District 39: Chris Smith

Chris Smith

Chris Smith

ALBANY COUNTY — Chris Smith is an enrolled Conservative running unopposed on Independent, Conservative and Democratic party lines to represent District 39. 

District 39 covers Westerlo, Rensselaerville, much of Berne, and a portion of Knox. Smith was elected in 2015, beginning his 4-year term in January 2016. “I feel I’ve done a good job and I’m the only good voice for the district,” Smith said.

He was born and raised in Berne, where he still lives, and has been a restaurant owner for the past 16 years. He started with the Maple Inn in East Berne and now has the popular Maple on the Lake: a restaurant, bar, and banquet hall on Warners Lake.

Smith supports Sheriff Craig Apple’s plan for housing homeless people in a vacant section of the jail, but noted that homelessness does not affect the Hilltowns the same way it affects urban areas, and whether or not the plan goes into effect, his district will be largely unchanged. 

Smith said that security in the jail may be an issue, since “you can’t just lock the homeless in the cells,” but that he is sure Sheriff Apple has a plan for it. 

This year, emergency medical services in the Hilltowns are being provided largely by the county, which is looking to hire more full-time staff members, causing an increase in costs.

Smith regrets that volunteerism is so low, but is glad the sheriff stepped in to help cover costs, and feels it’s fair that the county chip in where the municipalities can’t. “Of course I’d rather have the towns be able to do it,” Smith said. “But volunteerism is at an all-time low, so someone’s got to pick up the slack.”

On the environment, with experience in the food industry, Smith’s concerns about a potential ban on single-use plastics in Albany County center on how that would impact business for restaurant owners.

“If you’re from outside [Albany County] and come to a McDonald’s drive-through, and you’re a mile-and-a-half away when you open your bag and find you don’t have a fork, and you don’t know why, that reflects poorly on the customer service and the business owner,” he said. 

While Smith doesn’t support an outright ban on single-use plastics, he does think it would be fair to make consumers ask for additional plastic materials, as opposed to them being provided automatically. And, he says this would be more effective at the state level, rather than the county level.

“I don’t think we should put Albany County at a disadvantage,” Smith said.

Smith voted this year to reject legislation that would require companies to grant paid sick leave to their workers. 

“The cost of doing business is already high enough with the existing regulations,” Smith said, adding that additional costs levied on businesses would ultimately trickle down to consumers. “We’d be going out for $15 burgers.”

Smith was most animated when talking about the struggles of the impoverished outside of cities, where most low-income support programs are headquartered. 

“People in the Hilltowns don’t want to go all the way out to Albany,” Smith said. A similar problem plagued the Hilltowns this year, after Community Care Physiciansclosed the doctor’s office in Berne. Like Jill Martin, a nurse practitioner who recently announced the opening of her own practice in Berne, at the same doctor’s office where she had worked, Smith feels that residents in his district need a home-based solution for their most critical problems.

He commended Daniel McCoy’s Albany County Center for Essential Services Support (ACCESS) Hilltowns outreach center in Berne, which opened in 2017, and said he’d like to see more satellite centers in the area, where public representatives can help residents fill out paperwork for food stamps and the Home Energy Assistance Program.

Smith also noted that Cornell Cooperative Extension is working on creating a centralized application process that allows impoverished residents to fill out a single application for programs offered through the Cooperative Extension, as well as the county. 

On the opioid epidemic, Smith was less enthused with the county’s influence. “I don’t think anything’s being done at the county level [to combat opioid abuse],” he said. He acknowledged that Sheriff Apple is funding training on how to inject naloxone, a drug that can prevent death after an opioid overdose, but said there wasn’t much else.

“Education is key,” Smith said. “Show kids what will happen if they start using these drugs.”

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