District 31: Incumbent Stevens says he's proud of being a listener

Travis Stevens

ALBANY COUNTY — Republican Travis Stevens, seeking his second term representing the 31st District in Albany County, says he listens, and he can work across party lines to get things done for his community.

“The thing I’m most proud of is I’m a listener,” said Stevens. “I listen to everyone’s view. I regularly attend Altamont Village Board meetings and town board meetings in Knox and Berne. I try to make myself available.”

The 31st District was redrawn before the election four years ago and now includes the village of Altamont, in Guilderland, along with parts of Berne and Knox in the Helderberg Hilltowns. In an upset victory in 2011, Stevens, running on a platform of reduced spending, edged out Democrat William Aylward who had long represented Altamont.

Now Stevens is being challenged by Democrat Nicholas Viscio, a long-time member of the Knox Town Board. Stevens had served on the Knox board for two years before being elected to the county post.

Stevens, 41, comes from a family with deep Hilltown roots. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in facilities engineering from the State University of New York Maritime College in the Bronx, he worked on ships in the Gulf of Mexico and on the Great Lakes.

He came home to work in his family’s heating oil business and now works for the state’s Office of General Services as an energy conservation technical specialist. “We oversee utilities around the state,” he said.

Stevens currently has some resolutions in committee in the legislature and is eager to see them through. “One is videotaping committee meetings; it’s important for transparency and open government,” he said. “A lot of important questions are asked in committee....That’s where we get to talk to heads of departments.”

Another of his proposals is for emergency first responders to be able to use heavy equipment made available through a call list. “You could call the dispatcher for pre-approved contractors who could help,” said Stevens, who is a volunteer firefighter in Knox.

During his first term, Stevens said, “I did a couple of resolutions I’m proud of.”

One was legislation to train firefighters to deal with solar photovoltaic panels on county buildings.  “We will have the local fire departments work with installers on how these systems work and how they intersect with electrical systems,” Stevens said, adding, “solar is an emerging industry.”

Stevens also co-sponsored a drinking water protection law that would reimburse residents for any problems that might be caused by pipeline blasting.

Also, he said, he introduced a measure so that the county became a municipal sponsor for snowmobile clubs. “It reduced paperwork for clubs,” said Stevens, who snowmobiles. Snowmobiling, he said, “helps the economy and with recreation.”

The first resolution Stevens had passed was a way to notify local leaders when a local law is passed. “They hadn’t been notified,” said Stevens, adding, “I’m a common-sense guy, a regular guy, trying to take care of essentials.”

Currently, Stevens said, “I’m working with local elected officials on broadband expansion to all of Albany County. It’s a team effort.”

He also said, “I’ll continue to work with fellow elected officials to improve quality of life. We started a congregant meal program for seniors in the Hilltowns,” he said, citing an example.

He also said he is working with the sheriff on an inter-operable radio system for first responders.

He’s done some activities on the fun side, too, like a family bike ride in Altamont dubbed, “Let’s roll to the music in the park.” The ride was to end with a park concert. “Unfortunately, it rained,” said Stevens.

Stevens concluded, “I’ve really, really engaged the past four years and look forward to four more years if people support me. It’s been an honor to serve.”

Stevens said he will not vote for the revised county charter on Nov. 3. “I supported the Charter Review Commission version, which was endorsed by the League of Women Voters,” he said.

On the county’s stance with oil trains, Stevens said, “It’s appropriate to be concerned for residents. I also have concerns for trains that pass through our district,” he said, naming reservoirs that could be affected by an oil spill.

He said it is important to train first responders to be ready to deal with an oil leak or train derailment. “It’s going to be a multi-agency response,” he said. “We need to be prepared.”

On county laws like those banning toxic toys and Styrofoam, Stevens said, “I have no problem looking into every issue; this all should be debated. It would take an attorney to recommend if it is legal or enforceable,”

Stevens did not support the Styrofoam ban. “We pushed for recycling as an option,” he said. “That was not approved by the majority.”

Asked about the coalition to reform the legislature, Stevens said, “I will work with anyone on good government and transparency.”

He went on, “Party affiliation does not matter to me. I have no problem with being in the minority. I’ve had some resolutions pass unanimously, and some not.”

He concluded, “I can work with anybody. I can also debate and fight for our community when I need to. I always put the community first.”

On heroin, Stevens said of county initiatives, including the sheriff’s pilot program at the jail to treat addicts, “This is a true team approach to deal with this epidemic.”

He also said of learning to administer an antidote for heroin, “I took the Narcan training at the Guilderland library last year. That really hit home, when you take that course and hear the stories.”

Stevens concluded, “I’m in full support of Sheriff Apple and his endeavors.”

On consolidation, Stevens said, “Sharing resources and services — we already do it. Up in the Hilltowns, the DPW commissioner,” he said of the county’s department of public works, “and his staff work with local highway departments, covering each other’s roads and doing swaps.”

Stevens cited the recently announced shared salt shed to be built in Berne as a good project.

“I think shared services happen, although they’re not always documented,” said Stevens, giving the example of a county salt shed in Knox, “shared with the town for years.”

On suburban poverty, Stevens said, “Probably the biggest thing would be to make sure services are available to those in need. The county has done a good job with outreach.”

He also said, “We’re expecting growth in the county over the next year with the economy; that will help spur jobs.”

Stevens concluded, “Still, we have to be sure, when they need services, it is available.”

Stevens said of the planned Soldier On project, “It is in progress. They’re doing the required studies. In the meantime, I support the Soldier On program that the Helderberg American Legion Post donated money for, the sheriff’s program in the jail for veterans.”

He concluded of the planned Soldier On facility, “It’s a needed service. I look forward to it’s completion.”

On care for the elderly, Stevens said, “I believe home care is very important, to allow people to maintain an independent lifestyle. We should be able to maintain that with the cost-cutting efforts at the nursing home.”

On wages, he said, “I want Albany county to stay competitive with the counties surrounding us.”

He added, “I would like to have more discussions on this topic, especially with the public, to see what their feeling is before any decision is made.”

Stevens concluded, “We don’t want to put businesses in a spot where they may not be able to compete as well as government.”

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