COLONIE —In what is expected to be one of the most hotly contested races of this election season, two newcomers to the political scene are vying for an open seat in District 24 on the Albany County Legislature.
Jeff LaMountain, who will have the Republican and Conservative party lines in November, and Nathan Bruschi, a Democrat with Working Families Party support who won the Independence Party primary, will square off for the seat being vacated by the retiring Peter Crouse.
LaMountain, a father of three, is a teacher at BOCES and an adult education teacher at Columbia Green Community College. Bruschi is a Navy vet and is currently the CFO of GENESYS, a recruiting and staffing firm based in Colonie.
The two do have a history, when LaMountain was the wrestling coach at Albany Academies, Bruschi was the team manager.
LaMountain was born and raised in South Colonie. Bruschi’s family started a business in Colonie and after graduating from Harvard Business School, he moved back into town.
Both say they have always been interested in service to the community and feel being on the Albany County Legislature is a way to do that.
“I think a lot of young people who have the same credential I have want to jump into national races but there is so much impact you can have at the local level and that is where we have a crisis of leadership,” Bruschi said. “When I am walking the streets and meeting with my neighbors I hear about the lack of the voice given to our community at the county level. If I am the guy who can step up and raise their concerns that is a great way for me to have an impact.”
“This is who I am. I am a helper and a giver. When friends and neighbors are talking, who have an issue or a problem, I am the kind of guy who chips in and rolls up their sleeves and helps out,” LaMountain said. “If you have someone who is authentic, and really wants to help, and their motives are correct and they are a hard worker and have a background that is the same as the people they are representing in the Legislature that is the core. That is, quite frankly, one of the most important things.”
Crouse, a Republican, has represented District 24 for two terms and in 2015 he ran unopposed. The district is bound to the north by Wolf Road and Aviation Road, the east by Albany Shaker Road, the south by Osborne Road, and on the west by Central Avenue. It is comprised of Colonie Election Districts 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 58.
While Colonie was the bastion of Republican strength in Albany County for decades, in the recent past it has swung decidedly democratic with a Democratic town supervisor and the majority of the board of that party too. And even among elected officials of both parties, there has been few disagreements based purely on partisanship.
Bruschi said his focus will include bringing money to improve the town’s infrastructure and economic development. He added he has experience with both from his time serving in Central America where he was involved with rebuilding towns and training the local police force to fight against the drug cartels.
“The lack of investment in our infrastructure is disturbing. The roads are in very bad shape and it’s a huge quality of life concern when you can hurt your car or sprain your ankle on our roads. We need to invest in our community,” he said. “I am passionate about bringing new economic opportunity to South Colonie, I work for a recruiting and staffing company. As I knock on people’s doors, I notice that almost no one stays around because there is a lack of good jobs for them here. We spend the time educating students in this state and we need to build a community and inspire them to stay here.”
He added while he is in favor of growth, there are smarter ways to go about it that would help with traffic congestion and lessen the impact on existing neighborhoods.
LaMountain said he would fight what he calls over-development in town, work to alleviate traffic congestion and work to make environmentally friendly improvements to the town’s infrastructure. He also said he would use his experience at a teacher to help kids.
“I will stand against over-development and I think greenspace is important in Colonie and throughout Albany County. As an elected representative I would like to bring the 5,000-plus registered voters of my district to bear on the Planning Board,” he said. “Addiction is a serious issue. I’m out speaking to a lot of voters and there are a lot of people who are impacted by this epidemic. We need everyone to start working together to provide the necessary services and bring the issue to the forefront.”
He added he is a “moderate” rather than a partisan politician and would work across party lines like the other Republican legislators in town have successfully done.
Bruschi said he would consider higher office should the opportunity arise but realizes he would first need to do well in the Legislature.
“If I am not able to deliver to the constituents there is no path to higher office,” he said. “It might be fun to continue my service that way, and maybe have a larger impact but I always found that if you do the job at hand, and do an excellent job there, then opportunities will come and you don’t have worry about them.”
LaMountain said his old neighborhood has changed and there aren’t pockets of greenspace for people to enjoy and the sense of community has weakened. Win or lose, he said, he would still work for and help out his community.
“The worst thing that can happen is I lose the election. I’ve never been a politician anyway. I’m a school teacher and I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “Sometimes, I’m not sure I am living in a mini New York City with all the politics or Mayberry. But people from Colonie, we go to the class reunions and we wave to each other when we see each other. That is the culture I grew up in, and the one I want to pass onto my children.”
Bruschi said he too would work across party lines and has a record of that in the military.
“In the Navy, nobody ever asked what party I was a part of. We always had to work across different services to accommodate a larger mission,” he said. “I needed to check my ego at the door. And not care about who scored the most points, I was able to get my troops the resources they need to complete their mission. I don’t believe there is a Republican way to fill potholes or a Democratic way to fix street lights.”
“When it comes to town issues, I will reach out to board members or anyone else who will listen to me and hopefully they will,” LaMountain said. “In many ways the Legislature has let us down but I’m not going to point fingers or go on disparaging tirades. I will look for ways to help. I don’t want to overstate any promises. As a freshmen county legislator I am going to add a voice and hopefully one that is one with the community’s.”
Election Day is Nov. 5, but this year the state is allowing early voting beginning on Oct. 26.