The Times-Union (Albany, NY)
December 29, 2011 Thursday
Final Edition EDITION



TROY -- Mayor Harry Tutunjian's political career began in 1996 when,
as a new homeowner, he was staggered by a 21 percent city property-tax

"I started paying attention to city government and city politics,"
Tutunjian recalled Wednesday.

His taste for politics grew when he won a silent auction for a 1997
Valentine's Day lunch with state Sen. Joseph L. Bruno, R-Brunswick, at
Jack's Oyster House in Albany.

Tutunjian narrowly won election to the City Council in 1999, then as
City Council president in 2001. At the end of his second four-year
term as mayor, Tutunjian is leaving reluctantly on Saturday, forced
out of office by term limits.

The only photo left in the Republican mayor's office is one taken of
him with President Obama in 2009 at Hudson Valley Community College.

"I met the President. I'm a first generation American," the
Armenian-American mayor said.

Tutunjian didn't anticipate becoming mayor, which he said has
"rock-star status" among the city's schoolchildren and a far lower
regard among his opponents.

Tutunjian's eight years have been marked by controversies and
achievement. He's been called thin skinned and combative by friends
and foes, but acknowledged for loyalty and perseverance.

Tutunjian said taking the helm in 2003 left him confronting a city
where "They heard it all but they had never seen it all."

His task starting in his first term was to show not only city
residents, but the Capital Region that Troy was vital and improving.
Instituting the Action Team in public works to ensure trash was picked
up and streets cleaned, the mayor said, was the first step.

"There seems to be tremendous change in creating excitement for the
city," said Councilman Bill Dunne, the Democrat representing downtown,
who is the only councilman to serve eight years with Tutunjian as

That includes the introduction of festivals such as Chowderfest and
The Troy Pig Out. On the economic development front, the city has seen
$110 million in private investment and 1,100 new jobs. His passion for
barbecuing helped bring Dinosaur BBQ to the city.

Dunne said Tutunjian also has succeeded in following Democratic Mayor
Mark Pattison in keeping the city's finances balanced.

Tutunjian's eight budgets included three that carried no tax hike.

But much of Tutunjian's second term was spent battling with the
Democratic-controlled City Council, which over the last two years had
five of its nine Democratic members under investigation for
absentee-ballot fraud.

"Poor communications," Dunne said, summing up the relationship.
Nowhere was that demonstrated more that the still-unresolved fight of
where city hall should be.

Tutunjian obtained state funds to knock down the old city hall at 1
Monument Square on the Hudson River. City government relocated to the
former Verizon Building at 1776 Sixth Ave., which Tutunjian originally
proposed getting by swapping it for the old city hall site. Some
members of the council wanted to move to the city-owned Dauchy

Republican Councilman Mark McGrath, who supported the mayor on some
issues but confronted him on others, said, "Harry is an honest man who
really did a great job."

Tutunjian leaves office with the prospect that he will be appointed to
fill the Rensselaer County Legislature seat vacated by Lou Rosamilia,
his Democratic successor as mayor. Tutunjian hasn't ruled out running
for other offices, including a return as mayor in 2015.

He shuttered the family's auto body business when he became mayor.
He's leaving his $95,000 post without firm plans. He may get back into
the auto business or invest in developing properties in the city.

Considered a hands-on mayor, Tutunjian responded to police and fire
calls and even plowed snow. He said the one thing he didn't do was
pick up the garbage.