QUEENSBURY - Brand-new Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Dan Stec stood up from a seat in the board room he'd occupied for only 20 minutes, and he took a deep breath and smiled.
Minutes earlier, he'd stood in front of county officials, his beefy hand planted atop his family Bible, reciting an oath of office. He'd just heard praises for his character aired by both his peers and state Sen. Betty Little, who took time off from her Albany duties to witness his installation as county chief.
Stec had just voiced his first-ever speech as a county official. This State of the County speech was full of warnings, calling for local vigilance in the face of the state's double-barreled threat of slashed reimbursements and increased costly mandates.
Stec exhaled and offered his thoughts about the county supervisors' upcoming mission.
"We need to rely on ourselves, control what we can control, and keep our nose to the grindstone," he said.
Earlier in his speech, Stec warned of slow or absent reimbursements from the state for mandated programs.
"The state is facing budgetary issues of truly historic proportions," he said, advising his fellow supervisors to keep trimming away at expenses and aim for a zero-percent increase in the 2011 county budget.
"The top priority for 2011 must be to continue to keep the pressure on in fighting our budget issues," he said.
Stec blasted the state for its laws and policies that force the county to pay a heavy price for questionable programs and policies, while local businesses and municipalities, he said, face "crushing" regulation and restrictions.
"These have had a devastating effect of the upstate counties for years, and despite repeated pleas to abandon failed policies, they continue."
Stec said that determining a future for county railroad was a top priority for 2011. The county is now negotiating with a new railway operator that has pledged to offer upscale tourist excursion trains, as well as develop robust freight traffic at a low cost that will brighten the prospects of businesses in the lower Adirondacks.
"We'll likely be bringing new economic development opportunities to the area," he said of the proposed venture.
Stec praised outgoing county board chairman Fred Monroe for his diplomacy. He hailed county Administrator Paul Dusek - a Warrensburg native - for his work at reducing the size of government and boosting accountability. Stec also praised Warrensburg Supervisor Kevin Geraghty for his expense-cutting as county Budget Officer.
The 2010 county budget reflected the lowest increase in 15 years, Stec noted, despite ever-increasing expenses and a decrease in revenues and state reimbursements totalling about $3.25 million for 2010, Stec noted.
In taking his new post, Stec was formally introduced to the board, which gave him a standing ovation, by Queensbury Supervisor-at-large Matt Sokol. He noted Stec's financial conservatism, which included presiding as Queensbury Supervisor for nine years without levying a general fund town property tax.
"Dan will do a tremendous job," Sokol predicted. "He'll continue to save taxpayers' money while maintaining the services the county offers and preserving the quality of life we all enjoy."