'THREE JOB BOB' HANGS UP HIS HATS

Troy's ubiquitous Mirch reflects on his years in Rensselaer County politics and about "being myself"

KENNETH C. CROWE II STAFF WRITER
Section: Capital Region,  Page: D1

Date: Friday, January 1, 2010

TROY -- If there was a political uproar or controversy in the city everyone looked for Bob Mirch -- the public works commissioner and politician.


Irrepressible, possessing a long memory and a ready sense of humor and always pushing for an advantage, Mirch enjoyed battling his enemies and going his own way.


"When I first got elected to the county legislature in 1993, there were a couple of guys who wanted to tell me what to do,'' said Mirch.


"I told them I got elected being myself. They'll throw me out for being myself,'' Mirch said.


That's what happened.


The city voters didn't re-elect Mirch to the Rensselaer County Legislature in November. And, he decided to retire as public works commissioner.


As of Dec. 31, Mirch says his life in politics is over except for fulfilling a promise to help Rensselaer County Surrogate Judge Christian Hummel run for re-election in 2011.


"I'm officially retired from politics. Retired and being away from politics is very nice,'' said Mirch, 60.


"I went from 100 telephone calls a day to less than 10,'' Mirch said about the leading indicator of a life out of office.


Mirch's political career ran from stealing campaign signs decades ago to infiltrating and seizing control of the Conservative, Independence and Working Families parties for local elections.


And Mirch's attention to details, such as securing absentee ballots, led to the ongoing investigation this fall of allegations of ballot fraud by city Democrats in the primary election.


The son of Republican Surrogate Judge John E. Mirch, Mirch said he enrolled as a Democrat to rebel against his dad. Both of them ended up as enrolled Conservatives.


Mirch would win election to the county Legislature as a Democrat and become minority leader. He skipped one legislature meeting due to it falling on primary day and achieved a certain distinction.


"I'm the only legislator to be fined for missing a meeting as a Democrat,'' Mirch said.


Legislature Chairman Neil J. Kelleher, a Troy Republican, levied the $50 fine.


Mirch would later switch to the Conservative Party and align with the legislature's Republican majority becoming majority leader. That gave him the further distinction of serving as minority leader for one party and majority leader for another.


"Bob was a unique character. He will long be remembered in Troy politics,'' said City Councilman Bill Dunne, a Democrat.


Mirch often went too far, Dunne said. "Bob succumbed to temptation," Dunne said. "He crossed the line on certain things."


Dunne was referring to Mirch's ordering the public works department to blockade access to Jack's Junkyard, which cost the city $20,000, and city code enforcement -- which Mirch oversaw -- shutting down the Sanctuary for Independent Media over a controversial exhibit.


Mirch also was called "Three Job Bob" for working for the city, serving as a county legislator and being on State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno's staff as a constituent liaison.


Mirch worked hard for whichever party he supported. He was Eliot Spitzer's man in Rensselaer County for the 1998 attorney general's race. Mirch would serve on Spitzer's transition committee.


On whatever side of the line he stood, Mirch always let everyone know he was there. He'd call the media to provide a comment identifying himself with one simple sentence, "It's the garbageman.''


That was his nickname for himself, taken from when he was the city's sanitation supervisor. By the way, he'll tell you he scored the highest on the civil service test to be the city's top garbageman.


Why he picked that moniker, Mirch explains easily and with a laugh: "You always go with your highest title.''


Kenneth C. Crowe II can be reached at 454-5084 or by e-mail at kcrowe@timesunion.com.