term Albany Chief City Auditor Susan Rizzo followed suit. Rizzo, an Albany native, has 30 years of investment and finance experience. Rizzo says she'd like to be the first woman elected County Comptroller.   "I believe I have what it takes to do this job because I'm an accountant, not a politician. I have six audits with the city right now. I'm results-oriented so when I do an audit I do a review, and if I can accomplish the goal and bring the money to the bottom line I will do that. But as an auditor you need to make recommendations to the administration. I believe in transparency, but transparency not only for the residents, but the administration needs to be transparent to me. I believe that if you're working together in an organization, you need to work together, all parties."

Rizzo notes there are philosophical differences between herself and Shahinfar, who supported Rizzo’s 2017 run for auditor.    “ I like Darius, I think a lot of Darius. He’s an attorney, I’m an accountant. I think I bring more to the table regarding what the job entails. I am not going to look at bashing, where I already have experience, some concerns, but I hold my head high and have nothing to hide.”

More candidates are expected to come forward. One of them, Frank Commisso Jr., who has worked for Conners and made an unsuccessful run for Albany mayor against Kathy Sheehan in the 2017 Democratic primary, is expected to enter the race. Commisso hasn't returned a call for comment. Conners is declining to seek a seventh term.

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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