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Should Rensselaer’s Mayor Be Able To Serve On The County Legislature Simultaneously?

Mike Stammel
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
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Mike Stammel

The mayor of Rensselaer may have to pick between that job and the county legislature this year.Rensselaer County Legislature Chair Mike Stammel also serves as mayor of the city of Rensselaer. He is the sole elected Republican official there. The Democratic-led Common Council adopted a local law, overriding Stammel's veto, barring Stammel from running for both positions this year.

"The people in Rensselaer supported me in both positions, the county legislature as well as the mayor for the city of Rensselaer. I've always worked hard for them. I think the public knows that. And it's only a a bunch of radical Democrats who seem to think that they're going to control every aspect of a position or any position in the city of Rensselaer when the people are the ones who should be making the decision."

Voters elected Stammel mayor in a November 2019 special election to fill out the unexpired third term of Mayor Dan Dwyer, a Democrat who died a year earlier at age 84 after a battle with cancer. Stammel beat Acting Mayor Rich Mooney, a former city council president. He says he would hate to go to court and use taxpayer money to fight the law.

"The law itself should have been something that the voters should be deciding not seven democratic counselors that are opposed to me in the first place. But anyway, I believe that the law is illegal and should be up to the voters in the mandatory referendum."

Stammel says both jobs are part-time and he has no trouble handling them. He adds the city means a lot to him.

"I always believed that we were undervalued. There's a lot of good things that can happen in Renssealer. It's just that there has been a lot of bad people trying to use their own particular influence to benefit themselves or their friends. That's held Rensselaer back for a long time."

Will Stammel run for re-election to a fifth four-year term on the 19-member Rensselaer County legislature, or will he run for mayor?

"Well, I haven't firmly made up my mind yet. I do have some candidates that I'm awaiting commitment for, to run in citywide elections and or county elections. I will, I would say that right now my heart is making positive changes for the city of Rensselaer. And right now, I think that's the direction I'm headed. I have had, as you will may already know that. I got a letter from the state attorney general back when I first ran for this position who said it was acceptable for me to hold this position, or both positions, I should say."

Common Council President John DeFrancesco responded to a request for comment via email, saying in part that Stammel "is a mayor, not a monarch," and "Mr. Stammel refuses to work collaboratively with the Common Council. He has gone so far as to tell Department Heads that they are not allowed to speak with Council Members. This is a radical change - how else are we supposed to get information? When a Council member texted him, his response was that he didn't have the time to communicate with all of us. A clear demonstration he cannot handle both jobs. People in the community have legitimate issues and he needs to make himself available to us so that we can serve our constituents."

DeFransceso's full statement is posted below:

"Mike Stammel's reaction speaks for itself but it goes without saying that personally attacking everyone who submitted comments in favor of the new law is ridiculous. He even went to someone's home and complained that they submitted public comments in favor of the proposal. Despite Stammel's initial veto of the public hearing, support was overwhelming - nearly 40 people submitted comments in favor and no one submitted any comments opposed. With the veto of the public hearing, and his lambasting of those who exercised their right to be heard, it appears that he didn't want to give the public a chance to make their feelings known. A true head scratcher for sure.

Unfortunately, none of this surprises us at this point. Mr. Stammel refuses to work collaboratively with the Common Council. He has gone so far as to tell Department Heads that they are not allowed to speak with Council Members. This is a radical change - how else are we supposed to get information? When a Council member texted him, his response was that he didn't have the time to communicate with all of us. A clear demonstration he cannot handle both jobs. People in the community have legitimate issues and he needs to make himself available to us so that we can serve our constituents.

I just don't think he realizes how deeply unpopular he has become across the City because of this. People don't want that much power concentrated in one individual and he refuses to work with others. He's a mayor, not a monarch. The Council remains ready to work with Mike whenever he wants to end his tantrums and personal attacks."

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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