DAVID BLISS, R-DISTRICT 7
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth of seven profiles, one each on the seven new members of the Otsego County Board of Representatives elected Nov. 3, that will be posted each Wednesday afternoon up until they take office Jan. 1. Next week, Andrew Marietta, District 8 (Town of Otsego, including Cooperstown west of the Susquehanna).
By JIM KEVLIN • for www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – Dave Morris, one of David Bliss’ fellow realtors with Hubbell’s Real Estate, remembers when Morris’ daughters were growing up and riding horses, and he would buy hay from Bliss’ father, Claude.
The truck would pull up, and David Bliss and his older brother Tim would toss heavy bales of hay into Morris’ barn, one after another, until the loft was filled. When football practice began in August, other players might drag as they got into shape, but the Bliss boys were always in peak condition, Morris recalled.
Farming and youth sports are still big parts of Dave Bliss’ life. “I sell real estate to support my farming habit,” he joked the other day. He went back into the family business after graduating from SUNY Oneonta – he played basketball there briefly – and teaching for a couple of years.
And he went from player to coach, helping out with CCS boys’ basketball for a while in the 1990s and coaching American Legion baseball in the summers. He coached a CCS girls’ softball team to the sectional finals at Lemoyne a few years ago, among the activities that won him the Clark Sports Center’s coveted Fetterman Award for service to youth in 2013.
Another aspect of his life has been serving in local government. Following in his father’s footsteps – Claude Bliss, who passed away in 1995, was on the town board when Middlefield adopted zoning, and served as highway superintendent for a period – Dave joined the town Zoning Board of Appeals in 1973. Then, after two years on the town board, was elected town supervisor.
He held that post for 24 years. A Republican, he ran unopposed this year for the District 7 seat on the county Board of Representatives, succeeding Democrat Beth Rosenthal, who moved out of the county – from Roseboom to Albany – in the fall.
He had been approached to run in 2013, but was otherwise occupied: The Town of Middlefield had adopted a fracking ban in 2011 – it would have been the first town to do so, but the Otsego Town Board happened to meet the night before – and was sued by Norse Energy Corp. on behalf of Cooperstown Holstein Corp., where initial tests had suggested gas could be fracked profitably.
Bliss said he was troubled by fracking’s potential impact “on the quality of life in the area. And it wasn’t clear to me that the technology was safe.” He was also confident that Henry Weil, who chaired the town Planning Board, had moved forward sure-footedly in developing the ban.
In June of 2014, however, the state Court of Appeals – New York’s Supreme Court – affirmed the Town of Middlefield’s position (and the Town of Dryden’s, which was also sued). Norse retreated and the ban became established law. So it was time.
With the election of Henry Schecher, director of the county’s Property Tax Office, succeeding him as supervisor, and the accountant Ray Holohan joining the town board, Bliss believes he is leaving Middlefield in good hands.
The recent financial dilemmas he has faced as supervisor – since 2010, the State of New York has imposed a 2 percent tax cap on counties and municipalities, at the same time cutting state aid – will be helpful in his new role at 197 Main St., he said.
He is particular perturbed by the state practice of committing funding, then reneging after counties and towns have already spent the money. With Middlefield’s town budget in the $1.3 million range, “a couple of hundred thou – that’s 20 percent of our revenues.”
This year, the $1.2 million the state clawed back was a significant part of the $9.2 million gap the county board had to fill by cutting some jobs and leaving others unfilled. “The county has cut services as much as they can,” said Bliss. “You can only kick the can down the road so far.” In his view, state mandates should be 100-percent state-funded.
That’s particularly important because, with the heroin problem and other issues, the county is facing challenges that will be costly to overcome, he said.
David Bliss is joining the county board 213 years after his family first arrived, in 1803, settling in Hartwick. Blisses have been farming in the Red Creek neighborhood since the 1870s, and they are numerous. His father, Claude (Dave’s mom was Anna), had two brothers, Clyde (the father of Terry Bliss, former county director of planning) and Carl, who lives in California.
In addition to brother Tim, David has six sisters, Sandy, Connie, Patty, Joanne, Amy and Laura. Several of the sisters are teachers, including Patricia, who returned to Otsego County a decade ago to become principal at the former St. Mary’s School in Oneonta; she is now principal at Rome Catholic.
David and his wife, Kim, who teaches at Richfield Spring Central, have three children, Rachel, who works at New York Central Mutual; Eric, who is with Barnes & Noble in New York City, and Ethan, who is studying criminal justice at Utica College.