Ford McLain is a painter and educator who has lived in the 6th Ward for 17 of the 25 years he's been in Albany. He is one of several candidates vying for the Common Council seat.
McLain has shown art and curated art in the city. And, from 2013 -2019, drove a taxi cab out of Albany International Airport.
Now, he wants to get into politics, with Common Councilor Richard Conti in his last year.
"I was one of the 222 people who was laid off, reduction in force, by the Albany city school system in early to mid September, because of the budget. At the time, starting to do my, do my search for new work. And also trying to think of what I would want to do with my life that was also meaningful. For the past three years, I had worked, and this actually has a lot of relevance to why I'm running. For the past three years, I had worked as a building substitute and a teaching assistant for the Tony Clement Center for Education, which was located at the time on Elk Street, so I was there and I got laid off. And I was surprised to see that Richard Conti, our council member, had decided to retire."
Conti, elected in 1997, is one of five senior Albany Common Council members who are not running for another term this year.
McLain says the ward has been long-associated with art and painting. Coupled with his desire to help young people, he wants to promote the arts and be a competitive candidate, even though he doesn’t expect to receive the Democratic Party’s endorsement.
"I wanted to make sure that whoever that was, had some competition, that they didn't just, you know, get the endorsement of the committee, and you know, the Democratic elite in the city, and then the ward, and then just grab the WFP slot, and then just walk into the position. That happened in 2019, with a county legislature position. So I wanted to make sure that we had a race. And honestly, I am pleasantly surprised and thrilled that it's not just a race, but that we have, as far as I know, five candidates in the race for this open seat. And I think it's great for democracy."
McLain says if elected he will as an accessible and accountable Common Council member.
He supports the recently-proposed nonpartisan election reform proposal introduced by Conti, and likes the idea of setting term limits for citywide elective offices and Common Councilors. And he wants his constituents to have access to their common councilor.
"That will include weekly, Saturday morning office hours in person, hopefully, either in front of my street or at rotating coffee shops or restaurants, obviously with the owner's consent. Developing a sixth ward advisory group comprising of various stakeholders who can help inform and guide the Common Council member of issues that need to be addressed."
The four others who have begun running for the seat are Jeff Mayo, Gabriella Romero, Richard-Olivier Marius and Susan Pedo.
The 6th Ward includes the Center Square neighborhood, encompassing Washington Park on its west side running from South Lake Avenue southeast to South Swan Street, bordered on the southwest by Myrtle Avenue and on the northeast by State Street and Washington Avenue.