“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”
Can it be 15 years since The Freeman’s Journal and Hometown Oneonta, (after its founding in 2008), have recognized a Citizen (or Citizens) of the Year in the final edition of the 12th month?
In 2006, Cherry Valley Town Supervisor Tom Garretson, digesting information brought before him on industrial-scale wind turbines, changed his mind and led the charge to block them. That took guts and flexibility.
In 2020, Heidi Bond is a worthy successor. Like Garretson, she didn’t expect the worst epidemic in a century to explode upon us. But, like Garretson, she rose to the occasion, deploying her limited staff and doing what needed to be done, including long hours of hard work many days on end.
When called for a comment, but not yet knowing who had been chosen, county Rep. David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield, said, “Your Citizen of the Year should be Heidi Bond.”
Of course, she is. Greatness was thrust upon her, and she was ready.
That is the case in several of the 42-some people who have been Citizens of the Year. (Several years, more than one person was chosen, the peak being Oneonta’s 12-person Charter Commission.)
But that idea: Not expecting a specific challenge, regular citizens can still be prepared, discovering that, through training, discipline, energy, intelligence and mental toughness, they can rise to the
occasion and overcome the challenges at hand.
That certainly applies to Heidi Bond, but also to Adrian Kuzminski (2010), who led the anti-fracking movement; Cooperstown then-mayor Carol Waller (2007), who led the village through a trouble-free record turnout to Cal Ripken’s 2007 Induction, to Pastor Sylvia Kevlin (2017), who responded to the fiery destruction of the Milford Methodist Church with the declaration, “We will rebuild.” And her congregation did.
Some achieved greatness in a more conscious way: Hartwick College President Margaret Drugovich (2016), who raised a record $32 million, launched numerous innovations and renovated the campus. Is it any surprise that she largely succeeded in limiting the COVID spread on Oyaron Hill?
Or former Oneonta Mayor John Nader (2009), who, required to resign when he was promoted to SUNY Delhi dean, put the pieces in place for the renovation of the former Bresee’s Department Store into a reborn downtown anchor?
Or state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford (2013) – he is retiring this week after representing us in Albany for 34 years – whose hiring of a hard-driving economic developer and the elevation of the IDA to Otsego Now grew out of two “Seward Summits” on economic development and a personal determination to help his natal county better succeed at job creation?
It’s interesting that some of the Citizens, chosen with high hopes, didn’t quite work out.
The new team of Kathy Clark, Kay Stuligross and Linda Rowinski (2012) on the county board helm was heralded as a “return of amity,” but it didn’t turn out that way.
Entrepreneur Tom Cormier’s plan (2010) to revive the Oneonta Theatre as a concert venue was an exciting one, and had traction for a few years before collapsing.
Arguably, the Oneonta Charter Commission was visionary in professionalized governance (2011) through creating a city-manager position. But three failed or iffy city-manager tenures later, the City Fathers and Mothers are looking for a greater role for elected officials.
Still, these have been learning efforts. While economic developer Sandy Mathes’ energy didn’t prevent his forced departure, his successor – the more low-key Jody Zakrevsky – has been able to move Mathes initiatives forward. Plus, Mathes – and Seward – underscored the importance of jobs, jobs, jobs.
Not all promising initiatives succeed. As John Kennedy declared in his Boston brogue: “Why do we go to the moon? Not because it is easy – but because it is HAWED.”
One thought: Over 15 years, Otsego County – north and south – has been operating as more of a unit, with much more communication and collaboration between Oneonta and Cooperstown.
At first, it made sense to have separate Hometown Oneonta and Freeman’s Journal Citizens of the Year. No more, with Senator Seward, the Hager family (hops yards in Pierstown, Northern Eagle’s new brewery in West Oneonta), Stacie Haynes, serving distressed animals countywide, with Oneontans working at Bassett, and Cooperstonians at the colleges, a single county agenda made more and more sense.
Another thought: While eight of the first 10 Citizens were men, six of the last nine were women.
That brings to mind a quibble: In the recent efforts to fill state Sen.-elect Peter Oberacker’s county board seat, both Republicans and Democrats declared it should be filled by a woman.
Folks, that battle’s been won; we can knock it off. The “little ladies” are beyond needing a leg up. They’ve fully arrived.
With MacGuire Benton’s election to the Cooperstown Village Board in a hard-fought race, and county Rep. Clark Oliver’s elevation to county Democratic chairman, it seems the county’s gay community is also claiming its proper place in our public life.
Fifteen years of recognizing our fellow citizens’ strivings to achieve, to solve problems, to realize visions, to meet challenges, demonstrate that imperfect human beings can do great things, whether they pursue us or are thrust upon us.
As COVID’s first anniversary approaches, the 42 Citizens provide reasons for pride and hope.
WE can overcome.
►FROM GARRETSON TO BOND, GREATNESS PURSUED
Tom Garretson: Cherry Valley town supervisor led opposition to industrial-scale windmills.
Carol Waller: She proved to be Cooperstown’s “Little Mayor That Could” during record attendance at Cal Ripken Induction.
• Hometown Oneonta: The Centennial Committee – Tom Klemow, Kevin Herrick and Mayor John Nader – which organized city’s 100th-anniversary celebration that ended in a knock-out parade.
• The Freeman’s Journal:
Penney Gentile; her son Chris’ death in a Holy Thursday car crash spurred her campaign to make drivers’ education mandatory in state’s schools.
• The Freeman’s Journal: Reinventing 22 Main – Mayor Joe Booan, Trustees Eric Hage, Willis Monie Jr., Neil Weiller. Republicans took control of Village Board and vowed clean-sheet look at Cooperstown government.
• Hometown Oneonta: John Nader, who resigned as mayor when he was promoted to SUNY Delhi provost (he is now SUNY Farmingdale president), but not before the Bresee’s renovation was assured.
• Hometown Oneonta: Tom Cormier – Entrepreneur bought Oneonta Theatre, launched
• The Freeman’s Journal: Adrian Kuzminski, activist led
local fight against fracking.
• Hometown Oneonta: 12-person City Charter Commission recommended professional city manager, got idea through referendum. Dave Rissberger, chairman; John Dudek, Martha
Forgiano, Karen Geasey, Tom
Kelly, Larry Malone, Steve Londner, Sarah Patterson, Paul Scheele, Kay StuliGross, Kathy Wolverton, Laurie Zimniewicz.
• The Freeman’s Journal: “Farmers of the Future” – Hartwick beef farmer Chris Harmon’s profile launched monthly profiles of
futuristic farmers over 2012.
New amity on county Board of Representatives hailed as County Reps. Kathy Clark, chairman, Kay Stuligross, and Linda Rowinski took over leadership.
Jim Seward, “Building a
Consensus on a Properous
Future,” as former Greene County Economic Developer Sandy Mathes prepared to lead
The Hager Family, “Reviving the Golden Age of Hops.”
“Fighting The Scourge: They Opened Four Fronts Against Heroin Tide”: County Judge
Brian Burns, now Supreme
Court judge; Oneonta Police Chief Doug Brenner, LEAF executive Julie Dostal; District Attorney
Hartwick College President Margaret Drugovich: “Beacon on Oyaron Hill,” as record $32 million fund drive came to a successful conclusion.
Pastor Sylvia (now kEVLIN): “Gethsemane & Back,” as new Milford Methodist Church building was rising after fire razed former church that March.
Stacie Haynes: “For The Love Of Misty,” a childhood pet who nurtured a love of animals, and inspired drive to build new Susquehanna Animal Shelter,
now rising on Route 28, Index.
Meg Kennedy: “The Kennedy Method,” where county board vice chairman, first local rep to serve on NYSAC board, built momentum behind county-manager system.
Heidi Bond: “General in the
COVID-19 Fight.” The county’s public health director led
contact-tracing, much more to limit disease’s spread.