Editor’s Note: This is the fourth installment in a series of articles about the candidates seeking office in the city of Albany’s Nov. 5 municipal election.
ALBANY — You have to know Roger Marietta to appreciate some of the things he says. The Albany State University professor and Ward IV Albany City Commissioner is quick to laugh or to poke fun at himself and some of the issues that spring up with the commission.
But, Marietta notes, “There’s usually at least some — often a lot — of truth in humor.”
Marietta may joke about “the three women who run Albany: Mayor (Dorothy) Hubbard, (City Manager) Ms. (Sharon) Subadan and (fellow commissioner) B.J. Fletcher,” but he admits that there’s an element of commonsense in his comment.
“We have a commission that works well together, but for us guys, the sooner we realize that these strong women are in charge, the quicker we can get things done,” Marietta says and adds his trademark chuckle. But then, after he talks about Hubbard’s vision, Subadan’s penchant for bringing about change and “always wanting to be on the same team” as Fletcher, he notes that the commission has been able to bring about more infrastructure upgrades than at any other time in recent city history.
“This is not a group that kicks things down the road,” the history professor says. “A lot of stuff was just passed over in the past out of ignorance of the implications. This board, I think, gets it. And we get it because we’ve all been through all these storms together, four presidentially-declared disasters in three years.”
That’s why, the Ward IV incumbent says, he’s working his re-election campaign around the theme “Preparing for the Next Storm.”
“Look, this is not political, but global warming is impacting us, and it should be on everyone’s minds,” Marietta said. “I think a lot of people have always said after some kind of devastating weather event, ‘It won’t happen to us again.’ Anyone who’s lived in Albany the last few years knows now that is just not true.
“That’s why I think the infrastructure improvements we’ve approved over the past few years — alleys, sewers, utilities, sidewalks, lighting, street repairs — have us better prepared to face the next storm.”
Marietta faces a familiar foe for his Ward IV seat: businessman Chad Warbington. Warbington, who has served on a number of city-appointed boards, challenged the incumbent for the same seat four years ago. He’s stirred up Marietta supporters a great deal by referring to his opponent as a “career politician.”
“Chad or anyone else can call me a career public servant, but not a career politician,” Marietta said. “I was a Navy officer for six years and an Army planner for five more, and I’m in my 28th year of teaching (at Darton College, which was unified with Albany State University by the state Board of Regents two years ago). That’s around 12 years of serving the federal government in the Navy and Army and 28 years as a state employee in the University System.
“I won’t get into a political mud-slinging match with Chad — I kind of did that four years ago when he made false claims about my commission expense account — because I’ve learned — this is my 10th political campaign — that people do that when they know they’re behind. I will say that his idea of privatizing specific neighborhoods, like the one he lives in, won’t work because it would add significant yearly maintenance fees to every homeowner in that neighborhood. Plus roads must be kept open for students who attend public schools in the area.”
Marietta noted that jobs are available in the community, and filling those jobs would cut into the recent violent crime surge that the city’s seen.
“We’re kind of running out of excuses when we keep saying that there are no jobs for our young people and that leads them to a life of crime,” he said. “But Albany Tech has some specific programs that will put people in jobs right away. What we have to do is take away the allure of gangs. And that’s something we’ve had success with lately, working with GBI and FBI task forces to put away about 100 (gang members) in our community.”
Marietta laughs that laugh as he talks about the “glamour” of serving on the commission.
“I have to laugh,” he said. “Three weeks before, a lady called about a dead fox in her yard. It was on the weekend, and I couldn’t tell her that Public Works would pick it up on Monday. She didn’t want to hear that, and she didn’t want a dead animal decomposing in her yard all weekend. So I got some gloves and trash bags and picked it up.
“Same thing happened in the Winterwood neighborhood where a car hit a deer. The police put the animal out of its misery, and I dragged the deer to the edge of someone’s yard. But I knew no one wanted a six-point buck laying in their yard, so I went out early the next morning, loaded it on my truck and hauled it off.”
The professor shares other similar stories, and it’s clear that he’s not one of those politicians afraid to get his hands dirty. In fact, he admits to being “a little OCD” about litter, which he picks up frequently in his northwest Albany neighborhood.
“I’m asked often, ‘Why would anybody want to be a city commissioner?’” Marietta says. “But I think you have to have a servant’s heart to do this for any period of time. I feel like we’ve helped make some improvements in Albany that have us moving in the right direction. That’s why you become a city commissioner, to help make your community better.”