Reed, likely to lead legislature, wants to fix roads and bridges

Published: Nov. 18, 2021 at 3:29 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - The man likely to lead the Jefferson County legislature has a good problem - how do you best spend millions of dollars?

Phil Reed, the veteran legislator who represents the Town of Alexandria, is the odds-on favorite to succeed Scott Gray as chairman of the county legislature.

Gray, who has led the board for six years, announced this week he will not seek another term as chairman.

Republicans , who control 14 of 15 seats on the board, will meet (”caucus”) before the end of the year to pick Gray’s successor. The full county legislature will formally approve the Republican pick at the January meeting.

“We’re post-pandemic. We’ve gotta get back to normal. We need investment here, we need jobs,” Reed told 7 News Thursday.

Much of the investment will come from money the federal government is sending Jefferson County - millions from the American Rescue Plan, millions more from the infrastructure bill congress just finished passing, and President Biden signed.

“I think the challenge is to spend this money wisely that’s coming our way,” Reed said, who believes much of the money should go to fixing and improving things we use every day.

“You want people to invest in this county, you need good roads, good bridges, good culverts. Lot of our culverts were built after the Great Depression. So, some of them desperately need repair,” he said.

Reed has served on the county legislature for 20 years, and has led the legislature’s General Services Committee for the last 15 tears.

He points to the Watertown airport, which the county took over more than a decade ago, as an example of both his leadership and the kind of teamwork he hopes to encourage.

“When we took over the Watertown airport, we looked at it and, like, ‘What are we doing here?’ “ he said.

“We’ve done $40 million worth of work there without relying on the local taxpayer dollars by going out and getting grants. We don’t have any debt there. And it’s turned into a gem.

“That shows what you can do when you focus as a group,” Reed said.

Reed refused to be drawn into a discussion Thursday of politics on the legislature.

Gray said he was leaving the chairman’s job, in part, because of increasingly polarized politics on the board. On a board dominated by Republicans, that means the split has been between moderates like Gray and more conservative members of the board.

A rift between Gray and the conservative faction of the board went public last summer. The differences were eventually papered over, but divisions remained.

Reed is a moderate and an ally of Gray’s, but said Thursday “I have some ideas” for easing tensions on the board.

“It’s gonna take talking to people,” he said, and declined further comment until after the chairmanship is decided.

Still, there were no signs Thursday that Reed would be challenged.

District 11 legislator Robert Ferris, who had been talked about a potential chairman, declined to say Thursday whether he wants to run. But he called Reed an “outstanding legislator,” and said he, Ferris, is happy to serve in whatever capacity he’s needed.

“I want to work with the guys on our board. It’s as simple as that,” Ferris said.

And Patrick Jareo, District 9 legislator and one of the board’s conservatives, said he thinks it is “pretty likely” Reed will be the next chairman.

Jeremiah Maxon, District 11 legislator and a Gray critic, said he likes Reed. But he also said any number of Republicans on the board are qualified for the chairman’s job.

“We’re gonna deal with it in caucus,” he said.

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