ANDREW MARIETTA, D-DISTRICT 8
By JIM KEVLIN • for www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – In the run-up to taking office, county Rep.-elect Andrew Marietta, D-Town of Otsego, has had a chance to chat with County Clerk Kathy Sinnott Gardner about the DMV dilemma.
It’s this: The state requires counties to have Departments of Motor Vehicles, but is sending license renewals to drivers directly, urging them to renew by mail with Albany or online. “If you do your renewal online,” said Marietta, “we don’t capture any of those revenues.”
So money that could be spent locally – in local establishments, to better fund county operations, or even to keep the tax rate down – is lost.
Most people don’t know that, said Marietta. That’s his point. And his first goal on taking office Jan. 1 as the county rep for the Town of Otsego, which includes Cooperstown west of the Susquehanna River, will be better communications.
As one of only four Democrats to the Republicans’ 10-rep majority, it’s unclear what role Marietta will be able to play in county affairs at first. But he can put his constituents in the information loop immediately.
He plans to launch an e-mail newsletter for the people in his district, and report on county board proceedings promptly. Voters will be able to sign up for the newsletter at an upgraded version of http://andrewmarietta.com/, his campaign website.
Right now, citizens can go to www.otsegocounty.com and read the minutes of meetings. “Why does it have to be that hard for taxpayers to get information?” he asked.
Listening to Marietta, he is clearly eager to get started with his new duties. But to hear him tell it, the 11-year regional director of the New York Council of Nonprofits was a bit of an accidental candidate.
With his NYCON hat on, he was meeting last summer with the Butternut Valley Alliance at the Butternut Valley Golf Course near Garrattsville. At the time, the idea of the county sharing bed-tax money with Cooperstown and other localities was a hot issue.
As the meeting ended, county Rep. Ed Lentz, D-Garrattsville, asked if he would be interested in running for county board. Soon, Andrew Stammel of the Town of Oneonta, who would also be elected Nov. 3 to county board, was on the phone, and Cooperstown’s Richard Abbate, the county Democratic chair.
“Why are you interested in running?” they asked. He wasn’t sure he was. “Let me find out a little more about this,” he responded. But word got out that he was exploring his options, and that got into print. His wife Melissa greeted him a bit testily that night: “I had to find out about you running for county representative in the newspaper!”
Melissa and Andrew, he is now 38 (and a recipient of The Freeman’s Journal & Hometown Oneonta’s 20 Under 40 honors last February), met at the Cooperstown Graduate Program in 2001. A year behind him, she, a Mount Holyoke grad, was from Goshen, Mass., he from the Midwest. Born in Hibbing, Minn., he was raised in Bloomington, a suburb of Minneapolis, and graduated from Creighton University in Omaha with a double major in history and business administration.
Also that second year, he obtained an internship with Tom Costello, then NYSHA vice president for development. Marietta had done an internship at the Durham Western Heritage Museum in Omaha and expected to work toward an executive director position at a museum or cultural organization.
As it happened, on obtaining his master’s in 2002 he stepped into a full-time position at NYSHA. Costello was expanding the department and Marietta was soon immersed in marketing The Farmers’ Museum and seeking sponsorships.
In 2004, he heard NYCON – the New York Council of Non-Profits – was looking for a regional director, and he got the job. NYCON was founded in 1927 as a human services agency, but had expanded its role into training, professional development of staff and strategic planning. It had some local involvement, but no staff. Marietta took up residence at the former Bugbee School in Oneonta.
The Scriven Foundation was interested in increasing the capacity and success of the non-profits that approach it for support and was instrumental in NYCON’s expansion. It launched a micro-grant program, which continues to this day: Instead of giving a person a fish, the idea was to teach that person to fish – to become self-sustaining.
That was Marietta’s purpose. He began by going door to door, non-profit to non-profit, to see how he might help. A certificate holder from Columbia’s Institute for Non-Profit Manager, today he’s moved into “professional development facilitation. Now, that’s a ton of what I do.”
Back in 2004, the NLF – the Non-Profit Leadership Forum, which included such stalwarts as Planned Parenthood’s Deb Marcus, OFO’s Dan Maskin and LEAF’s Julie Dostal – was trying to fulfill a similar function on a volunteer basis. As Marietta gained traction, the NLF leaders told him, “you’re doing what we always wanted to do,” and it dissolved.
In the decade since, Marietta has helped dozens of non-profits. A notable recent intervention included helping Oneonta’s Community YMCA, limited by its physical plant on Ford Avenue, to extend its expertise beyond its walls. In the past two years, the Y has begun administering the city’s recreation program, and is providing after-school programs at Cooperstown and Schenevus central schools.
Meanwhile, Andrew and Melissa married and have two daughters, Caroline, 9, and Charlotte, 5. Melissa joined the Baseball Hall of Fame as director of the Steele Internship Program, then moved to Hartwick College, where she is now director of career services.
Marietta’s father, Karl, was an engineer specializing in community heating plants in the Midwest and, after Andrew left home, joined Tabreed, the United Arab Emirates’ company that builds district cooling plants in the Persian Gulf states. He was CFO, advancing to CEO.
As the father toiled in Abu Dhabi’s heat, the son, experiencing the shortage of housing in the Cooperstown area, enticed him to invest in more temperate climes, and the family formed an LLC to buy and upgrade apartments here. Today, the family business owns three properties in Cooperstown, 15 units in all, and the new county rep can often be seen mowing lawns on a summer’s day or touching up a clapboard exterior.
He served on the board and as president of the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce. And in 2013, he was elected to the Cooperstown Central school board, where he plans to continue serving until his term ends in May.
“I’ve really enjoyed being on the school board,” he said, as the directors have focused on upgrading AP courses and other offerings to make CCS increasingly competitive among county schools. “Now, we have this momentum – people are seeking the vision for something bigger and better,” he said.
His central contribution, he believes, has been in the area of communications. Since his arrival, he nudged the school district into launching a Facebook page, and it is now redesigning its web site. “Any business or school board has to use these tools – if you don’t, you’re left behind.”
Among innovations he’s been contemplating is the use of videos to help county government tell its story. Why not ask department heads to talk about the services they provide – services many taxpayers may be unaware of, he said, holding up a Smartphone with video capacity.
“We need more interaction, better communication,” he said. “I bet there are some great ideas department heads have – we just aren’t hearing about them.”