Updated: January 01, 2020 07:14 PM
Created: January 01, 2020 06:53 PM
The city of Rensselaer has a new mayor. Republican Michael Stammel was officially sworn in to the city's top job on New Year's Day. Stammel is also chairman of the Rensselaer County Legislature and will continue in both roles.
Three other people took the oath of office - including City Court Judge Kathleen L. Robichaud for her sixth term - along with John DeFrancesco, who stepped into his new role as Common Council President in the city of Rensselaer and Bryan Leahey took over for DeFrancesco as 3rd Ward Alderperson.
Immediately after Mayor Stammel took the oath of office, and signed both the city and county books, he wished dozens in attendance well-wishes for the start of a new year, and told the crowd it was his honor and privilege to be standing in front of so many people he grew up with.
"I can promise you with this upcoming government, it will be transparent. There will be no secrets, everybody will know what is going on and a lot of people will stay on board. It wasn't my full objective, even though I said differently I was going to come in opening day and fire everyone. That is not the case. I'm more glad to have experience and people with experience and knowledge to move the city forward."
Mayor Stammel beat Democrat Richard Mooney in November. Mooney took over when Mayor Dan Dwyer died in 2018. Mayor Stammel vows to put the people first. "We need to do more. We have to do things in order to make the public feel we in government are working for them."
Stammel tells NewsChannel 13 he plans to do so by enhancing volunteerism, figuring out how the city lost 98-million gallons of water he says, "It's not like a leaky faucet. It's either accountability of meter readings or a big leak somewhere and I have to get to the bottom of that as well," Stammel reiterated.
Cutting emergency wait times is also a priority for Mayor Stammel.
"I want to get an ambulance back in the city. That's one of my biggest goals. I don't care if it is volunteer or career, but that is one of my big goals."
City finances are top of mind too. Stammel confirms he'll soon be calling on the NYS Office of the Comptroller. Stammel told NewsChannel 13, "To look into having an audit done of the city. It needs an audit. Some preliminary stuff I looked as is less than acceptable - especially when you don't get answers saying they don't know where this is or that is."
When asked for an example, Stammel described his quest to get more bond information from city officials prior to taking office.
"Some of the bonding information I'm not familiar with numbers either. That was one of the things I asked for and was told I had to FOIL, so where city finances stand with that is a concern," Stammel stated.
He told those in attendance, not only did he plan to complete the term of the late Mayor Dan Dwyer, but also "Maybe, and expect to continue on for another term after that," Stammel added.
Six term Rensselaer City Court Judge Kathleen L. Robichaud was sworn in to a sixth term and told the audience, "I never thought I'd have the honor of representing this city for the last 24 years. I'm so honored to have this job. I love my job every day I go to work, I'm a little scared of some of the bail reforms, but it is the law and I will live with it. As will all of you."
Shortly after Democrat Bryan Leahey was sworn in as 3rd Ward Alderperson, he added, "Now it's time to team up, do what's right for the city."
Democrat John DeFrancesco was sworn in as Rensselaer's Common Council President, stating, "I'd like to invite Mike to work with the Common Council, so that we can move this city further along with this team."
A tough transition according to Mayor Stammel who describes a lack of help from the Mooney administration.
The mayor sent a letter to past Mayor Richard Mooney in November and says he didn't hear back and received no help.
"I never heard from him, I sat five feet away from him at the Common Council meeting a few days ago, and he didn't speak to me at all. It is what it is. Department heads requested I FOIL information from them so that won't happen after today.
There's no sense knocking on the door if nobody is going to answer it."
By phone, Richard Mooney had no comment except to say the new mayor did have access to City Hall and department heads, also confirming there were some resignations and retirements in the city and "that's all that was."
Mayor Stammel reiterated his plan was for an open, transparent government and promoting volunteerism.
"One thing I want to do with public safety is getting volunteerism going again. Volunteerism is very important. For the last 20 years, administration at City Hall has ignored the volunteer fireman, ignored the volunteer ambulance, and they actually shut the volunteer ambulance down - which I was a member of 25 years as EMT. Those are concerns of mine. The public deserves to get quicker action. When it comes to transport, we're five minutes away from the hospital, so why are we waiting 30 minutes for an ambulance? Those are concerns of mine," Mayor Stammel stated.
Stammel says he has a solid transition team in place, and still has some vacancies to fill.
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