PHOTOS BY DOUG MITCHELL PHOTOGRAPHY, TIMES UNION & OTHERS
Capital Woman Online: “Thank you. Good morning, Mayor. Thank you so much for having Capital Woman Online here to speak with you this morning. We would just like to learn a little more about the Mayor of Albany. So, could you please tell us a little about your background, and have you always been in Albany?.
Mayor Sheehan: “Well, first of all, we are really excited to have you here in this market. It’s wonderful to have something that is empowering for women and, you know, I’ve been in Albany. I moved out here actually after college for a job. So, I’ve been here for my entire adult life, my entire professional career. I started out in Communications. I worked producing a television show. I was the Communications Director for the Catholic Diocese. Then, I decided to go back to school, and I started at Albany Law School and worked in a law firm; worked as ultimately, the vice president in general counsel of a publicly traded company that was based in this area and here I am now. So, really, this is home for me and it has really helped me and allowed me to pursue my hopes, my dreams and achieve things that I never could have imagined. Albany has a very special place in my heart and I’m so grateful that I found it and it found me.”
Capital Woman Online: “Thank you. When did you become interested in politics?”
Mayor Sheehan: “You know, I think I was always interested in politics. I grew up in a house where my parents always instilled in us the importance of public service, of being aware. I also grew up in a household where my parents joked that they went to the polls every year and cancelled out each other’s vote. My dad was a lifelong Republican. My mother, a Democrat. I’m certainly more associated with my mother’s politics and the fact that her father had been involved in the Democratic party outside of Chicago and how important that was to her. So, it was always a sense of being informed about current affairs, about what was happening, about decisions that were being made, whether we agreed with them or disagreed with them…that it was important to be involved. And so, it’s always been a part of my life. I never envisioned that I would be in elective office, but I’ve always been interested in politics and studied political science while I was in college and wanted to cover it as a journalist. So, it’s always been a passion.
Capital Woman Online: “So, what aspects of your job would the public be surprised about? What things would we not know about being the Mayor?”
Mayor Sheehan: “You know, I think one of the things that people look to the Mayor to do is potentially solve all problems. And, when you have the title of Mayor and you have the ability to be out there in the public, it is challenging to temper people’s expectations. In the city of Albany, for example, we have an independent school district that’s run by an independently elected board. So, people will call the office and they’ll say. “Why can’t the Mayor just do this?” So, there are challenges. We have to work in partnership with our school district, with county government. The City of Albany doesn’t provide any social services. Those are provided at the county level. So, I think, those are the things that surprise people and it’s not right or wrong; it’s just that a Mayor has to work in collaboration to get things done. There’s no magic wand here in the desk that can solve all problems, and so I think when people come and ask about certain things or they want to see something happen in the city, the complexity of making that happen, I think, is oftentimes surprising to people.
Capital Woman Online: “What things do you think the citizens can do to help improve Albany?”
Mayor Sheehan: “Well, they can start by being partners with us in trying to keep Albany clean. You know, I know one of the challenges that we have is a growing challenge with litter and we’re seeing not just in the city of Albany, but really, all across the country. I love our tag line for our Rescue Plan funding because we’re really promoting Albany for All….Power by Pride and Potential. This is a place we should be proud of. This is an incredibly special place. It is one of the oldest cities in the country. It has incredible architecture. The history here is the history of America and I’d like to see people have that sense of pride and start by recognizing that all of us have a role to play. I often say to the kids, “You know….if my neighbor’s recycling bin blows over in a storm, and their recycling blows over into my yard, what do you think I do? Oftentimes, they think that I call the neighbor and yell at them or I call the city and make them pick it up and I say, “No….I go out and pick it up”. You know, we have to start at home with really caring about our block, and then our broader neighborhood, and then the entire community. So, if people could just use that mindset. I recognize, it’s not necessary to call City Hall every time that there’s a problem. A lot of the challenges can be solved right there at the grass roots level.
Capital Woman Online: “What has been the largest challenge that you’ve seen since becoming Mayor?”
Mayor Sheehan: “Well, I think right now, our biggest challenge is the proliferation of guns in our community. That was really exacerbated by the pandemic. I mean, certainly, the pandemic is the biggest challenge that I’ve even had to face and it’s not something I ever envisioned or imagined having to manage through when I decided that I wanted to run for Mayor, but it was an incredible learning experience, but through that learning experience, and as we were going through the pandemic, the human toll that it has taken is something that has weighed very heavily on me because it is so challenging in an environment where you can’t be in community together to provide that support and that outlet for people to talk about the challenges that they’re facing, one on one with other humans….and that, I think, has led to a lot of what we’re seeing with respect to the acting out…..whether it be young people in school, whether it be people having less patience for other drivers on the road or pedestrians to some of the more serious things that we’re seeing…….which is violence that’s really been driven by social media by just petty disputes that otherwise would be solved by people walking away, hopefully, or exchanging words but not rising to the level that we’re seeing now but seeing people are using guns. That proliferation of guns is plaguing not just the city of Albany, but cities across the country. I talk to other mayors. We need common sense national gun laws that ensure that people who have guns can legally own those guns and that illegal guns don’t make their way into our community and that is one of the biggest challenges that we’re facing right now.”
Capital Woman Online: “During your career, do you think that being a woman has challenged you?”
Mayor Sheehan: “You know, I don’t think it’s a challenge for me, right? I am who I am, and I lead the way that I lead, and I don’t think that women should apologize for their leadership style. I think that we need to recognize that others obviously saw in me the ability to do this job because I’ve been elected to it now 3 times and those leadership skills are every bit as important as the types of leadership skills that people with other personalities have. So, I think for me, it is just who I am. From the standpoint of the challenges of being able to work collaboratively to de-escalate situations to connect with those who may have preconceived ideas about me as a woman….yes, I have to be very conscious of that and recognize that when I come into a room, there isn’t necessarily that automatic acceptance….that automatic level of respect that men in this job have enjoyed previously.”
Capital Woman Online: “How do you handle work life balance?”
Mayor Sheehan: “Work life balance for women……we don’t talk about this with men, right? We don’t ask them, “How do you handle work life balance?” But, we do ask women and we still ask women and I think it’s a question that a lot of women have because for women, it is important to be able to ensure that they are there for their family, whether it be their children, their spouse, an elderly it is important and I did get really good advice early on in my career, which is you can’t look at the day or the week or even the month. If that’s how you grade yourself, you’ll always have a failing grade, but when you look back over the course of the year, did you mostly get it right? I think that allows us to recognize that there are times when there’s a really important project that you’re working on that’s going to take up a lot of your time and you might miss a softball game or you might miss being home for dinner, but over the course of a year, do your kids remember you being at the table?
The other thing that I tell women all the time because I was working for a corporation. I loved my job. I loved my corporate job. I was on a great leadership team. It was really an enriching experience for me. I think it made me a better parent but, we were bought out by our biggest customer and so, this company that I worked for became part of this big Dutch conglomerate and I didn’t want to be part of a big bureaucracy. So, I decided you know, I’m going to take a pause. My son was 7 years old at the time and I was not going to rush into my next job. So, I remember driving him home from school and I said, “Hey, guess what? Mommy’s going to leave her job and I’m going to stay home with you for a while” and my son said to me, “Oh Mom, you can’t do that. Aren’t you qualified to work at Red Robin?”.
So, here I had all of this guilt, right, about not being home with him but he knew me. He was like, “You can’t be home “. I just thought it was funny because at the time, what kid didn’t like Red Robin? I was driving and I thought….I could probably manage a Red Robin. I tell that story to young working moms as a way of saying that I carried all that guilt. I carried all of these ideas that I was not, sort of, hitting the bar of where I needed to be, and yet my son saw me as a person who was proud of the fact that I worked, and he was ok with that. So, we have to give ourselves a break.
Capital Woman Online: “Do you have just the one child or do you have more children?”
Mayor Sheehan “ I have one”
Capital Woman Online: “How did you present it to your family when you decided to actually run to be Mayor?”
Mayor Sheehan: “It was a challenge. It was a deliberative process. I think it’s important to discern whether or not something is right for you. I think just because you have the background and experience and skill and ability to do it, doesn’t necessarily mean that that is the right thing for you at that moment in time. So, I had been asked by a group of people to run to be City Treasurer, which is the Comptroller for the City of Albany. Initially, I had said no. I said I love helping candidates, but I don’t want to be the candidate. Ultimately, I realized that when we talk about wanting change, we have to be part of that change, and sitting on the sidelines isn’t necessarily the right answer. So as I thought about the background and experience that I had,
I realized that I could bring a skill set to that office and that’s why I decided to run and won and became the City Treasurer and so, after sitting in that office for a couple of years, I started to realize….I thought that I had the background and the leadership style that would help the city move forward. We were going through some really difficult financial struggles. It appeared as though the Mayor was not going to run for re-election, and so, I thought that it was an opportunity to be part of that next….you know, what’s the next thing for Albany, right? The next phase of our history, and but it was a discernment process, and it did involve conferring with my family and talking to my family about it and making sure that they knew what it was going to entail and that they were supportive of it.”
Capital Woman Online: “It’s a very public position that you have so I’m assuming that you have some challenges with having some private time, and possibly with your family and being home.
Mayor Sheehan “I think that’s the thing that surprised me the most. It did surprise me….the lack of privacy and just how public this position is, and it has presented challenges that I did not expect….some of which have given me pause. I will say that I’ve talked to a number of mayors who talk about the impact that it has on their kids; especially, my son was school aged, and it creates a whole new set of challenges. Everything is under a microscope. I expected to be under a microscope, but I didn’t expect it to spin off to my family.
Capital Woman Online: “But, they’ve adjusted?”
Mayor Sheehan: “They have. You know, my son is 22 now and he’s about to become a parent, so I’m looking forward to what that relationship is going to be like. I hope that he starts to appreciate that it is challenging, but it has been, I think, most challenging as a parent to have a child who really didn’t ask for it, didn’t want it, and probably shouldn’t have been as much in the spotlight as he was and I will always struggle with that. I will always wonder whether a different path might have been a better path.”
Capital Woman Online: “New York State is such a powerful and influential state and you’re the Mayor of the Capital of New York State. So, I’m assuming that makes your situation even more intense than it might be for a mayor of a different state.”
Mayor Sheehan:“Yes, there’s something about capital city mayors. I love my other capital city mayors. We commiserate all the time because it does create challenges. You have people coming here from all over the state and all over the country because New York is so much on the forefront… whether it’s passing groundbreaking legislation to when you look at the demographics of our state. This is a really important place. There are those……I didn’t coin this but there’s a CEO in town who calls Albany the Capitol of the Capitol of the World because we’re the greatest country and this is the greatest state. Other mayors don’t like when I say that, but we are the greatest state in the country and this is the capitol, so a lot of things happen here. So, I feel that in my role as mayor, it’s really important to be welcoming. It’s important to recognize that people will judge a city by how they are received. That’s another thing…..I didn’t make that up…..I was told that by a brilliant city planner. How do we receive our visitors? What is the experience that they have? That matters on our built environment level but it also matters from the standpoint of providing that welcome….making sure that we are here for those who come here. This is a place of free speech.
When I think about Albany, I think about all of the demonstrations that have occurred right across the street from my office; some for issues that I agree with and some for issues that I don’t agree with but, I think it’s also important that we recognize that this is a city that really values the freedom of speech, the freedom to demonstrate, and that that’s a really important part of the culture of our city government, including our public safety.”
Capital Woman Online: “So, what advice would you give to someone who would want to join in politics?”
Mayor Sheehan: “I think that it’s important to get involved in the community. I volunteered at every level within the community. I was a trustee of my church, I was the commissioner of my son’s Pop Warner football team, my husband coached Albany Youth Soccer. We’ve always been involved. I was the treasurer of the PTA. I would volunteer for committees that the school district would ask to formulate, to help advise. Whether it was hiring a new superintendent or to meet about the budget for the school district, so, I was always involved. I think it is important to do that because you get to see and meet people that you wouldn’t otherwise know, and I think that volunteering is a really great way to learn leadership skills. You start out as a volunteer and then oftentimes, see that you do have leadership abilities and then are able to move up within whatever that organization is that you’re volunteering for. So, I don’t think that there’s any pathway. I mean, you look at my pathway. I was a journalism major in college, I got a law degree, I worked as a labor and employment attorney. Then, I worked for this publicly traded company and then I ended up running for office. So, I don’t think that there’s a pathway to do it, but I will say that what helped me were the relationships that I had developed doing volunteer work.”
Capital Woman Online “Of all the people who have helped you in your career, who was the top person?”
Mayor Sheehan: “There are so many. I know from the standpoint of being mayor, I would have to say that Barbara Smith, who was on the council at the time that I was running, has been an incredible mentor. She is so wise. She helped me to know that there were lots of things that I didn’t know that I needed to know, and I am always appreciative…..especially when she calls me and tells me that I’m screwing something up and that I need to go talk to someone or that I need to consider a different perspective and that’s really important because when you’re in a leadership position, you need to be there to lead everyone and that requires a lot of listening and a lot of willingness…..real willingness to continuously learn. I would say other people throughout my life have been those bosses that I’ve had who were also mentors and I’ll never forget.
I remember something that happened early on in my career when I worked for the Catholic Diocese, of all places, and the Vicor General at the time was a gentleman named Father Farano, who has since passed. He was my boss and I had messed something up and I thought I was going to get fired. I was convinced I was going to get fired. I’ll never forget. He came to my office, and he said, “Do you know how many mistakes I make in a day?”. He said, “I understand what happened here. I understand why it happened here. I understand that it’s not going to happen again and it’s ok”. I do think that this is something….maybe men experience this, but in my experience, it’s women who talk about it.
We have this sense that we can’t mess up anything. If we make a single mistake, that’s it. We’re out the door. To be given that license to recognize that nobody is perfect, and we do all make mistakes and it’s how we respond to that was a very freeing moment for me. It’s something that I’ve tried to give to the women and men who work for me with respect to recognizing….we all make mistakes. It’s how do we react to that? We have to make sure we learn from it and move forward.”
Capital Woman Online: “Albany has a very rich and longstanding history. Is there any particular monument or ‘thing’ in the city that is your favorite?”
Mayor Sheehan: “I think the Stephen and Harriet Myers House. It is a house that figured very much into the Underground Railroad as well as abolition. So, it is a really important part of our history, and the history of the city of Albany. I often talk about Albany telling the story of America, from fur trade to nanotechnology, but there are a lot of things in between there; including slavery, including the Great Migration, including segregation and redlining. So, in order to recognize that there are investments that need to be made and things that we need to do very intentionally in certain neighborhoods in the city in order to ensure that we’re not repeating that history.
Capital Woman Online: “What’s your favorite festival?”
Mayor Sheehan: “You can’t ask me that”
Capital Woman Online: “I know, it’s not fair”
Mayor Sheehan: “You know it’s easy to ask me who my favorite child is because I only have one, but I love the fact that we are a place that people from the Capital Region come. We have to lean into that. Oftentimes, that’s the only time that people come into the City of Albany. So I want them to have an experience here and recognize that this is a city of neighborhoods….that the people who live here are proud of our city…..that we are proud of our neighborhoods…..that this isn’t just state government. This isn’t just a place to come and work. This is a place to come and really see that families are growing and thriving here, and they want to live in a safe and vibrant community and so any time we can show off our city and get people to look at it through that lens, I think is an important opportunity. Obviously, Tulip Festival and Jazz Festival and Alive at Five are all ways for us to be able to do that.
Capital Woman Online: “Are there any favorite places you like to go….restaurants let’s say?”
Mayor Sheehan: “Oh Gosh, see…that’s another one”
Capital Woman Online: “Not fair either.”
Mayor Sheehan: “Let’s put it this way. I think that I am well known to most of the restaurants in the City of Albany. My husband and I do like to eat out. We actually just ate at the newest restaurant to have a ribbon cutting here…the Skinny Pancake, which came here from Burlington. They make wonderful crepes…sweet and savory and they focus on locally grown…..trying to make sure that they are locally sourcing their food. So, I think that’s an example of the types of places we are able to attract here. I love that we have mostly local restaurants. This isn’t a city of chain restaurants, and it is a place where you have local restaurants with owners who care about the community, who give back to the community. They are the ones that the PTAs go to and say, “Will you donate a gift certificate to our silent auction because we’re trying to raise money for a field trip?”. They’re the ones that are here for us when we are looking to get sponsors for Tulip Festival or for Alive at Five. So, I think that’s one of the great things about the City of Albany. We have great restaurants and great restaurant owners.”
Capital Woman Online: “Albany also is a city that’s quite diverse. There are a lot of pockets of different ethnicities. Opportunities are here for different groups. If someone were new to the area, what would you recommend for them to do to get involved and to learn about what’s available in Albany?”
Mayor Sheehan: “There are so many not for profits that operate in the City of Albany. We are rich with service providers and so I think it’s looking at what your passion is. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve got to go cook at the South End Children’s Café, although they would love to have you there cooking. If that’s not your skill, guess what? They also do tutoring there, so if you want to go help young people with homework. Our not for profits are always looking for people who can help with all kinds of different challenges or administrative tasks that they have, advising them on their finances or their legal needs. There are a lot of opportunities. We are a city that is home to hundreds and hundreds of refugee families. This is a refugee resettlement community. A lot of people are surprised to learn that there are more than 40 languages spoken in our teenie tiny school district. Ten thousand students and 40 languages. So, that opens up a whole set of opportunities to help people to navigate to success. You know, all of us have come here from somewhere else unless we are Native American. For my ancestors who came here, I’m 5th generation Irish American and they were helped along the way. Somebody gave them that first job. Somebody helped them learn to navigate how to enroll their kids in school. Somebody helped them and we have the ability to do that for the families that are coming here from war torn countries around the world and put them on a path to success. So, there are many many ways for people to get involved here. You can go to the city website and find information about it. You can google whatever your passion is, and I can guarantee you will find a place to be able to explore that passion here in the City of Albany.”
Capital Woman Online: “So, what goals do you have for Albany for the rest of your time as mayor?”
Mayor Sheehan: “I really want to create an Albany where every neighborhood works. I know that, for some, that’s not a vision that’s necessarily sexy. Some people want to build a ferris wheel. We have a lot of exciting development happening here and I love being a part of that, but when you think about a concept of a city where every neighborhood works, it’s hard to find a diverse city that has a diversity in income levels where that’s the case, right? That’s not the case here. We still have neighborhoods that experience more violent crime, that have challenges with their infrastructure, have challenges accessing good jobs, and so by focusing on making sure that every neighborhood has the resources that they need…..that we are investing in the infrastructure first. I think that the city: rebuilding our parks, rebuilding our sidewalks, new street lights, new trees. Those are always a signal to the rest of the community that this is a place that you should be looking at.
This is a place where people live and everyone wants to live in a neighborhood that’s safe and has access to good jobs and great amenities. So, that’s really what we’re focused on. It’s little things and big things. It’s building a skyway which I think is going to create an incredible connection to the river for the Arbor Hill neighborhood. It’s also looking at sections of blocks and ripping up asphalt sidewalks and putting down concrete, focusing on absentee landlords, changing our rules of the road so that we make it harder for somebody to be a slumlord in the City of Albany. I hate using that term but sadly, we do have some landlords that take advantage of people who are low income….take advantage of people who are struggling, who don’t speak English as a first language. So, I want to make it really hard to do that in the city. I think when we do that and we build that pride, block by block, you start to see neighborhoods that really work.”
Capital Woman Online: “On a more personal note, what do you like to do for recreation when you have some free time?”
Mayor Sheehan: “Well, I used to like to ski, but as mayor, I don’t like snow. Snow is a challenge, but I do still like to sneak in some skiing every once in a while. I love to read. I love to garden. We rehabbed a house in Arbor Hill and there was an empty lot next to it that we were able to acquire. There’s a house buried under the empty lot so I couldn’t grow in the ground, but I have wonderful raised beds and I could spend hours and hours working in my garden. I really enjoy that. I really enjoy being with friends and family. When I was running for mayor the first time, I knocked on a woman’s door and she came into the door and she said, “Oh, I’m so glad that you came by. I’ve been wanting to meet you because I have one question for you.” She said, “Do you have a group of women friends who you can just hang out with, let your hair down and have a glass of wine?”
I said, “as a matter of fact, I do”. She said, “Good. Then, I’m going to vote for you because nobody should do this job unless they have the support of a great group of women.” I’ve always remembered that, and I do have a great support system and a group of friends who help to keep me grounded and are there for me when I need them.
I call myself a frustrated gardener. I try the best that I can. I hope someday to have the time to work with the Cornell cooperative extension and others. You know, there are people who are master gardeners. It’s something that I aspire to at some point in time but, probably not going to happen while I’m mayor.”
Capital Woman Online: “Which programs for children need some assistance?”
Mayor Sheehan:“There are always opportunities. A lot of moms, in particular, are looking for something that’s right there in their neighborhood. So, we City of Albany. We have lots and lots of programs. They’re just not always right where mom needs them to be. So, that’s something that I’m going to be looking at when I review the applications for rescue plan funding. How can we address that issue of the proximity of those services to families and figuring out what really is going to work for a family. The program that I’m probably proudest of is our summer youth employment program because when I became mayor, we really started to focus on that program. We thought instead of looking at this program as a way to reduce violence…..that’s how a lot of summer youth programs came into play……decades ago, it was like “Let’s keep those kids off the street”, which to me just sends the wrong message to our kids. My parents didn’t tell me that I had to get a job when I was 16 to keep me off the street. It was because they wanted to put me on a path to college, to be able to save money for college. So, we started thinking about that as a college going program.
How do you ensure that you’re creating a program that helps young people to see themselves in their future? To help them to learn from their work experience as well as from the experiences that we provide them…..we have an entire enrichment program that we built up around the summer employment program so that they understand the importance of saving money, the importance of money management, the importance of knowing what their rights are, the importance of understanding if you want to get to whatever your goal is….I want to be a sound mixer, I want to be a vet, I want to be a doctor….this is what you need to be doing in high school, this is what you need to be doing in college, this is how you put yourself on that path to success.
Then, we asked the University of Albany to study the program and they actually took an extra 3 months because they didn’t necessarily believe the results when they first saw them because our summer youth employment program demonstrated that it resulted in children being 60% more likely to graduate from high school. 60%. I mean, they were thinking 20% would be a home run, but we were 60% and we were most successful with kids who are at that lowest 40th percentile of their class.
That’s where the magic happens, so we are really looking to make sure that that message is out there because parents have to sign the document. They have to be involved in order for youth to get into that program. So, we’re really trying to get that message out because we’ll hire as many people…..my budget office always cringes when I say that we’ll hire as many youth as will apply. We’ll figure out a way and we’ll find a way to fund it and to give them work experience. If we can have that impact of keeping someone in high school, getting them to complete, and recognizing that they have value and that they can achieve their hopes and dreams. We have a program, and we really need to make sure that the people in the community recognize that that’s what this is about. It about their kid’s future.”
Capital Woman Online: “When you became the mayor, what was the biggest budget challenge?”
Mayor Sheehan: “Well, we were broke. When I came into office, I inherited…we were on a calendar year, so I was sworn in on January 1st. The budget that I inherited had been passed the year before and it used the rest of our fund balance. We were not treated fairly by New York State and my predecessor in office knew we weren’t treated fairly, and he was a huge champion for the City of Albany and really fought hard to try to get us the resources that we needed. It took some time, but we implemented a strategy and we’ve been successful in getting the city additional money….hundreds of millions of dollars over the course of the time that I’ve been mayor that has allowed us to balance our budget, to have some fairness for our city. We were treated like no other city in the state. Basic fairness….that our residents deserve the resources. We have people who live in some of the poorest census tracts in the region and they subsidize the state government. In any given year, 64 – 67% of our property is not taxable so that puts a huge burden on our homeowners and our small businesses. So, we’ve been successful in rectifying that and we have a governor now who recognizes it and put it in her budget, so we are moving in the right direction. That was so challenging. The needs are so high then to not have the resources to meet those needs was a challenge. I’m not a ‘no’ person. I have a good friend who’s the Dean of Albany Law School and she always talks about “Yes, if”. Not “No, because”, and I would hear that all the time when I became mayor.
“No Mayor, we can’t do that because…” I said, “No, no, no, no….yes we can do it IF”. “Tell me what I need to go out and get in order to do it, right?” Bike lanes on Madison Avenue, what do I need? $5 Million? I’ll go find it. Take an exit ramp off of 787? OK, what do we need? I’ll go find it. That is what we need to be doing for our residents and I think it has helped to build this sense of YES, we CAN do these things. It might take longer than we necessarily want it to but, we’re not going to give up just because right at this moment in time, we don’t have the resource. We’ll go find it.”
Capital Woman Online: “Do you think you’re hindered at all because we have New York City in New York State?”
Mayor Sheehan: “Again, I think it’s important to be strategic. The reality is that we do have as many people in one place as we do in the whole rest of the state so, how do you address that? My way of addressing that is to really get to know the legislators from New York City and tell them about our city. These are people who care. They were elected by people in their community because they believe that they’re here fighting for them. So, when you are able to recognize that this is about how do you widen the circle and how does someone in New York City get us to care about what’s happening in New York City and how do I get someone in New York City to care about what’s happening here? So, that’s about relationship building and I think that’s one thing that women do really well. So, going and building those relationships and demonstrating empathy for the challenges that they’re facing, I would often say, “How can I help YOU?” They live here for half the year. The legislature lives here for a good portion of the year.
Many of them didn’t even know that Wolf Road isn’t even in the City of Albany. They’d say, “Well, you get all that tax money from the malls”. I would say, “No, we don’t. They may have an Albany address but that’s not in the city of Albany.” Talking about all the jobs here. Yes, we have all these jobs here but guess what? Thousands and thousands of people come from outside the City of Albany, drive in, they go to their jobs and then they leave. Let me tell you about the people who live here. Let me tell you about the families in Arbor Hill. Let me tell you about what’s happening in West Hill. Let me tell you about what happened in the south end when they built the towers and the impact that that’s continued to have on our community. It’s through creating those relationships that we’ve been successful in being viewed in a different way and seen not just as this place to come, do some work and go back but as a place that matters to the people who live here.”
Capital Woman Online: “I used to work in downtown Albany and there’s a visible effort to have people come back to downtown Albany…..can you speak to that please?”
Mayor Sheehan: “I think one of the things that and I think will surprise office goers the most when they do come back, and we’re encouraging everyone to come back, is that an entire neighborhood sprouted up during the pandemic. We were undertaking the renovation of underutilized buildings that had sat vacant for years on North Pearl Street and those were developed and even though the pandemic came, and I was worried that everything would stop, the developer continued and built up those apartments and he has a waiting list. Not only are these conversions happening, but they’re successful and people are living downtown, and it is palpable. You can see it and feel it. It’s really exciting to see that.
There is construction all over the city. There are new apartments in Pine Hills. I went to the ribbon cutting and I couldn’t see a unit because all of the units are full. I was able to see they have 2 different gyms, they have some great public areas, but I couldn’t see an apartment because they’re all rented.
So, it’s really exciting to see that. I moved downtown. We moved in shortly before the pandemic. I love it. It’s walkable, and it’s great to see the vibrancy. Offices will be different and there will be some hybrid arrangements that are made but we’re a social people. I just fundamentally believe that we need to work in spaces together and see one another. So, I’m looking forward to people coming down and saying, “Who are all these people and what are they doing here?” It is becoming a neighborhood and that was very intentional and very strategic and it’s exciting to see happen.
Capital Woman Online: “Well, we would like to thank you for taking the time with us this morning to talk to Capital Woman Online Magazine and thank you so much for your hospitality and for agreeing to be our first cover woman.”
Mayor Sheehan: “Well, thank you. It’s an honor and I’m really excited to have you here in this market. We have amazing women. I think we’ll keep you busy for a very long time because I stand on the shoulders of women who came before me and there are so many women out there who continue to be supportive of me, to be willing to be mentors to me and so, it’s really going to be exciting for the community to really get to know these women.”