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Possible nominees emerge for Montgomery County board, discussions on appointing successor begin as Ossenfort’s resignation looms | the recorder

“Matt has done a tremendous job during his tenure,” Brian Sweet, chairman of the Montgomery County Legislature, said Friday. “We’re kind of in uncharted waters, so we’re going to have to figure out what’s going to happen next.”

On Thursday, Ossenfort announced that he will leave office on April 30 for a position at global insurance company Arthur J. Gallagher. He will become vice president in the Albany region and will focus on insurance for public entities and non-profit organizations.

Ossenfort, a Republican, became the province’s first administrator in 2014 and was re-elected twice. Facing a three-term limit, the 42-year-old began looking for his next career opportunity before his final four-year term expires at the end of 2025.

Well-meaning officials lamented Ossenfort’s impending departure but said he fostered an atmosphere of teamwork and organized an experienced staff that is well prepared to move the province forward after he leaves office.

“When he is excited and happy, I will always have his back and support these decisions,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Matthew Beck, who first met Ossenfort as his lacrosse coach.

The vacancy will initially be filled by the department head designated by the county executive to act in his absence until the Legislature appoints a qualified candidate to the role for this year. The remaining unexpired one-year term will be filled during the next election in November.

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Ossenfort had previously appointed Beck as his acting provincial administrator. Beck said he is willing to perform the duties for as long as necessary.

“I have no idea how long that could be. I fully support whatever decision the (legislature) makes,” Beck said.

Ossenfort has yet to submit his formal letter of resignation. He expects to do that sometime before the next parliament meeting on Tuesday at 6 p.m

Even then, Sweet said lawmakers cannot appoint a new county executive until after Ossenfort leaves office. He said officials have not yet begun discussing potential candidates and he expects a special meeting will be called at the appropriate time to do so.

“It’s something we have to decide as a whole. That’s where the discussion should take place, in the meeting,” Sweet said. “It will have to be someone who can start on day one.”

The timing of a potential appointment and their knowledge of provincial operations are crucial for Sweet as budget season approaches. The chairman had hoped to start the process in June, a month earlier than usual.

“Budget season is always coming at us and we always know when it’s coming, but it seems like we’re always behind the eight ball. I wanted to start earlier and go deeper into it,” Sweet said. “To save where we can… and just do the best we can for our constituents.”

Nevertheless, Sweet is confident that there are suitable candidates for appointment. He indicated that someone other than Beck should be selected because of his current responsibilities in leading DSS and preparing to move more staff to the renovated Health and Human Services building in Amsterdam.

“He’s doing a great job here, he’s really turned that department around, we’re very happy with the way he’s handling things,” Sweet said of Beck. ‘I don’t understand how anyone could expect him to do his job and that of the manager together. That doesn’t seem like something that would be good for the province.”

Although he leaves the decision up to legislators, Beck is confident he can fulfill the dual roles and additional work throughout the year thanks to the skilled team of district staff.

“If they decide to appoint someone else, there will be no hard feelings. If they want me to try to run the county, then I will,” Beck said. “Even if it’s just for a day, I’m going to do what Matt did: I’ll let the department heads run their departments and if something comes up, we’ll tackle it as a team.”

POTENTIAL NOMINEES

Since the petition period ends by the time Ossenfort leaves office, political party committees will nominate candidates to appear on the ballot for his unexpired one-year term in November.

Although the nomination process will only formally start after Ossenfort has actually submitted his resignation, a potential Democratic candidate and two possible Republican candidates have come forward.

Terry Bieniek, chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Party, said preliminary discussions focused on District 9 Legislator Robert Purtell. He is not aware of any other possible candidates at this time.

“He seems quite interested in it, so we will put our support behind him,” Bieniek said. “I think he’s ready to take over the reins.” I think he would bring a level-headedness to the position and I think he would be an excellent candidate.”

Purtell said Ossenfort’s departure will leave a void in the province and expressed interest in furthering the progress made in the province under the leadership of the outgoing provincial executive. Purtell has been a lawmaker since 2014 and served as chair last year. He is active in various local organizations.

“I have an agenda to move Montgomery County forward and I believe my involvement in the county’s economic development and budget would move us forward,” Purtell said.

Brittany Kolbe, chairwoman of the Montgomery County Republican Party, said Pete Vroman and Ray Tylutki Jr. each have announced their intention to stand as candidates. She expects the party will hold a convention and begin the nomination process after the June primary, in accordance with state election law.

“It was a privilege to work with Matt. His natural leadership skills, combined with his vision of what Montgomery County is and can be, will make him an incredibly tough act to follow. He will certainly be missed, and I wish him continued success as he pursues new opportunities,” Kolbe, who is also the district secretary, said in an emailed response to a request for comment.

Vroman is the current supervisor of the municipality of Canajoharie. He was appointed by the city council in November to fill the vacant seat of former Supervisor Benny Goldstein. He is a retired U.S. Marshall and former Undersheriff of Montgomery County. He has served on various local boards.

“This is my home and I have always been interested in helping my community and doing what I could to do that,” Vroman said. “I think this is just a perfect extension of my entire career and I know I have a lot to offer Montgomery County.”

Tylutki, along with his wife and son, run Tylutki Family Farms in Palatine Bridge. He is a member of various agricultural boards and has been involved in the fire brigade and emergency services for over twenty years. He previously worked in the sales of municipal equipment.

“I love Montgomery County. I raise my family here, my wife and I run a small farm and I want to ensure that others have the opportunity to do the same in this beautiful area,” Tylutki said in a prepared statement. “I am motivated to improve this area for our residents. I have a vision to move Montgomery County forward and am excited about this opportunity.”

TRIPLE THE ELECTIONS

Due to this year’s race to fill the vacancy and a state law moving local elections to even years, Bieniek said the county executive’s office will be up for election three years in a row.

“It’s just the way it turned out,” said Bieniek, who is also a Democratic commissioner on the Montgomery County Board of Elections. “It’s quite unique.”

The state is moving city and county elections to even years to increase turnout by aligning these races with state and federal elections. The law set the timeline for shifting election years.

In 2025, Bieniek said the county executive’s office will be re-elected to a one-year term to get on the even-year schedule. In 2026, the office will be up for election for a full four-year term.

“At some point you will shorten a term because you are trying to achieve an equal year,” says Bieniek.

It is something that parties can take into account when considering possible nominees.

“That will be a factor,” Bieniek said. “You could make someone run three times, that’s quite something. It is certainly something that should not be taken lightly.”