Edwin D. Reilly, County Historian  ♦  historian@schenectadycounty.com


Schenectady County was incorporated on March 7, 1809 when the Towns of Niskayuna, Duanesberg, Princetown, and the City of Schenectady, all part of Albany County at the time, came together. The Towns of Glenville and Rotterdam were incorporated at later dates and were originally wards within the City. 

The name Schenectady is believed to be derived from the Iroquois word Schau-naugh-ta-da, which is translated to "over the pine plains," or "across the pine plains.” It is said it was applied to the place where Schenectady now stands, as being over the plains from Albany.

While Schenectady County was incorporated in 1809, our history goes back much further. In June, 1661, Arent Van Corlaer and 14 others applied to Governor Stuyvesant for permission to purchase from the Mohawk Tribe the "Great Flat," a tract of land on the lower Mohawk. Permission was granted and the land was bought the following month. The earliest European settlers of Schenectady County came from the Netherlands.

Schenectady County is now comprised of five towns - Duanesburg, Glenville, Niskayuna, Princetown and Rotterdam, the City of Schenectady and two villages. The Village of Scotia lies wholly within Glenville and the Village of Delanson wholly within Duanesburg.

Schenectady County’s Governing Bodies

When the first recorded meeting of the Schenectady County Board of Supervisors was called to order on Tuesday, October 3, 1809 the presiding officer was General William North, a leader of the opposition to the formation of the county. The supervisors for the wards and towns were chosen and North represented Duanesburg. Elected moderator, he presided until he left to take his seat in the State Assembly where he was made Speaker. He was the only Speaker of the Assembly from Schenectady County until the late Speaker, Oswald D. Heck, first wielded the gavel in 1937.

Members of the Original Board of Supervisors
WILLIAM NORTH Duanesburg, Moderator 
  Second Ward 
ALEXANDER McMICHAEL Third Ward (now Rotterdam) 
JAMES BOYD Fourth Ward (now Glenville) 

As Schenectady County’s population grew, the Board of Supervisors expanded to include fourteen wards. 

In 1964, The Schenectady County Charter Commission was established, to propose major modifications to the existing County charter. In 1965, Schenectady County residents voted to abolish the former of wards, supervisors, and chairmen, and to create a home rule charter providing: an appointed County Manager; a Board of Representatives elected from districts; elected district attorney, county clerk and sheriff ; appointed medical examiner and other departments; and a clearly defined budgeting program.

On January 1, 1966, the Schenectady County Board of Representatives appointed a county manger at its organizational meeting; the next day Theodore Birbilis took the oath of office as the first Schenectady County Manager. Birbilis was the former county auditor and former finance director for the City of Schenectady. 

Over the years since first enacted, Schenectady County’s Charter has undergone many amendments and modifications, as does any governing document. In 1987, The Board of Representatives became the County Legislature. The Legislature was originally comprised of fifteen members, and was reduced to thirteen members in 1991 due to shrinking population. In 2001, the Legislature was restored to its present number of fifteen members.