By Tyler A. McNeil
FULTONVILLE – Montgomery County Sheriff Jeff Smith will accompany U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Saratoga, to the annual State of the Union address in less than a week.
This is the first year Montgomery County is a part of the 21st Congressional District, after the state congressional map was redrawn last year. The Republican sheriff and Fort Plain native was first elected to serve the county in 2018.
“Sheriff Smith and countless other members of law enforcement are on the frontlines every day protecting our communities and fighting against the crises caused by Joe Biden’s failed policies,” Stefanik said in a statement.
Smith, 54, received the invitation less than two weeks ago.
“I was surprised and shocked, excited, appreciative, thankful,” Smith said. “I could use all those adjectives.”
Members of Congress are allowed to bring one guest to the address.
Previous guests of Stefanik’s include Sarah Pratt, the South Glens Falls-based daughter of a police officer killed in action (2018); Steve Bowman, a U.S. Air Force veteran from Clinton County (2019), and David Fisher, president of the New York Farm Bureau, from St. Lawrence County (2020).
There was no State of the Union address in 2021 due to the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 of that year. In 2022, Stefanik invited Brandon Budlong, local union president for the National Border Patrol Council, but guests weren’t allowed.
Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino congratulated his peer on the invitation.
“I think it’s a very decent thing,” Giardino said. “Jeff is an excellent sheriff and he represents sheriffs across the state and country well, so it’ll be a good experience for him.”
Both GOP sheriffs endorsed Stefanik in the last election. She received 57 endorsements from elected officials in Montgomery County and 72 in Fulton County.
Smith, who ran unopposed last year, said that he had engaged in some productive conversations with the congresswoman on the campaign trail about “the need to try to make some positive changes to assist the men and women that work in law enforcement every day.”
“She was telling me how fond she was of law enforcement and how she supported law enforcement across the board, not when we do things improperly, but when we’re good law enforcement officials and do the right thing,” Smith said. “And I was appreciative of that.”
Smith has spent more than three decades in emergency services, including work as a volunteer firefighter in Fort Plain and four years as director of Montgomery County Emergency Management before entering elected office.
The sheriff said that he’s also had positive interactions with both U.S. Reps. Paul Tonko and Antonio Delgado, a Democrat who represented the western half of the county in Congress from 2018 until stepping down to become lieutenant governor in 2022.
“I didn’t have a bad relationship with any of them,” Smith said. “And thankfully, especially Delgado, seems to be very receptive to the law enforcement struggles and, matter of fact, he sat down with members of New York State Sheriffs Association one day for like two hours, just had a question and answer, and spoke very candidly with us.”
Delgado’s former district, the 19th Congressional District, drifted further downstate per redistricting.
Tonko, who no longer represents Montgomery County as a result of redistricting, plans to announce his guest for the State of the Union address on Monday.
See the article in the Leader-Herald here.