DAN WILBER, R- DISTRICT 5
Editor’s Note: This is the final of seven profiles of the seven new members of the Otsego County Board of Representatives elected Nov. 3, and who take office Wednesday, Jan. 6. Review all the profiles at www.allotsego.com
By LIBBY CUDMORE • for www.AllOTSEGO.com
BURLINGTON – A former code officer for the county and an employee of the state Department of Transportation, Dan Wilber, knows how the government works. “And I know how it should work!” he said.
It was this idea that inspired him to run for District 10 county representative, a race he won against Democrat Russ Bachman and incumbent Betty Anne Schwerd, who ran as an independent. “I thought it was time for a change,” he said. “I thought we could use some fresh ideas, fresh people.”
An Ulster County native, Wilber enjoyed an active and varied career before settling in Burlington in 2004.
He was fire chief with the Phoenicia Fire Department, a corrections officer at the maximum security prison in Ellenville, Security & Fire Safety director for the state Office of Children & Family Services, and a photographer with the Air Force Thunderbirds.
He also owned two vacuum-cleaner stores in Danbury, Conn. And Fishkill, as well as worked for his wife Alison’s Motorola franchise.
In joining the Otsego board at its first meeting Wednesday, Jan. 6, economic development is first and foremost on his mind. “Our young people are moving away,” he said. “They can’t find jobs here, and that’s a drain on our resources,” he said. “Whether it’s blue collar or tech work, we need to do something to make sure we’re more than just a fast-food economy.”
But he wants to make sure he is always open to ideas about how to develop jobs, rather than going in with his mind made up. “If I go in with the mindset of ‘this is what we need,’ that’s not going to help.” he said. “I want to go in there with an open mind and I want to listen to what other people have to say.”
He also wants to assess county taxes. “I’m hearing about people who are being thrown out of their homes because they can’t pay their taxes,” he said. “We had a protest about it just a couple weeks ago. That says something.”
The difficult part, he admits, is finding the balance. “We need to find what people can afford to pay, but that also gives the county what it needs to run services. That money needs to come from somewhere.”
A Burlington town justice for six years, he had to resign from the position to run for county board. But he still serves as a volunteer driver for the EMS squad, where Alison is an EMT. Currently, he is an assistant director of Safety & Health for the state DOT.
“In the end, it’s not about me,” he said. “It’s not even about the party. It’s about the people who elected us.”