QUEENSBURY — When town Councilman George Ferone began his run for office, he had every reason to expect he would be among the majority on a board controlled by Republicans.
But a day after he was sworn in, Democrats swept the board, winning every seat but his. Now he is preparing to govern in a very different set of circumstances.
He has started by inviting each winning Democrat out for coffee, while saying publicly that the new board will be brimming with useful skills.
New Ward 2 Councilwoman Catherine Atherden worked in information technology for her entire career, “which is great for the board,” Ferone said. New Ward 4 Councilwoman Jennifer Switzer specializes in finance, also a needed skill, he said.
“And my background has been in general business and administration,” he said. “That’s three different attributes that will help Supervisor (John) Strough in running the town. The board-to-be is very diverse.”
He didn’t mention longtime Ward 1 Councilman Tony Metivier. It was his candidacy — against the candidacy of the man endorsed by the Republicans — that led to the Republicans’ downfall. Republican leaders wanted desperately to punish Metivier for one vote in 2015, but their effort to get him out of office backfired when they knowingly ran a man who would not serve if elected. They intended to replace him with someone else after he won.
Metivier ended up being endorsed by the Democrats and also won a primary to get the Republican line. He is now caucusing with the Democrats.
Ferone acknowledged his party’s animosity toward Metivier, but said he won’t continue it.
“You can agree to disagree, that’s fine,” he said. “There’s no need to make things personal.”
He plans to collaborate with the rest of the board, setting aside party politics as irrelevant in actually getting work done for the town.
“I’m here to represent the people of the town of Queensbury, Ward 3,” he said. “Try to control costs, try to hold taxes down.”
He was not pleased when his predecessor, Ward 3 Councilman Doug Irish, refused to resign after moving out of state to take a job in North Carolina. He even asked Strough if they could create a rule or law to prevent such a thing from happening again. The answer was no.
“There was nothing we could do,” he said.
Moving forward, he faces his first controversy later this month, when the Town Board begins interviewing law firms that responded to a request for proposals. Strough asked for proposals after John Aspland, a principal at the town’s current law firm, opined in writing in favor of the plan to run an unwilling candidate against Metivier.
Strough had previously objected to the fact that Aspland and other members of his law firm are also members of the Warren County Republican Committee. He said town attorneys should not get involved in partisan politics, since they must represent everyone.
Ferone did not object to the request for proposals, but said he supports keeping the law firm.
“It seems the current law firm has been successful,” he said.
He doesn’t have a problem with attorneys taking leadership roles in political parties.
“It seems to be a cultural thing. Some do it, some don’t,” he said. “I would hope, as attorneys, they could walk a fine line. I’m confident they could do that.”
On a more mundane issue that directly affects his constituents, he’s worked with Strough to find a compromise on the loud whistle at Queensbury Central Fire Department. In the upcoming budget for the department, the town might pay for a digital siren that would not be as noisy, he said.
He also took a tour of the rusted-out building that houses the highway department’s equipment. Strough and other officials want to spend $3.6 million or more to replace the building. Ferone is on board with that, noting that the town parks vehicles worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in the old building. It can’t be effectively heated and there are many leaks.
“It doesn’t make sense to keep them sitting in the elements,” he said.
In the election, he ran unopposed and received 1,407 votes. But 576 voters chose no one, refusing to vote for him. He has those numbers memorized.
“I want to serve the town to prove to those folks who voted for me that they picked the best person for the job,” he said. “And for those 500 who did not vote for me, to convince them to vote for me the next time around.”