ALBANY — With qualifying for three seats on the Albany City Commission less than a month away, two of the three incumbents on the board say they definitely will seek re-election, while a third says he’s still mulling over re-election scenarios.
Ward V Commissioner Bob Langstaff, the second-longest-serving local elected official with slightly less than 20 full years under his belt, and Ward III’s B.J. Fletcher, who’s closing out her second four-year term, both plan to seek another four years on the board. The holder of the third seat, Ward II’s Matt Fuller, said he’s still looking at how a second term would impact his family and his business.
Langstaff, an attorney, said he’s “heard rumblings” that a challenger for his seat might be lurking, but that, he noted, has no impact on his decision to seek a sixth term on the board.
“I still haven’t really talked it over with (his wife), so she might brain me, but I’ve decided there are still things I’d like to see us accomplish (on the commission),” Langstaff said. “You hear rumblings about someone wanting to jump into the race, but nothing’s official until you sign on the dotted line.”
Fletcher said that she will “vehemently defend” her seat after learning that some in the community, spearheaded by Ward VI Commissioner Demetrius Young, are actively encouraging a challenger to run against the businesswoman.
“All I can say to that group is to bring it,” Fletcher said. “Frankly, I don’t listen to them. I listen to the people from throughout this ward who are urging me to run again. They know I have their best interest at heart, and they know I’m accessible. I told you when I first took office that it takes around eight years to really get the lay of the land on the commission, to figure how things work. I’m at that point now, and I understand the process.”
Fletcher said she wants to see the commission continue to work on “issues below the ground,” referencing infrastructure issues that are dogging the city. Projected costs to alleviate those issues will run in the tens of millions of dollars, and Fletcher said it’s imperative that the commission not “continue to kick this thing down the road,” as has happened over several decades of patchwork on the city’s antiquated sewer system.
Fletcher also said another key issue has piqued her interest.
“One of the things that I really want to lead the way on is finding a way to stop people 65 or 70 and older from having to pay school taxes,” she said. “I’ve heard from a lot of people in the ward and across the city who’ve asked me to look into that, and it’s something I think is worth pursuing.
“I think we have to, overall, update our policy so that it makes more sense to today’s issues. I think what we’ll eventually be held accountable for is if we took this opportunity to think and plan smarter as we address the issues that matter to our constituents.”
Fuller, who is completing his first term in office, said he’s thinking deeply about his family and his business as he contemplates another run for office.
“When I ran four years ago, my son was 1,” he said. “Now he’s 5. There’s a big difference, as there is with my entire family. I also have some different business possibilities that I wasn’t dealing with four years ago.
“I’m really going to sit down and think about this a lot, think about how my decision will impact the other important factors of my life. I’ll do a lot of soul-searching in the next two weeks.”
Qualifying for the three commission seats is scheduled the week of Aug. 16-20.
And while Langstaff says he’s only heard rumblings of possible challengers for his seat, early speculation in the Ward II and Ward III races has Bobby Coleman, whom Fuller defeated in a runoff to claim the Ward II election four years ago, and Brenda Battle planning to run in Ward II, and current Dougherty NAACP President Amna Farooqi challenging Fletcher in Ward IV.