Reed may replace Gray as chair of legislative board

Jefferson County Legislator Philip N. Reed Sr. Kara Dry/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — Legislator Philip N. Reed Sr. might be the next chair of the Jefferson County Board of Legislators.

On Wednesday, Chairman Scott A. Gray, R-Watertown, went public with his intent not to seek another term in the leadership seat.

Mr. Reed, R-Alexandria Bay, said he’s known about Mr. Gray’s intentions for a while and said he was honored to be considered an option for the board’s next leader.

“It’s an honor to be considered for the position by my peers,” he said Wednesday.

Mr. Reed is one of the longest serving members of the Board of Legislators. He first took office in 2002, six years after the county legislative body was reformatted from a Board of Supervisors to its current structure.

He’s also the board’s longest serving committee chair, having led the General Services Committee since 2004.

“I think the experience of being on the board for what is about to be my 20th year, and my leadership of the General Services Committee, that hopefully makes people think I have the experience to run the board,” he said.

Mr. Reed said he’s proud of the work he’s done with the General Services Committee.

Under his tenure, the Watertown International Airport has become financially stable and a well-used connection between Jefferson County and the rest of the world.

It continues to see grant awards for new projects, and ridership has increased precipitously, from 2,200 passengers boarding planes there in 2010, to 23,000 in 2019.

Mr. Reed said he wants to focus on developing the county’s infrastructure as chair, while also keeping the county’s budget in balance.

There’s plenty of opportunity to do so. The county has already dedicated $2 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to infrastructure development, and $10 million more from that program is anticipated in 2022.

There’s also a glut of funding available from the infrastructure bill recently passed by Congress.

“I think the main focus is, Jefferson County is poised to be in a good position to bolster our infrastructure,” Mr. Reed said. “The fund balance is in good shape, and I’d like to continue those practices, while also putting down some pavement, in the coming years.”

Part of the reason Mr. Gray is not seeking another term is the political tone of the board — things have gotten too partisan, he said in an interview this week.

Mr. Reed on Wednesday declined to comment on Mr. Gray’s statements. He said there will be time to discuss the politics of the board, and the leadership of its three committees, once he’s closer to the leadership seat himself.

“I’d be happy to comment on that more as this hopefully comes to fruition,” Mr. Reed said.

The chair of the Jefferson County Board of Legislators is selected from among the 15 legislators by popular vote of the board’s membership. That vote is taken during the board’s first annual meeting, scheduled for Jan. 4.

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I write about north country politics, Jefferson County and the northern shoreline towns of Lyme, Cape Vincent, Clayton and Alexandria Bay

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