Albany City Treasurer Kathy Sheehan is looking to move into the mayor’s office, and on Sunday, Darius Shahinfar announced that he is ready to take her place as Albany’s chief fiscal officer.
“It’s a stay-the-course race,” said Shahinfar. “I want to protect the work that [Sheehan] has done and to continue and expand that work.”
Shahinfar grew up in upstate New York before attending Bates College in Maine, and then Albany Law School. There he met his wife, Noelle Kinsch, who is currently Albany County legislator from the 6th District. Shahinfar’s past work experience includes working in the county attorney’s office and in Kirsten Gillibrand’s congressional office, and most currently with an Albany law firm.
“I have management, financial, and legal experience,” said Shahinfar. “My first career was in restaurant management, and I have worked as a lawyer doing consulting in the private sector. I have experience in the public sector, and I have served on the finance committees of nonprofit boards.”
“The city has to do everything it can to foster growth,” he said. “It’s not exactly sexy, but it’s hard administrative work. It’s about moving the city government into 21st century.”
Shahinfar pointed to systems within the city that he said are outdated and inefficient. “A prime example is that we still use punch cards for payroll in the city,” he said. He would like to see an adoption of a “modern swipe card,” which he said would save 1 to 3 percent of payroll costs caused by human error and mistakes.
“We need a technological overhaul,” said Shahinfar. “Real estate software, property tax software—it should all be integrated between departments. As a city we should look at our sister municipalities and share services to create efficiencies.”
Shahinfar said that the city may be in for a financial reckoning if changes aren’t made. “The biggest issue the city is going to face going forward is the revenue side,” he said. “The level of property taxation is about at its limit, there are not a lot of ways to raise revenue, we need to sit down and go through numbers. Do we need 17 different police departments in Albany county or 12 to 14 school districts? Can we cut our purchasing costs? The landfill is going to close in six to eight years. The pilot payments from the Empire State Plaza will go away. We can’t tax our way out of it, we can’t just make spending cuts to get out of it. We’ve got to bring in new business, and market the city to investors.”
Shahinfar has lived in the city of Albany since 1994 and is currently raising his two children here. He said that he looks forward to seeing Albany grow. “There’s a lot of people who want to start going in same direction in the challenges we face,” he said. “It’s exciting to be a part of the changes down that line.”