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County to get ready for changes

Voters approve new form of government

November 8, 2012
By ARTHUR CLEVELAND , The Leader Herald

Now that voters in Montgomery County have approved a plan to change their form of government, county officials will take steps to put the plan into place for 2014.

Voters Tuesday approved a new charter, which calls for changing the form of government from a county Board of Supervisors to a county legislature. The new government will include an elected county executive.

In November, nine district legislators will be elected for three-year terms. They will have a limit of four consecutive terms.

The county executive will be elected for a four-year term with a maximum of three consecutive terms.

Glen Supervisor Lawrence Coddington, who supported the new charter, said the new legislative districts will need to be finalized by the county Planning Department.

Coddington said that once the legislative districts have been completed, new legislators and a new county executive will be elected in the November 2013 election.

The county Board of Supervisors next year will decide the salaries for the executive and county legislators for 2014.

Starting in 2014, the county's towns and the city of Amsterdam will continue to have town or ward supervisors, but they will not sit on the new county legislature.

Dusty Swanger, a member of the Charter Commission and president of Fulton-Montgomery Community College, said he was delighted to hear about the charter's approval.

"I think it shows the community is interested in change, that the community is interested in moving forward," Swanger said.

Swanger said the charter vote was not a referendum against the people in office.

"It was a vote to look to the future with a new system of government. The people have made a clear choice; now we must respond to their voice," he said.

Members of the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors had mixed reactions to the approval of the charter.

According to unofficial vote totals, the charter was approved in a vote of 7,964 to 4,984. In order to be approved, the proposal required majority approval in the city of Amsterdam as well as a cumulative majority among the 10 towns.

"I'm a little disappointed because I wasn't in favor of it," Florida Town Supervisor William Strevy said. "It's the people's choice, and I'm not going to argue with that."

Amsterdam 5th Ward Supervisor Michael Chiara said he was elated.

"I believe if you really want to analyze it, for the amount of votes there were for that item, it sends a message. They [voters] want something to change," Chiara said.

Amsterdam 1st Ward Supervisor Vito Greco said he was surprised by the vote. He said he was undecided about the charter. He said he did not like the idea of the executive being elected with no requirements.

"This is a $90 million business, and I feel that that person, and I'm telling the people and the voters of Montgomery County this, pick your candidate wisely. Make sure he has the proper credentials to make this thing work," Greco said.

Board of Supervisors Chairman John Thayer, also the Root supervisor, said he wasn't surprised by the approval. He was an opponent of the plan.

"We move forward. I'm not one to dwell on the past much," Thayer said.

The executive post will be a full-time position, with a rule in place saying the executive will hold no other elected public or elected political office during his term.

The executive's powers and duties will include responsibilities such as executing and enforcing all laws and resolutions of the legislature, and exercising supervision and control over all administrative departments, offices and agencies of the county government.

The executive will have the ability to approve or veto any votes by the legislature. The executive also will have the ability to appoint officials for some county departments.



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