Guilderland’s Feeney, new majority leader of county legislature, hopes to unify

Dennis Feeney

GUILDERLAND — Dennis Feeney, a Democrat representing part of Guilderland, was elected majority leader of the Albany County Legislature last Thursday, following the resignation of Gary Domalewicz, who had been in the position for just three months.

Domalewicz had replaced Frank Commisso Sr., who had served as majority leader for 25 years, and who stepped down amid unrest in the Democratic caucus.

Feeney, a lawyer, hopes to restore unity. “It’s been a tough few months, contentious in a lot of ways,” he said, “but I’m hoping we can start to put aside some of our differences and start working toward the overall good of the county in general.”

He continued, “I get along with everybody in the caucus and feel that will be helpful in bringing us together as a united caucus.”

“I think I’m a reasonable person. I have a personality that meshes with people pretty good,” he said. “I’m not trying to push an agenda. I try to be supportive of the members’ initiatives and be responsive to their concerns.”

As majority leader, his job is “support and promote Democrats, as much as Mr. Mauriello is supposed to do the same thing for Republicans,” said Feeney, referring to Frank Mauriello of colonie.

The 39-member legislature has 29 Democrats and 10 Republicans.

Feeney thinks that the number of Republicans recently appointed to head committees in the legislature might be “a little too much,” he said, “a little out of proportion for the amount of Republicans that are in the legislature.”

He understands, he said, that Chairman Andrew Joyce is “trying to make things a little more bipartisan.”

It isn’t up to Feeney alone, he said, as to whether he keeps things as they are. “The chairman obviously has a big part in that.”

Asked to rate the job that Domalewicz did before him, Feeney said it was probably impossible to make a judgment when someone had had just three months in a job.

Domalewicz did not return a call asking for comment.

Feeney thought Commisso had done a very good job, and cited a lot of accomplishments seen during his tenure, including, “the airport, the Times Union Center, all the new county court facilities that were built, the Land Bank being created, and the county Rail Trail.” Commisso had a “big part,” Feeney said, “in keeping the budget in line.” And the biodigester project was Commisso’s idea, he said.

He was referring to a $45 million biosolid waste facility that Albany County recently announced it is planning in an inter-municipal agreement with Saratoga County. County officials say it will save money and reduce the carbon emissions that contribute to global warming. The facility, to be built in Menands, will be jointly owned and operated by the two counties.

“He accomplished lots of really good things,” Feeney concluded of Commisso.

Feeney’s own priorities in the legislature have been to try to keep taxes in check and support green initiatives.

He named his two deputy majority leaders this week, selecting Gilbert Ethier, the legislature’s longest-serving member, from Cohoes, and first-termer Lynne Lekakis, from Albany.

“Gil’s the most senior legislator down there, and I thought it would be important to have Gil as someone to advise me who’s been down there for close to 40 years and who’s seen just about everything. And then I wanted to blend that with someone new, with Lynne, who I have a lot of respect for and who comes with newer ideas, and maybe a fresh way of looking at things.”

Feeney is in his second term. He served from 2004 to 2007 in a different district of Guilderland — now represented by Bryan Clenahan — and had to resign when he moved to a different part of town. He now lives on Feeney Lane, off Dedham Post Drive.

He has lived in Guilderland most of his life, and was raised in the town.

He attended Guilderland schools, graduating in 1979. His brother, Stephen Feeney, is chairman of the town’s planning board.

Feeney’s mother still lives in the house at the end of Willow Street where he was raised, he said.

He is the first vice-chairman of the Guilderland Democratic Committee. He will continue in that post.

He will also continue as a full-time practicing attorney although his new role as majority leader has been “a lot of work, a lot of time” during these first few days, he said. “A lot of it has to do with getting up to speed with the new position. I’m sure that’ll be something I’ll learn to balance more,” he said.

His work at the Feeney & Centi law firm, at 127 Great Oaks Blvd., centers on trusts, estates, some real-estate transaction work, and some personal-injury work. Partner Daniel Centi does commercial transactions, commercial litigation, and estate litigation, he said.

Corrected on April 13, 2018: The chairman of the Albany County Legislature is Andrew Joyce.

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