There will at least be one new face on the Saratoga Springs city council next year. WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports a three-term commissioner is stepping down and has already chosen who he’d like to see replace him.
Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen has spent the last five-and-a-half years at city hall. At a gathering of fellow Democrats Thursday afternoon, the commissioner announced his upcoming departure.
“I do believe in turnover. I do believe it’s a good idea to see new faces on the city council. So I do think this is a a good opportunity for me to decide to hang up my political hat for a while and some day I may run for something else again but…in the meantime I think there are some great choices year,” said Mathiesen.
Mathiesen did not have to look far for a Democrat he’d like to see succeed him on the council, which his party controls 4 to 1. In Saratoga Springs, each department head also has a seat on the five-member city council, including the mayor.
His retirement announcement came just prior to his endorsement of county supervisor Peter Martin to take his place.
“And so on December 31st at midnight I will turn the keys to the Public Safety department limo to Peter Martin,” he said to laughter and applause.
“Chris, thank you very much, I really appreciate it,” said Martin.
Martin has served as one of two county supervisors, along with Republican Matthew Veitch, after winning election 2013. Earlier that year he was appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo to fill a vacancy as Saratoga County Clerk after the departure of Republican Kathy Marchione, who was elected to the state Senate from the 43rd District.
Martin mentioned the Democratic governor, saying he supports Cuomo’s plan to continue to look for ways to share services between the city and county to save money. The governor incentivized the strategy by including in his budget proposal local aid to communities that find ways to consolidate.
“It’s the only way I think that we can proceed without burying our citizens in taxes. And I’m going to look for opportunities throughout the city to do that,” said Martin.
Supporting the Public Safety department is a large portion of the city budget and currently includes 62 members of the city fire department and 68 police employees.
Martin said he’d like to fill vacancies and increase staffing to decrease costly overtime pay. He’d also work to continue Mathiesen’s long-standing effort to establish an emergency response facility on the city’s east side.
Adding that public safety is more than police and fire, Martin said he would support efforts to make the city more walkable and bikeable to improve public health.
But there is some uncertainty facing the city council as an entity in itself. In November, Saratogians will again vote on a new city charter. Although a full document has not yet been revealed, the Saratoga Springs Charter Commission has announced its support for a new city manager style of government.
Martin said he would seek to lead the Public Safety department regardless.
“I’m willing to serve either way. And I certainly would love to see when the charter comes out. I’m expecting it’ll be soon,” said Martin.
Finishing up business at the county, Martin said he would like to see the creation of a county public safety building in Ballston Spa, one that also may be a benefit to the city. He also plans to knock on plenty of doors between now and November.
Meanwhile, the Saratoga Springs Republican Committee is putting its support behind a run of Donald Braim, a former city police investigator and a retired Senior Vice President of Gaming Operations at Saratoga Casino Hotel, says GOP committee chair Matt Hogan.
“We feel he would be the excellent candidate for Public Safety with his background in law enforcement and his ability to negotiate contracts, which he did often at the harness track,” said Hogan.
An official campaign announcement has not yet come from Braim.