Alumni Trifecta Keeps City of Albany Ticking

Albany Law School Trio in Albany

THREE KEY MEMBERS of the Albany Mayor’s Office are Albany Law School alumni: Mayor Kathy Sheehan ’94; the mayor’s chief of staff, David Galin ’14; and city treasurer Darius Shahinfar ’97.

Galin has served with Sheehan for four years, first as a policy analyst and then as deputy chief of staff. Before the novel coronavirus pandemic, he was using analytics to find ways to be more innovative and efficient in delivering city services, and focusing on improving communication between the City of Albany and its residents. Since COVID-19 arrived, his job has involved more emergency management and crisis communication.

First there were the logistics of quickly closing city offices and limiting services, while still connecting city residents to basic resources. “We were getting a lot of inquiries about resources people needed immediately,” Galin said, so he and the team from the Mayor’s Office developed a COVID Resource Guide with ways to access food, medical services, day care, school resources, and more.

Galin worked closely with the city’s business improvement districts and Common Council to help restaurants open outdoor cafes and expand onto sidewalks. “The problem-solving skills you learn in law school really help you look at rules from different angles and be creative about solutions,” he said. “Many of my experiences at [Albany Law], especially as a member of the moot court board, helped prepare me for the chief of staff position and how it has evolved.”

When the killing of George Floyd stirred calls for change, Galin joined Mayor Sheehan during talks with council members and citizens about policing in communities and was part of the team that helped the mayor and police chief draft plans for police reforms. He and other staffers also coordinated “Create Change Together” conversations with the mayor and police chief. Galin said, “Mayor Sheehan’s commitment to listening helps shape the decisions she makes— decisions that are always made through a lens of equity.”

The city’s chief financial officer, Shahinfar, has served with Sheehan since 2014. His office is responsible for city payroll, vouchers, and claims; investment and debt management; and the collection of property taxes, waste collection fees, and fines such as parking tickets. “Why they made the tax collector and parking ticket collector an elected position, I don’t know!” he joked.

Since COVID-19 upended business as usual, his main concern has been whether the city will realize the revenue upon which the budget is based. With sales tax down and state aid expected to be cut significantly, much hinges on a proposed federal bill that would make municipalities whole for lost revenues. “So many uncertainties are going to make putting together a budget for next year very difficult,” he said.

Prior to being elected, Shahinfar served in several public service capacities, including as the regional representative for then- Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand and deputy Albany County attorney. He credits his legal education with helping him adapt to the CFO role. “The analytical skills enable you to understand and problem solve things quickly,” he said. “And in government, everything has a legal component. Being able to understand the legalities makes you better able to execute what you need to do.”

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