On May 3, Jason Golub was unanimously selected by the four sitting members of the City Council to temporarily fill the vacancy as the council’s fifth member and as Commissioner of Public Works.
Golub grew up New Haven, Connecticut and moved to this area about a decade ago in connection with a job with GE where he ran government investigations and compliance. He currently works with tech startup Kahilla – a women’s leadership platform that develops women leaders in corporate America.
The vacant seat is a result of the death last month of longtime DPW Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco. Golub will serve as commissioner through calendar year 2022. He will be running as Democratic candidate in a November election to fill the remainder of the term – which goes through the calendar year 2023. A profile of Republican candidate Anthony Scirocco, Jr., who is also vying for the seat, was published by Saratoga TODAY on June 23.
Q: What has surprised you the most since taking the position in May?
A: I’m a big idea guy. I have a vision about where I want DPW to go and one of my biggest concerns was whether the employees of DPW would buy into that. Are they open to doing things in a different way to help solve the problems of the city? And I’ve been super pleasantly surprised how open, how receptive and eager the team has been to tackle things in a different way, and innovate. That’s been a real pleasant surprise.
Q: There are different ways that a person may approach a new position – come in and clean house, or take time to learn a bit about what already exists, and evaluate afterwards. What has been your approach?
A: During my first 100 days, I think the most important thing I can do is listen. Listen to the employees, to the people in the field, and most importantly, listen to people in the community to understand where the pain-points are in terms of how we provide service - what we can do better and how can I help the team do their job better. Gutting the team was never on my radar. There are amazing people who work here.
Q: You’re a Democrat going into a position that has long been a Republican seat. Has that created a challenging political climate? How have you dealt with that?
A: Maybe I’m jaded, but I think in some ways Public Works is the least political of the offices on the City Council. Everybody needs the services Public Works provides. I don’t care if you’re a Republican or Democrat. I’m making sure you have good streets. So, in that way there’s no divisiveness in this department. We’re all rowing in the same direction.
Q: Moving forward, what is your vision or goals you want to accomplish?
A: The overall approach that I have as the leader of DPW now and that I will have if I’m elected (in November) has three components: service, vision and impact. Service to the community is my goal that has to be the core of DPW. How do we provide the best service? How do we leverage technology and tools and good old-fashioned listening to improve communication with the public, and then how do we develop tools for transparency? For example: plowing streets. There are tools and apps that we can very easily implement to provide transparency into when your street is going to get plowed, when a pothole will be fixed, and it will also provide the public an opportunity to tell us when there’s a problem.
The second is having a bold vision on where the department can go. For me that’s drawing on my experience on everything from Columbia Law to my experience in large, complicated organizations like GE, and as compliance leader and a lawyer.
Specifically, parks and playgrounds is a big area for me. Creating and protecting green space and parks. I would love there to be green space within five minutes walking distance of every kid in our city. We’re already building Flat Rock Park next to the City Center garage, we’re expanding the outdoor facilities at the Rec Center and we’re working with Saratoga Shredders to make a mountain bike park.
I also think DPW plays a role in bringing solutions to the homeless problem. We have a growing homeless problem, it’s getting worse and I think we need to come up with better solutions as a government. So, this summer we’re rolling out a DPW work program with the homeless – providing an opportunity for work, for food and support through DPW.
Q: How would that work?
A: We’re one component of a program which is essentially putting members of the homeless who are willing on DPW projects. They’ll be paid for the work they do, food will be provided and support provided through (the human service agency) RISE. We’re working out the details right now, but they would be put on a DPW work crew for the summer. Look, it isn’t a solution to the entire problem, but it’s bringing innovation and new ideas to a problem that’s getting worse in our community.
Q: How do you feel about development growth in the city?
A: I’m not against growth, I’m not against development. I think it needs to be thoughtful and it needs to be balanced. For example, if you’re going to build a City Center garage, the balance to me is creating green space next to it, rather than having a parking lot next to a parking lot, next to a parking lot - because eventually the historic charm of our downtown disappears if all you do is continue to develop and develop without balancing it with green space. I also think we need more workforce housing, more affordable housing. That has to be part of the future of our development. The people who work here – the firemen the police, the nurses – they can’t afford to live here. That’s a problem.
Other areas of focus: Clean Energy and a Connected City; expanding our recycling program; connecting our bike lanes and neighborhood-focused solutions: going into every neighborhood and understanding what are the unique problems of each neighborhood. We need to be more pro-active in DPW about learning of the problems in Geyser Crest or wherever they may be. It might be flooding, or sidewalks, walkability, street improvements. I think as we improve our communication and our outreach, we become a better partner with each of our neighborhoods in solving the problems.