Interview with controller candidate Alexander “Rogo” Roginski

Although he says many people asked him to run in the past, Alexander “Rogo” Roginski never sought public office before because of federal rules relating to his job as a United States Postal Service worker. After his retirement from the USPS in 2013, Roginski said he had petitions ready in a bid for the controller’s office, but had to withdraw them at the last minute due to an illness in his family. This year, however, Roginski is ready to run, and will be on the ballot for the office of controller this November.

In an interview last week at the Walter Elwood Museum, Roginski said he is a life long resident of the City of Amsterdam. He graduated from Bishop Scully High School in 1973. He studied computer science for one year at Oswego College, and then earned an associate degree in accounting from Fulton Montgomery Community College.

After college, Roginski found employment at Electro-Metrix in Amsterdam and worked as a subcontracting coordinator for ten years. At his job, he dealt with cost analysis and bidding.

In 1985, Roginski started work at the USPS office in Schenectady, NY. During his time there, he served as vice-president and then president of the local American Postal Worker’s Union. As an officer, he was involved in negotiating local contracts and helped represent 14 area offices.

Working with the organization’s finances was also part of his job as an officer. Roginski recalled dealing with a large financial problem soon after becoming vice-president.

“The first piece of mail I actually got at my house was from the IRS that [the union] owed $14,000,” recalled Roginski.

While a lot of the issue had to do with not filing the proper paperwork, Roginski said, “I had to go back and rebuild bank accounts for three years.”

“I got some experience in when you’re in trouble,” he added.

According to Roginski, the problem was resolved and the organization currently has a healthy fund balance. He said that he continues to work with the union’s finances on a volunteer basis.

Roginski also served on the city’s golf commission from 2000 to 2003 where he said he became very familiar with the municipal golf course’s budget.

Among the issues that he hopes to address as controller, Roginski  said he would like to take a look at both the amount and manner of the city’s borrowing. He said he was concerned that the purposes for some capital projects were not specific enough.

“I’ve got a strange feeling that a lot of this bonding money is going for general expenses,” said Roginski.

He also questioned how much progress had been made in reconciling the city’s capital projects account.

Roginski said that pulling in outside resources for help would be a priority if elected. In regards to the city’s ongoing foreclosure process, Roginski said, “The first thing I’m probably going to do is go to the county. What do we do next?”

“I don’t know why they didn’t go to the county and get help from the county,” said Roginski. “The county forecloses every year. Why didn’t this administration, not [current Controller Matthew Agresta], but the administration that was in, go to the county and say ‘we need help foreclosing.’ We wouldn’t be in the jam that it seems like we’re in.”

Roginski pointed out that it’s city’s responsibility to foreclose because it serves as the tax collector, rather than the county.

“Maybe that process should be changed,” said Roginski. “That’s something I would consider”

Roginski also said he wants the city to take another look at a city-run ambulance service. The issue was brought up by Mayor Ann Thane just before she released her proposed budget, which included projected revenue and expenses for the service. The proposal was not acted on by the common council, who later voted to remove the related revenue and expenses.

“That was done hastily, as far as the fire department,” said Roginski, referring to initial estimates that were provided by Fire Chief Michael Whitty. “I didn’t agree with the some of the numbers. But re-look at it.”

Roginski also said he would look into a number of other initiatives. He said he would advocate for a law that would prohibit landlords who are behind on their taxes from receiving federal Section 8 housing assistance funds. He would also look at the possibility of charging non-profit organizations for more city services such as police and fire protection in addition to water, sewer and garbage. He also said he was concerned that the amount of work that the Department of Public Works was sub-contracting for was too high.

Roginski said that as controller, he would weigh in on any issue that affected the city’s finances.

“If it’s got to do with money, that’s my main thing…the controller should be involved,” said Roginski.

As a life-long resident, Roginski said he is concerned about the deterioration of the city’s housing.

“We were supposed to be a bedroom community after the mills moved out. But now it’s not even a bedroom community anymore. To me it’s a Section 8 community,” said Roginski.

He said one positive trend in the city he’s noticed was a resurgence at the gold course.

“The golf course came back,” said Roginski. “They hired a new greens-keeper and I think that’s the biggest reason why the golf course is coming back. It’s crowded up there now.”

Roginski said he received the nickname “Rogo” in high school and is the name most people know him by. For that reason, he petitioned for an additional independent line, besides the Conservative Party line, called “Rogo for Controller” under which his name will appear on November’s ballot.

In addition to his family and friends, Roginski gave credit to Chet Watroba, a frequent commenter on WCSS and at common council meetings, for encouraging him to run.

In November, Roginsky will face incumbent candidate Matthew Agresta on the Republican Party line.

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.