Albany County Comptroller Mike Conners has announced he will not seek a seventh term in office, and now potential successors are starting to line up.
"I've been here 24 years and it's been a tremendously blessed experience,"the comptroller tells WAMC.
Conners, who'll soon turn 70, was elected in 1995. He has been a proponent of renewable energy and a long-time advocate of biofuels who has been outspoken regarding tightening legal reins on the oil industry. "I miss the private sector, I miss opportunities, and there are lots of opportunities. I've had some very interesting calls."
Active in Albany politics for decades, Conners made a failed challenge against state Senator Neil Breslin in 2004, battled cancer after a 2012 diagnosis, staunchly criticized the 2016 $180 million renovation plan for Albany High, and raised eyebrows last May when he suggested the county consider selling the Times Union Center. "I have no plans immediately to make a decision on anything other than trying to encourage people to run for this office. This is probably one of the most important offices that there is in government, and nobody knows about the job. It's a wonderful job, there's a great staff here, and whoever is lucky enough to win the Democratic primary most likely will be the next comptroller, and they'll have some great people and great opportunities."
Conners says the county is in strong fiscal condition. A block over at Albany City Hall, city Treasurer Darius Shahinfar is interested in the job: "Well first I wanna thank Mike for his long service to our city, to our county and to our region. Him and his family have provided a lifetime of public service to our city and we're all grateful for that. I am intending on running for the position next year but it's a ways away and there's a process that we have to go through, obviously, and the county will go through that process. That's several months down the road again and we'll cross that bridge when we come to it, but I do fully intend on running for the position."
Shahinfar may not have been as outspoken as Conners but he has been a visible treasurer and public figure, weighing in on city issues from time to time. He commented on the situation in Cohoes revolving around its leadership under Mayor Shawn Morse, who has insisted he can continue to run the city despite being under enormous pressure to step down amid published allegations of domestic violence. "I can't speak necessarily to Cohoes on this issue but, we have found in this city that if you are asking people to help you and to provide funds for your municipality, it's usually a good idea not to blast them."
Shahinfar's name appears on the September 17 statement issued by Albany County Democrats calling for Mayor Morse to resign.
Also on the list of possible candidates for comptroller is Frank Commisso Jr., who has worked for Conners and made an unsuccessful run for mayor against Kathy Sheehan in the 2017 Democratic primary. Comisso says he's happy for Conners and has not made any decision about whether to toss his hat in the ring.