University Council Member Bonnie E. Russell said Wednesday that she is hoping to be hired as a legal secretary, working for Family Court Judge-elect Mary Giallanza Carney.
“I try not to get too hopeful, until you get those final words,” she said.
Russell, who is one of the Common Council’s longest-serving members, its president pro tempore and its only woman, said the opportunity is attractive but cautioned that nothing is final yet.
“I’d be interested if she asked and it all worked, but unless I have something concrete in writing that says I have a new job, this is my job,” Russell said after a legislative meeting Wednesday in Council Chambers. “I’m going to keep on doing it full force until I hear otherwise.”
Her departure would create a vacancy on the Council.
In an interview Tuesday evening, Carney said that Russell provided invaluable support on her campaign and that she will hire Russell as her legal secretary.
“She was my right hand,” Carney said. “She was great at my schedule, my calendar.”
Russell said the opportunity is “attractive; it’s very, very attractive.”
Both women said their families have been friends for a long time. The Carneys – Mary and her husband, Mark – provided some of the first political support for Russell’s husband, Robert T. Russell Jr., in his first run for City Court judge in 1991.
Russell is in her 10th year on the Council and has seven years’ experience as a legal secretary in law firms and for the government. She said she likes working for one boss.
“You’re accountable to one person; it makes life a lot simpler,” she said.
Russell is planning for retirement, she said, and had to consider whether she wanted to keep running for office, though she didn’t rule out running in the future.
“The guys have always been good to me,” she said of her Council colleagues. “It’s kind of heart-wrenching because half of me doesn’t want to go, and the other half of me does.”
Russell would be taking a pay cut, but since Carney’s appointment is for 10 years, and state employees receive step raises, the total package would be better for her than staying as a city lawmaker, she said.
Russell said she must talk it over with her family and was not ready to announce that she would be leaving just yet.
The state Office of Court Administration would have to approve Russell’s hiring, including consideration of her husband’s position on the City Court bench. There are some restrictions on family members working in court offices if there is a chance that a conflict of interest could arise.
If Russell leaves, the Council would appoint a new member, as it did when South Council Member Michael P. Kearns left to join the Assembly.
That appointment would likely be made in the first half of 2014. The appointee would then need to run in a special election in November to keep the seat and again when the entire Council is up for election in 2015.
Russell said that she does not have an opinion on who should succeed her but that it must be someone who knows the diverse district, which includes the established neighborhood of University Park; University Heights, which is home for longtime residents and students; Kensington-Bailey, which is trying to succeed and has committed block clubs; and Kenfield-Langfield, a public housing development.
Russell is a member of the Council majority, which supports Mayor Byron W. Brown.
Russell’s support of the mayor has not been a secret, she said, and Brown was a help to her husband’s first campaign in 1991, long before he ever was elected to office himself.