Rodney Wojnar, candidate for fourth ward alderman recalled a time back in 1972, just a year before he graduated from high school, being invited to attend a youth seminar called “what can Amsterdam do to attract the youth to stay here.”
“They’ve been combating this issue for a long time,” Wojnar remarked.
Now he is hoping to help the city become more attractive to youth, residents and businesses by applying his years of business experience to the job of alderman.
Wojnar said he grew up in Amsterdam and has spent the majority of his life here. His previous job was at SUNY Albany as part of the University Auxilliary Services, which provided food services to the campus, worked with various restaurant franchises for the food court, and provided catering services. He recalled starting out as a cook, and then worked his way up to Senior Operations Manager over the course of his 40 year career before retiring five years ago.
According to Wojnar, the department’s retail and catering operations amounted to somewhere between $12 to $14 million in sales per year. As part of his job, he was responsible for working with different budgets for the various areas of the service. He recalled being under constant pressure from college directors to stay within budget, while still meeting needs of the customers.
“Every time, we exceeded expectations,” said Wojnar.
He also recalled a time when one local restaurant business backed out from opening in the food court only a month before the semester was to begin. With the help of a co-manager, he secured a new franchise and opened a Green Mountain coffee and bagel shop.
“It ended up being the most profitable operation there,” said Wojnar.
He said that the biggest complaint he has heard from city residents is about the taxes.
“The best way to help with the taxes is you have to attract industry into the city,” said Wojnar.
Wojnar said the current common council has not created an atmosphere that is conducive to attracting businesses. He pointed out the recent opposition to helping to fund the Concordia senior living devleopment, as well as the opposition to the location of a home health services business at the vacant Salvation Army church as two examples.
He said he supports the idea of having a position at the city a person dedicated to working for economic development for the city. However, he said that person should also be part of a wider, regional effort, working in conjunction with Montgomery County.
Wojnar also currently serves on the Golf Commission and criticized the current council for their decision to lower golf cart fees.
“We set the rates, and our rates were more than fair. They were below everyplace that’s around here within 20 miles. And then the common council voted to lower the fees,” said Wojnar. “That’s counter productive to what the taxpayers expect of them.”
Wojnar said he is “very much in favor” of the proposed recreation center. “I think the rec center should be built in Veteran’s Park because it’s already close to the pool and they have the tennis courts and basketball courts there. I just think that it makes sense to put it there.”
In regards to the city’s Creative Connections arts center, Wojnar said the city should continue to keep the building, however, he said,“The arts center has to be developed into something that people would utilize…to some extent it is being used, but it’s not being used to its fullest capacity.”
“I think the city should contract with someone that would have a specific purpose for that building,” said Wojnar. He added that he would prefer to see the facility used for the arts but would be open to either non-profit or commercial office use.
Wojnar said he is in favor of the idea of moving the train station to the downtown area and would like to see even further development there, such as a hotel, restaurant or banquet facilities and suggested the city look to attract a franchise to operate the facility.
He also said he favors the idea of establishing a city-run ambulance service. He said that even with increased staffing expenses, the amount of potential revenue would be “well worth it.”
Wojnar said he would also like to see a park built on Milton Ave. on the site of the former school with basketball hoops and playground equipment.
“I would make it one of my goals to clean that up. I could do it with volunteers, I know I could get volunteers to do that,” said Wojnar. He added that the park would have to be limited to being open from dusk to dawn in order to avoid late night loitering.
“I would like to give back to the city, because they need the help and I would like to be part of it,” said Wojnar. “I would like to see Amsterdam move forward, but it’s going to take a lot of dedication and teamwork.”
Wojnar is endorsed by the CSEA and will appear on the ballot on the Democratic and Rebuilding Amsterdam party lines. He faces incumbent candidate Diane Hatzenbuhler who is running on the Republican and Reform party lines, and Tim Quist on the independent Voice of the People line.