COLONIE — The Republicans, finally, have picked their slate for town offices and heading up the ticket is Peter Crummey, who is stepping down from the bench to run for supervisor.
The Republican will run against Democrat Kelly Mateja in November for the right to replace Supervisor Paula Mahan, who earlier this year said she would not see an eighth, two-year term.
“I did a lot of soul searching and through prayer and community support I feel absolutely energized and excited in doing it,” said Crummey, who has been on the bench since 2000. “I am going to be asking the town residents to allow me to go from part time judge to full time supervisor and bring my background and experience to town hall.”
There are three Town Board seats up for grabs this year (see page 4.) Republicans picked Jeff Madden, Antonio Boncordo, a dentist with an office on Albany Shaker Road, and Alexandra Velella, an attorney. All three are making their first run at public office.
The Democrats are circulating petitions for two incumbents — David Green and Melissa Jeffers as well as newcomer Alvin Gamble. But, Green is now running for the open seat on the Town Court bench and the Democrats have until the end of the month to fill the vacancy on their slate of candidates.
Incumbent Linda Murphy opted not to seek another term on the board.
There are two Republican incumbents two years into their four-year terms, Rick Field and Danielle Futia and one Democrat, Jill Penn.
For decades, Colonie was a bastion of Republican strength in the Democratic-dominated Albany County until Mahan unseated six-term incumbent Mary Brizzell in 2007. With that win, the Town Board went to the Democrats and that party has governed the town since. And since 2007, Republicans have tried to get it back.
“My position is we need to provide candidates the citizens can rally around,” Crummey said. “If it means there is one majority over another that’s fine. My take is since 2007, many of the proposals and resolutions seem to pass unanimously. Hopefully, we all are town residents so we can agree to disagree but in the end we do what is best for the town. For me, the motivation is providing the best candidates for the selection process.”
As per state law that limits the political activity of judges, once Crummey formally announced he will run for supervisor, he had to give up his spot on the bench. According to Crummey, Mahan will pick a replacement, with Town Board approval, to serve throughout this year but the candidate will have to run for a full four-year term in November.
The other two Colonie Town Court judges are also up for election this year — Republicans Andrew Sommers and Norman Massry. Democrats are running Rebekah Kennedy and David Levy for the two seats (see pag 5)
A town judge makes $69,777 a year while supervisor makes $123,006.
For the now open third spot, the Republicans picked Jennifer Whalen to run. She is currently on the Albany County Legislature and prior to that was on the Colonie Town Board. The seat was just vacated by Crummey so it is not clear who the Democrats will run. As mentioned, Green is seeking the third spot for the Democrats and will likely get the nomination.
Republican incumbents Julie Gansle and Michelle Zilgme are seeking re-election to Town Clerk and Receiver of Taxes. The Democrats are running Galen Hines for clerk and Zachary Grady against Zilgme.
Earlier this year, when Mahan announced she would not seek re-election, Crummey was coy about his plans. Whalen had expressed interest and Richard Stack, the longtime Albany County Conservative Party chairman, said he was “seriously considering” a run for super but he is expected to abandon that notion without it ever really getting off the ground. Crummey will likely run with the Conservative Party endorsement and Mateja already has the Working Families Party line.
Designating petitions hit the streets on March 2 and Crummey didn’t officially give up the robes until March 4. Generally, the parties pick candidates before petitioning starts which led many to believe the party was scrambling for qualified people willing to put their name in the public arena.
Crummey, though, is far from a default candidate. Republicans have floated his name for the town’s top spot for at least the last two election cycles but the judge steadfastly maintained he would not run against Mahan. He comes into the race with solid name recognition and a proven ability to work across party lines.
Prior to being elected as a Colonie judge in 1999, the lifelong Colonie resident was as an Albany County legislator and minority leader, a prosecutor in the Colonie and Menands traffic courts, an attorney for the Town of Colonie and an attorney for the Colonie Zoning Board of Appeals. He first worked in Town Hall as an Albany Law School intern in 1980.
He has also served for a number of community and civic organizations including the boards of the Shaker Heritage Society, Colonie Youth Center and Albany Law School as well as president of the Albany County Bar Association and was on an advisory board of the Colonie Youth Court.
Colonie Town Court is one of the busiest in the state, with more than 25,000 cases a year, and oversaw a budget of nearly $1 million. He worked under three different supervisors of both parties and made thousands of decisions that impacted the lives of people.
He said that experience sets him up perfectly for Town Hall.
“First of all want to make sure we are working collectively,” he said “I work in a bipartisan manner and I want to keep working that way because the citizens deserve it and it’s because what I have done. That is not a platitude. I have lived it.
“I ran for office six time and five of those time I ran unopposed. That must say something about something.”
He said top on his list of priorities should he win in November and take office in 2022, would be the town’s infrastructure including roads and the Latham Water Department.
“As the town has grown over the decades, the infrastructure continues to be taxed. “We will reprioritize some money so infrastructure becomes a priority as well as recognizing the development has impacted our neighborhoods. There are challenges in our neighborhoods as a result of that some neighborhoods are struggling but I do believe Colonie is a great place to live, work and play.”
Another focus, he said, is to the town’s “recreational opportunities” and to open the budget process.
“When I go to the town park and see our boat launch, or lack thereof, and how our waterfront is not at our highest level I want to do something,” he said. “These are exceptional symbols of community pride and we can’t lose them as some of our roadways seem to have been lost. The more we defer the work the bigger challenges they become.”
The former judge said he would solicit and consider input from residents across town and while there will invariably be different opinions the debate can be civil and might open eyes or minds.
“I want to hear from everyone. Many people have great ideas and we have to analyze all of them to see what benefits our town,” he said. “Reasonable minds can differ. Not everybody has to see the same thing the same way. It doesn’t mean one person is wrong or right but ultimately you need to make a decision, and as town justice for 21 years I’ve made a lot of decisions but first you need the facts to make a decision. I am hoping town residents recognize a steady hand and someone who has been compassionate in meting out justice in the town.”
Mateja currently works for the state Office for the Aging and used to work in the town’s Planning and Economic Development Planning Department. She is also heavily involved with the South Colonie Parent Teacher Association, the Booster Club and organizes the Morning of Kindness — where on Christmas Eve as many as 1,000 volunteers heads out to make donations to the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society, visits to the Albany County Nursing Home and other organizations.
Neither Crummey nor Mateja would comment on their opponent.