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Three new faces headed to Schenectady City Council

Schenectady City Hall
Lucas Willard

Back to full strength, the Schenectady City Council will remain dominated by Democrats after last night’s election, and the candidates are pledging to work together after a spirited campaign.

Schenectady city government will return to full strength next year with seven city councilors, after Election Day brought the re-election of two incumbents, the defeat of another, and two people to fill remainder of terms vacated earlier this year. All candidates elected Tuesday night are Democrats.

City council president John Mootooveren and councilor Marion Porterfield held onto their seats, fending off challenges from Republicans Brendan Nally and Kevin Hammer.

Councilor Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas, a Democrat who lost the June primary but continued her campaign on the Conservative line, lost to Damonni Farley.

Democrats Carl Williams and Doreen Ditoro were elected to fill the seats vacated by former Democratic council members Ed Kosiur and Leesa Perazzo. Republican candidate Vivian Parsons, Working Families Party candidate Thearse McCalmon, and Haileab Samuel, whose name appeared on the Conservative line, fell short.

There will now be four people of color on the seven-member council. Mootooveren is Guyanese, and Porterfield, Farley, and Williams are Black.

Williams, an Air Force veteran, said his professional and personal experience will bring a valuable voice to the council.

“I’m confident that my military background will allow to me remain focused and very in tune with our direction, that I look forward to receiving from the mayor and then also from the council president, whomever that shall be,” said Williams.

Williams also touted his MBA, and his ability to apply critical thinking to consider “additional options.” At 31, he is the youngest person elected to the council on Tuesday.

“But then also using my personal experience, as a person of color, but then also someone that is younger, someone that is a homeowner, new dad with understanding how do we get our other emerging families fully invested in this community,” said Williams.

Ditoro, who was also successful Tuesday, won the June primary despite not receiving the endorsement from the city Democratic committee – that went to Samuel. Ditoro campaigned with Zalewski-Wildzunas in the run-up to Election Day.

Ditoro says she plans on working cohesively with everyone on the council.

“I’m not taking anyone’s side, and again, I’ll be true to myself and I’ll work with everyone on the council. I’m a team player and I always have been, I’ve seen that right along. So I personally will work with other council members, the mayor, for the growth of our city, the betterment of our city,” said Ditoro.

Ditoro, who co-owns a funeral home, said it was her positivity and focus on quality-of-life issues that resonated with voters.

“I focused on myself, my campaign, how I ran it. I stayed positive and true and the voters of the city held true to me,” said Ditoro.

Farley, a well-known figure for his community services work in Schenectady, said he tried to remain his “authentic self” on the campaign trail.

He said the benefit of having such a diverse council will be the different lived experiences that will be brought to the table.

“So what will end up happening if we approach this the way that I am extremely confident that we will, is that we will get to honor some of the traditional wisdom on the council, but not let it stifle the innovation that is sure to come,” said Farley.

Tom Bellick, chair of the Schenectady city Democratic committee, said the candidates who won all worked hard for it.

“I’m confident that they’ll work together,” said Bellick.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.