MEG KENNEDY, R-DISTRICT 5
Editor’s Note: This is the second of six profiles, one each on the six new members of the Otsego County Board of Representatives elected Nov. 3, that will appear each Wednesday up until they take office Jan. 1. Next week, Peter Overacker, R-District 6 (Decatur, Maryland, Westford, Worcester)
Special to AllOTSEGO.com
HARTWICK – Meg Kennedy, the representative-elect for District 5, wants to use her position in Otsego County government to help farmers and her home town.
“The Town of Hartwick is a big revenue generator for the bed tax,” said Kennedy. “It would be a priority for me to get that money to the town.”
Under a formula worked out by the county, but never implemented, more than $200,000 in bed tax revenue could be distributed to local governments.
But citing budget shortfalls, the Board of Representatives voted to let the county keep all the money in 2015 and is on track to do so again in 2016.
Taxes were an issue during the campaign against incumbent county Rep. Ed Lentz, D-New Lisbon, who Kennedy – Meg is for Margaret, not Megan – overcame by 813-590 in the Nov. 3 elections.
During an Oct. 21 candidates forum Kennedy called taxes “a necessary evil.”
She went on get 58 percent of the vote to Lentz’s 42 percent.
Now, as an elected official, she said, “I’m not emphasizing that. Taxes are necessary for our civic way of life. We do need to have taxes.”
But she is promising to keep any future property-tax increases within the state cap.
One initiative Kennedy plans to advocate for is creation of a food hub to help farmers find new markets for their products.
“The food hub has tremendous possibilities,” said Kennedy. “The concept is to help local, artisanal producers pool their products and transport them to a more positive marketing opportunity, for example New York City.”
Otsego Now, the county’s IDA, is studying a proposal to create a food hub as part of the redevelopment of Oneonta’s Market Street.
The facility may include a commercial kitchen to allow farmers to process food, thus adding value to their products.
The cost of kitchens and licenses are prohibitive to small operators, according to Kennedy.
The food hub would solve those problems while also providing truck transport to urban markets.
Kennedy, whose father Paul is county chairman of the state Conservative Party, said she has always had an interest in politics.
“I’m Irish, so we live and breath politics,” said Kennedy, one of 11 children. “My family talked about issues and politics around the dinner table.”
While this is the first time 48-year-old Kennedy ran for elected office, she is an appointed member of the Hartwick Planning Board and served on the town’s Zoning Commission.
Six weeks before taking office, she acknowledges a lack of knowledge about the nuts and bolts of county operations, believes in limited government, and said delivering social services is the most important thing the county does.
“I’m interested in finding out all the aspects of county government,” said Kennedy. “I’m sure that within a year I’ll be more educated in how things work.”
“I’ll spend as much time as needed to adequately represent the towns,” said Kennedy, when asked about the number of hours she expects to put in as a county rep. “My weekends are filled with the farmers’ markets but I have quite a bit of time during the week.”
Kennedy manages the family farm which was founded by her grandfather. They grow potted plants in a greenhouse and cut flowers on seven acres during the summer. In addition, she staffs the family’s stand at the Cooperstown Farmers’ Market.
The house she lives in with her mother and father was built in 1777. She has a B.S. from Cornell University, is not married and doesn’t have children.