By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN —Jenna Utter was worried.
She had three children at home – Lucas, 10, Dawson, 6 and Leah, 5 – and had lost her job as a paralegal in County Attorney Ellen Coccoma’s office after working for the county – in various roles – since 2012.
Then, she saw that the Village of Cooperstown was seeking a deputy treasurer. “It was local and I wouldn’t have to travel,” she said.
She interviewed, but after Village Administrator – and, before that, longtime Village Clerk – Teri Barown announced her retirement in late September — she was asked back for a second interview.
Monday, Oct. 26, Village Board voted unanimously to appoint Utter to succeed Barown.
“It’s a great opportunity,” she said.
Utter is a 2003 Edmeston High School graduate, where she was active with National Honor Society, basketball and soccer, and theater. “I’ve lived here my whole 35 years,” she said.
She got her B.A. in Child and Family Studies from SUNY Oneonta in 2007, interning with both Opportunities for Otsego and Catholic Charities.
She used her degree, working for the Department of Social Services in the legal department, where she discovered she enjoyed paralegal work. In 2014, that vaulted her to working for as a deputy clerk to Clerk of the County Board Carol McGovern.
“I learned that I enjoy taking minutes and making agendas,” she said. “I love the politics of it. But mostly, I enjoy working with people.”
Her husband, Kevin, has worked for the county Highway Department for 14 years.
After five years, she took a position in 2019 as a legal secretary for District Attorney John Muehl, and then, when Coccoma needed a paralegal, moved over in March.
But it was short-lived, and with COVID-19 bearing down on the county, she was among the 59 county employees laid off in June, just three months after she started.
“I’ve always worked,” she said. “I was so worried. And we were on a tight budget.”
She interviewed for the position and was hired a week later.
“Jenna came with high recommendations,” said Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh.
For now, she will hold the position of village clerk, as did Barown from 2005 to 2015, when she was promoted to village administrator.
Barown is retiring this Friday, Oct. 30. She was present at the trustees Monday meeting, and received a standing ovation.
“It’s impossible to replace you,” said Tillapaugh.
“It’s been a pleasure to work with everyone,” said Barown.
A reception for Barown is planned Sunday, Nov. 1, with remarks from speakers, including former Mayor Jeff Katz, on the front lawn of Village Hall, 22 Main St., to allow for social distancing.
Though Utter’s start date is to be determined, Tillapaugh says that she will “shadow” Barown this week to get a feel for Village Hall.
“Some things were just meant to happen,” said Utter.