ELIZABETHTOWN - With Monday's unanimous reappointment of Essex County Board of Supervisors Chairman Randy Douglas, offi cials say the board has entered a new era of bipartisanship.
When the Jay Democrat ascended to the county's top post in 2010, he shattered three decades of Republican control of the county Board of Supervisors.
Longtime St. Armand Supervisor Joyce Morency, a Republican, said under Douglas's leadership, long-standing partisan divides have fallen by the wayside.
"When I helped support Randy Douglas in 2010, it started then - everybody started working together. It was a goal of this board," she said. "I think we have proven we can do it. Because of Randy and his personality and everyone else on this board, we are finally bipartisan."
Democrats and Independents have made a dent in the GOP's majority on the Essex County board, but Republicans are still the norm.
Last year, controversial decisions like the future of the Horace Nye Nursing Home and the county fish hatchery did not see a partisan divide. Arguments about divisive issues have instead been based on the concerns of individual supervisors.
Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward - who chaired the Essex County board prior to her election to the state Legislature - pointed to a recent shift in county politics.
"I like to think I had a hand in changing things because when I was chairman of this board, it was the first time ever a Republican chair appointed a Democrat to chair anything," she said. "I appointed Jerry Morrow to chair the jail committee and he did a terrific job."
In 2010, Douglas's bid for the top county seat was challenged by vocal Moriah Republican Tom Scozzafava. But, after a year of lobbying together in Albany to save the Moriah Shock Incarceration Facility, funding for the state Olympic Regional Development Authority and mitigating the closing of the Crown Point Bridge, Scozzafava has become Douglas's biggest supporter.
"He handled the day-to-day job of running his town and also the many responsibilities that chairman of this board brings," Scozzafava said. "I have served on this board for over two decades and I can honestly say our current chairman is the hardest working I've ever served under. He listens and reads everything that anyone sends him."
For his part, Douglas said the partisan shift is less about him and more about the region's changing political landscape and the constant competition for finite resources with other counties in the state.
"I would say when I first came on it was more Republican versus Democrat and then once we got a couple independents elected, people started looking outside the box in order to get things done," Douglas said. "I think we have to be bipartisan and work as a group. Partisanship isn't helpful to anybody."
North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi also received unanimous backing and will continue to serve as county vice chair.