ALBANY — While tending to the day-to-day functions of the city of Albany’s government is primarily, by charter, the duty of the city manager, there is no shortage of people in the community who believe the person sitting in the mayor’s office wields unlimited power.
That fact has kept people who hold the mayor’s office — especially current Mayor Dorothy Hubbard — inordinately busy, as their counsel and influence are sought by any number of residents or citizen groups.
Still, the fact that, except in special circumstances, the mayor serves as, essentially, a seventh commissioner elected by voters in all six wards of the city does little to deter interest in holding the seat.
The list of candidates wanting to unseat Hubbard — who acknowledges that she misses out on a lot of time with family members because she actually cares about the job and tries to meet all the requests she’s inundated with — started growing before the calendar even turned over on the new year. Former Albany City Commissioner Henry Mathis, who wanted to challenge Hubbard for her seat four years ago but found out from the state Board of Pardons and Parole that he was not eligible to do so due to the time element associated with his felony extortion conviction, made it clear that he would indeed challenge for the mayor’s seat, this time assuring all that his rights had been fully restored.
(A call this week to the state Board of Pardons and Parole yielded no information on Mathis’ current citizenship status, although some have suggested he is not legally eligible to hold the office. Mathis assures supporters that he is.)
Next in line to announce his intentions to seek the mayor’s seat was businessman Omar Salaam, who has served on the Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority and is a regular at government meetings, followed by trucker Quincy Smith and, most recently, county Republican Party Chairman Tracy Taylor.
There are rumblings, though, that the list may grow longer yet. Two other potential candidates, Albany State University professor and doctoral student James Pratt Jr. and attorney/former Albany City Commissioner Bo Dorough, have earned a growing amount of street committee support as the week of qualifying approaches.
Dorough, who left his seat on the commission to mount an unsuccessful challenge of Willie Adams, Albany’s first African-American mayor, expressed an interest in tossing his hat in the mayoral ring earlier in the year, but family issues forced him to focus his energy elsewhere. Still, as recently as two weeks ago Dorough hinted that he might still be considering a run for the office.
Pratt, an Albany native who came home from the University of California-Irvine to conduct research for his dissertation on crime and violence in Albany and is teaching Criminal Justice classes at Albany State, found himself drawn into the local political arena when he started attending local government meetings. As he spoke both rationally and eloquently with city officials, he began to draw a following. Now, many in the community have encouraged him to seek the mayor’s office.
“I will say at this time that people have approached me about running, and I am considering it,” Pratt said. “I’ll firm up my decision over the next few days and make a decision then.”
Decision time, of course, is pretty much at hand for any who want to challenge Hubbard for her seat or to take on Commissioners Jon Howard (Ward I), Roger Marietta (Ward IV) and Tommie Postell (Ward VI), whose seats are also up for election. Health issues are expected to keep Postell from seeking another term, but both Marietta and Howard have said they intend to qualify for re-election.
Qualifying for the nonpartisan races will be conducted this week in the county elections office.