“I really think our reputation in this city is changing, for a lot of reasons,” said Pamela Swart, candidate for first ward alderwoman, at a recent interview at the Walter Elwood Museum. “And that’s what will get people to move here and want to be here, that’s a good thing.”
From her perspective as a long-time resident, Swart said she sees the city in the midst of an upswing.
“I’ve seen it at its best. I’ve seen it go down the tubes. And now I see it coming back. And I want to keep it coming back,” said Swart.
Asked what made her decide to run for a position on the council, Swart said that others in the city encouraged her.
“They thought I would be a good candidate. Mostly they felt that I would be a good representation of their attitudes. Because I’m about moving forward, about staying positive. I’m about fiscal responsibility. And mostly, not letting our stumbling blocks and problems suffered by so many post-industrial cities define us. We are not alone. This is happening all over the country. We are battling the same battle a lot of cities are battling. But we’ve got a lot of good things as well. I think we have more good than bad and we need to focus on that.”
Swart said she believes her past business and work experience will be valuable on the council if elected in November. She and her husband Dave owned and operated a wallpaper and paint shop called The Color Place where she was involved in all aspects of the business and gained experience in both sales, budgeting, and accounting. She received her bachelor’s degree in human services from Empire State College and currently works as a sales representative for WCSS radio station. She has also hosted a weekly radio show “Let’s Talk” which will be on hiatus during her campaign.
She explained that her sales experience has taught her the value of “eye appeal” and wants to apply that same concept to making the city more attractive to young professionals, who in her view are looking for urban mixed-use developments such as the city’s downtown/waterfront area.
Swart said she was pleased with the work of the Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency, which is involved with several development projects on Main Street in the city’s downtown area. She said she would like to see a grant obtained to improve the façade of downtown storefronts.
The city’s residential neighborhoods are also a concern for Swart. She said her approach to the problem of blight would be to prioritize the stabilization of neighborhoods where only a few abandoned or poorly maintained homes are present, so that residents don’t start leaving. She mentioned Romeyn Avenue and McClellan Avenue as two examples in the ward that fit that description.
Swart said she will do her best to be an advocate for residents, pointing out that the recently repaired sewer system problem on Pershing Road had been known for some time.
“Those people had a problem for years and years and years, and I think that went way too long,” she said.
In regards to the city’s infrastructure, Swart said she will try to “work with the city engineering department to try to pinpoint problems before they become a disaster, while continuing to upgrade as much as financially possible.”
In order to make good decisions in regards to the city’s finances, Swart said she will consult with the controller, department heads, and other council members in order to gain an in-depth understanding of the budget.
She emphasized that she would not suggest cuts to any departments before she’s had a chance to work with department heads and the rest of the council.
“Identifying and eliminating wasteful spending takes teamwork amongst the entire city council, cooperation, transparency, and the willingness to turn every stone,” said Swart.
“I’m going to vote for what’s right,” added Swart. “I’m not going to vote for what any particular party thinks. I’m going to do what’s good for the city”
Swart, a current member of the Amsterdam Waterfront Foundation, said she believes the city’s waterfront will be the key to city’s comeback, and said she will support continued development in that area.
“I’ve watched other administrations really, seriously, fighting tooth and nail to move forward. It was like a battle to move forward,” said Swart, referring to the development of the Riverlink Park and Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook pedestrian bridge over the years.
“What I do like is the council and the mayor are working together so well, finally,” she said. “That’s good for our reputation too.”
Swart said the most important aspect of the waterfront development is how it brings the community together, especially at the various city-sponsored events.
“When I was at the ItaliaFest, people were walking around, they were so happy,” she recalled. “And one lady told me ‘I feel like its old Friday night in Amsterdam.’ Seeing people that you don’t see a lot. I want to encourage that to come back in Amsterdam.”
“People are excited about Amsterdam again, they’re hopeful about Amsterdam again. We just have to keep that going, moving forward,” said Swart.
Swart will appear on the Democratic Party line in November’s election, and will face incumbent candidate Ed Russo, running on the Republican, Conservative, and Independence Party lines.