ELIZABETHTOWN - Jay Supervisor Randy Douglas became the first Democrat in 31 years to lead the Essex County Board of Supervisors when he was unanimously elected as board chair at the body's 2010 organizational meeting Jan. 4.
Douglas was one of several officials sworn in that day, including newly elected District Attorney Kristy Sprague, re-elected Sheriff Henry Hommes, and four newly elected town supervisors.
"I'm proud to have the privilege of being only the second supervisor from the town of Jay to hold this position," Douglas said.
The Douglas family has a long history of holding elected office in Jay. Douglas' father, Thomas A. Douglas, served as Jay supervisor from 1972-80 and from 1998-2000. His grandfather, Arthur J. Douglas, served as Jay supervisor from 1966-72. All were Democrats. Douglas said he looks forward to continuing their legacy.
"I am proud of my roots. I'm proud to be a Democrat, but most of all, I'm proud to have been given the communication skills of my father to be able to reach across party lines," he said.
In his introductory address, Douglas outlined some difficult choices county officials will have to make in an economic recession that continues to take its toll on state and local government.
"This next year will be difficult," said Douglas, "and if we want to continue without cutting services or jobs, we're all going to have to be a little more innovative."
Douglas mentioned utilizing a frozen meal program avaialable through the state to reduce costs at the county jail and nursing home.
"Another idea to be investigated is the possibility of the county going green," said Douglas, noting a desire to reduce duplicative paperwork between departments and explore the use of solar energy panels.
Douglas said he also plans to institute a new Deficit Reduction committee at the county that will work closely with the existing committees to reduce debt and lobby against state mandates.
In addition, a special task force will be formed to determine the future of the county-run Horace Nye Nursing Home. Douglas called the program's current $4 million annual shortall unsustainable and said it may need to be reconfigured or privatized to reduce its draining effect.
Other priorities he mentioned were hiring someone to fill the recently vacated position of Public Health Director, as well as find ways to share the cost of a $10 million emergency services radio project that's currently under way.
"Essex County residents can be assured that deficit reduction is on the horizon," Douglas said. "The state of the county is good, but we can strive to make it better."