PLATTSBURGH — After more than a dozen years with Jimmy Langley at the helm, the Clinton County Legislature will see a new leader in 2014.
Legislator Sam Dyer (D-Area 3, Beekmantown) is set to take over the chairmanship when the new legislature convenes on Jan. 2.
“I am looking forward to the challenge,” Dyer said recently. “The county has been in good hands, and we want to keep it going that way.”
Langley (R-Area, Peru) became chairman in 2001, one year after joining the legislature. With two years remaining on his most recent four-year term, he recently decided to step down as chairman.
During his time as chair, the legislature was perceived to have transformed from a division between Republicans and Democrats, with most votes following party lines, to a nonpartisan entity.
Langley was largely credited with breaking that mold and encouraged all legislators to work together, no matter what party they belonged to. One of the first moves he made was to sit legislators around the table randomly instead of having all the Democrats on one side and all the Republicans on the other.
Republicans have held the majority on the legislature since Langley has been chairman, but all legislators voted independently.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had a party-line vote,” said Legislator Sara Rowden (D-Area 4, Town of Plattsburgh), who has served with Langley from 2001 until this year.
Langley said the legislature embraced his idea of non-partisanship, which is what made it work well.
“I think the best accomplishment was that we got along so well,” he said.
‘LISTENED AND LEARNED’
Democrats took a 7-to-3 majority in the November election, and Dyer, who was elected in 2011, stepped up to take the job once Langley made it known that he was bowing out.
“Jimmy did a super job, and the county has been in good hands with him, but I think I am ready, and I think the county is in very good shape,” Dyer said.
“We have a lot of good people in key places, and I think things will continue to work out. I’ve listened and learned a lot the last two years. I think the county is ready for some new blood.”
Flushed with a burgeoning sales-tax stash, the county recently approved the 2014 budget, which increased the tax levy just 0.8 percent, well below the state tax cap.
The county’s financial success stands out, as neighboring Essex and Franklin counties were recently forced to override the tax cap in order to meet their budget pictures.
Dyer said he will continue Langley’s vision of bipartisanship.
“We are not going to go back to the old ways,” he said. “I don’t care if you have a D or an R next to your name, as long as you can do the job.”
Langley said he will be happy to serve as a reference for Dyer, but it will be up to the new chairman to carve his own path.
“Ultimately, he and the new members will have to make their own decisions,” Langley said.
“I hope things continue the way they are and things work out fine, and I have no reason to think otherwise.”
Colin Read (D-Area 4, Town of Plattsburgh), Patty Waldron (D-Area 6, Saranac) and Robert Hall (D-Area 10, City of Plattsburgh) will be joining the legislature in 2014, replacing Rowden, Robert Butler and Robert Heins, respectively.
Dyer said one area he would like to focus on is the expansion of Plattsburgh International Airport. The legislature agreed earlier this year to undertake a $54.93 million expansion of the terminal on the flight line of the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base.
“I’d really like to see the airport take off and fly,” he said.
“With the money we appropriated, we have an opportunity to do some great things.”
The legislature will name the chairs for each of the 10 committees at the organizational meeting on Jan. 2.
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