Some new faces have been changing city politics in Albany, once famous for machine rule. One example is Common Councilor Dorcey Applyrs, who was a political newcomer when she ran for the council in 2013. She recently sat down with WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief Dave Lucas.
Dom Calsolaro endorsed his successor on the common council. "The first ward had changed from when I first got on in 2001. I was looking for someone younger, definitely a person of color and someone that was very intelligent and understood issues and actually had the experience of living some of the problems that people in communities of color and low-income communities have and Dorcey was the perfect person."
Calsolaro's support never wavered, and helped forge Applyrs’ reputation as a leader in her ward. "I have a love and a passion for people and a love and a passion for working to improve the quality of life for others and making this world a better place."
The 37-year-old Democrat says her biggest challenge has been dealing with a lack of resources. "It's a part-time position with full-time responsibility. We share one staff member among 15 members, and so time, having adequate time to address the challenges and needs that constituents have, is always an issue, especially for council members who have full-time jobs on top of being council members. There's only one of me and so having to be on top of calls, emails, and stay on top of the various concerns that people have, it requires a lot of energy and time."
Applyrs was among the first to voice concerns about the tanker trains that carry crude oil close to homes and the Ezra Prentice Apartments in the city's South End. She says city politics are local. "Thankfully, with the help of community members and other colleagues I've been able to get some major things done. I always reflect on South Pearl Street. A few things I've been able to accomplish with the help of the community, that one is a street designation for Qazir Sutherland, he was hit by a car, a young boy who was hit by a car in front of his family members. And so we were able to get that street dedicated to Qazir, and what was so impactful about that was seeing his family feel a sense of relief that their son's death wasn't in vain and a way to celebrate his life and legacy and also being able to get that street, that section of South Pearl, the speed limit lowered to 25 miles per hour, which we have not done in any part of the city. And so through advocacy work we were able to get that speed limit lowered for other children who live on South Pearl."
Applyrs, a Washington D.C. native, her husband Don and their newborn baby girl, Noble, have put down roots in Albany. Aside from her councilor duties, Applys recently spearheaded the Young Women & Girls Empowerment Summit at Albany Law school. She's empowered other women as CEO and founder of InVision Her. And she's active with the Young Elected Officials Network Women's Conference. Not to mention the recent transition into motherhood... "It comes with it's own unique hurdles, especially as a first-time mother. And so, it's a blessing and it's one of the most beautiful experiences but at the same time it requires a lot out of you. This transition has been, for me, it's been eye-opening and it has allowed me to see what strength I really have internally to now be the mother of this daughter, and understanding what she will experience as she matures and taking this role so very seriously, being her caregiver, with my husband of course, but as her mother, being a role model for her and being able to protect her. And what that means is it has required really putting parameters on my time at this stage in her development. So, not being so quick to respond to emails, taking time away from meetings and being very adamant about 'I'm taking maternity leave despite being a public servant.' I have to take time for her but of course for myself also. But I feel moving forward, her birth will allow me to be a better public servant because I look at human beings differently."
As Applyrs' career in public service continues, she's currently helping Common Council President Corey Ellis establish an equity agenda in Albany.