Glenville Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle will step down to run NYS Association of Towns
Glenville Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle says he will step down in May after nearly 15 years to become Executive Director of the New York State Association of Towns. The Republican announced the move in a social media post Monday, saying it was not an easy decision. He says he is ready to seek new challenges and is committed to a smooth transition. Koetzle served two years on the town board before becoming supervisor, which is now a full-time role, and is a longtime leader in Schenectady County GOP politics. He was last re-elected in 2021.
Well, you know, it was a difficult decision leaving the job that I found so much love and joy from over the years. Certainly a bittersweet decision, but I was presented an opportunity that was just really too good to turn down. And I was offered the executive director position at the Association of Towns. And that's just I think a perfect alignment with my experiences, my talent, and it's the right decision, even though it's a difficult decision.
Does this mean you'll be leaving elected politics behind?
Yes. elected politics is something I think that will be in my in my rearview mirror.
In the job leading the Association of Towns, you'll be advocating for places like Glenville. What do you think your about 15 years of experience as town supervisor will bring to that role?
Yeah, you know, I think it's a great opportunity for myself and to bring my experience to a larger platform. Right now I work on behalf of one town, I'll be able to work on behalf of 933 towns going forward. And I think you know, just being intimately involved with the issues, especially as we interact, local government interacts, with the state. Having that experience, having that firsthand knowledge, feeling it, living it every day, I think is going to help me advocate even more effectively for towns across the entire state. You know, I think local government is the most important level of government, it's closest to the people and affects people in their daily lives. And the role we are able to play on the local government level is just critical to people. And you know, home rule is a perfect example of what we need to make sure we continue to protect going forward.
Looking back at the time you've been Glenville town supervisor, what do you see as your main accomplishments?
You know, that's so hard. Over 15 years. I sat down over this past weekend and just made a list and it's like two pages typed out. And there's just so much that we've accomplished. And so I think, you know, when you look back, what I'm mostly proud of is I was able to work with so many different people that came together to make things happen. You know, nothing happened because of me alone, it happened because we put good people together, we articulated a vision, we made sure that we all work together towards the same goal. And because of that, we're able to do things like create Oktoberfest, which is a huge community festival here in town, we're able to revitalize our commercial corridors, we're able to build our parks up, there's so many things to look around and just be proud of. But it's really the people that I was able to work with and the people that really made things happen over the past 15 years that I'm proud of.
So the job has also changed. It was not a full-time position, now it is. How will the replacement process work when you step down at the end of April?
So the deputy supervisor acts as a supervisor until the town board appoints a supervisor. If this town board does, which will be a 2-2 Democrat to Republican board. If they do find somebody and they appoint, that person will have to run in November 2024 for a special and then November 2025 for the full term. And so that person has kind of a daunting challenge ahead of them to run two elections in two years. But I anticipate Sid Ramotar, my deputy, I think he's prepared to step in. And why I wanted to announce so early was to really give time for a transition plan in place and try to work with somebody as close as possible and make sure that the town's in the best position as possible.
What remains on your to-do list between now and May 1?
We have a lot to do. As every year has been, we have a very aggressive agenda ahead of us. We've got all the pedestrian paths that we're building on Freemans Bridge Road, we have a Taco Bell coming in, we have Legacy Park, which is in the process of getting built now. And I'm hoping to complete that before Memorial Day, which would coincide with me just about leaving. And that would be great if I can get that done before I leave. The town hall, a new town hall is unstarted at this point. And so we'll see where that goes with the new board. But those are kind of the things that we were looking at in early 2024.
Has anybody tried to talk you out of leaving the post?
You know, there was a lot of disappointment, I must say, and it saddens me greatly. I know some of the employees kind of took it hard. Many people were were surprised and upset. And but I think everybody accepts the fact that this is such a great opportunity for me and my family. And the time is right. But yeah, I don't think there’s any talking me out of it at this point.
I want to ask you a bit about Republican politics. What's been your secret to being reelected so many times in an area where Democrats are also pretty well entrenched. You're Republican, you're running town-wide. How has that worked in your favor?
Well, I think when people see that what you have in your heart is the best interest of the town and not politics…I've never approached this job as being political. And I've always said that to our board members. I look at more of a business, you know, we run a $20 million business delivering services to 30,000 people and working on behalf of 100 employees. This is our job, this is what we need to do. And politics doesn't play a role in that. And I think people have appreciated that over the years. I've always been accessible to all I've worked on behalf of all and always put the best interests of the town first, I think that became apparent to people and obviously got a ton of crossover votes. I can't win, you know, at those margins that we've had over the years without crossover votes. And I think just being genuine about, you know, putting Glenville first has helped with the relationship between me and me and the other party.
Not in Glenville, but in other local races that we just covered earlier this month, there were many candidates who ran with Republican backing, but were very clear to point out that they're actually registered Democrats, you know, people in places like Kingston and Saratoga Springs made that distinction. And it made me think if upstate Republicans fear the tarnishing of the brand by what's gone on lately, with, you know, former President Trump's travails and the chaos in the Congress with the House majority. What do you think about that?
Well, I'm not familiar with races outside of the county, to be honest with you. But, you know, I do think that the party in general is in transition, I think it's searching for its identity. I think that that happens to larger organizations like the Democrat and Republican Parties. Ebbs and flows through the years. And I think they're just waiting for a leader on the state level and the federal level that can come in and really provide that identity as to what the party is all about. I think the party has to as a whole start talking about those things that unite Republicans, and not so much the things that divide Republicans, and I think there we’ll find more success.
What kind of relationship, if any, do you have with people like Governor Hochul, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins? Because in your new role, you'll be dealing with them, I assume.
Yeah, absolutely. I haven't actually met or spoken with any of those folks that you mentioned, but I do have a history of working across the aisle, from the local level up to the state level, you know, Senator Breslin, is my senator here in the town and we work very well with his office. He's worked hard on our behalf. And I work well with Congressman Tonko, work well with the county Democrats here, despite, you know what some people tried to portray. But generally speaking, I'm very comfortable working with folks across the aisle. Again, I think with everybody having the right intentions in mind, as long as we're doing what's best for New York state towns, I'm going to work with whoever I need to.
We hear a lot about ‘unfunded mandates’ from New York state government on localities. What do you see as the greatest challenges that do face towns as you prepare for the new position?
Well, you know, the first is what I've always seen as an erosion of home rule, that communities be able to determine what's best for themselves. We have that as a constitutional right in the state of New York. But there has been I call attacks, you know, erosion of home rule over the years by a variety of governors started with Cuomo, really. And I think that's the number one issue, is making sure we preserve home rule, respect home rule. Number two, is support for the town's from the state in form of, you know, aids to municipalities, CHIPS money, which we use to invest in roads and making sure that our roads are up to standards. And I think we need more help from the state in infrastructure investments like sewers and water lines across the state; many towns are struggling with how do we build a community when we don't have that infrastructure in place, and it's so expensive today, the local property owner can't handle that themselves. So you know, I think it really those are the key issues that we're looking at right now in the state and making sure that we're protecting home rule and that we're getting the resources we need and that the communities continue to grow and flourish in upstate New York.
You're not originally from Glenville. So what is one thing that you discovered about the town when you started living here and representing it that you'll take with you when you move on from the supervisor’s post?
It's always about people, right? I mean, it's just amazing the amount of people who I've met who have touched me and who have supported me and accepted me and we have just wonderful people. And I think going through the pandemic, as difficult as that was, and really, nobody's ever prepared for that. But working with so many of our residents through that, I'll never forget that and, you know, obviously in elected office, you have to deal with the people; there's a lot of small-minded people out there and they tend to flock to Facebook for some reason, but there's also a lot of really great people. And I'll always take that with me, that the folks in Glenville accepted me as an outsider and they gave me an opportunity and I think it was a great relationship.