News of Otsego County

Economic Development

Worcester Man, Paralyzed At 11, Moves Into Dream Home At 31

Worcester Man, Paralyzed At 11,

Moves Into Dream Home At 31


A thrilled James Scofield moved into his new single-wide just before Christmas, thanks to ORHA and state funding. The home includes a ramp that allows him to drive his four-wheeler up to the door. (Ian Austin/

Paralyzed after a farming accident when he was 11, James Scofield, now 31, says he values patience, accessibility and independence above all else.

Now, he can enjoy all those things in his new, fully customized and accessible single-wide, set back off Mooney Road, framed by forest trees, courtesy of Otsego Rural Housing Assistance (ORHA).

The lifelong Worcester resident not only can enjoy hunting, fishing and working on cars with his 7-month-old, purebred chocolate lab Sky and 3-year-old pitbull-lab mix Zeus in his free time, but he is also self-sufficient.

Scofield takes care of himself without help, and assists friends in need, often plowing his neighbors’ driveways.

HERZIG: After COVID, Many Projects Will Happen

After COVID, Many Projects Will Happen

Oneonta Ford Demolition, Renovations
On Upper Floors Planned, Mayor Says

Editor’s Note: Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig delivered his sixth annual “State of the City” speech to Common Council Tuesday, Jan. 19. This is the text.

Mayor Herzig addresses Oneonta’s MLK Jr. commemoration
Sunday, Jan. 10.

Good evening, Oneonta – We have been tested these past 10 months; however, I can tell you that the state of the City of Oneonta is one of Strength, Resilience, and Caring 2020 was a year that Oneonta will always remember – not only for the unprecedented challenges it brought – but also for the way we came together to overcome them.  From the shutdown of the spring, to the SUNY outbreak of the Fall, and now the second wave of the Winter, we have stuck together and we are getting to the other side.

I know that Oneontans are independent-minded folks – never shy about letting you know when they disagree with you – but we come together as one when times are tough. I could not be more proud of your doing so this past year.

National Pioneer Tours State-Of-Art Shelter

National Pioneer Tours State-Of-Art Shelter


Modern animal shelter pioneer Scott Learned of Design Learned, Norwich, Conn.,examines the drains in the double-cage kennels-to-be at the new Susquehanna Animal Shelter, now under construction on Route 28, Index. Smell control will be a key factor in maintaining a tranquil environment for the would-be adoptees. (Jim Kevlin/

When Stacie Haynes joined the Susquehanna Animal Shelter as executive director in 2015, she discovered one of the dogs had been in its kennel for more than 400 days.
Today, shelter stays are typically 14-21 days, she reports.

Thank You Seward, Well Done!

Thank You Seward, Well Done!

On Dec. 31, 2020, James L. Seward of Milford – everyone’s “Gentleman Jim” – retired from the New York State Senate, where he had served Otsego County since Jan. 1, 1986. Because of COVID-19, few of his constituents had the chance to say: Farewell – and thank you. When offered the opportunity, many of us – his fellow legislators, community leaders, top corporate executives and businesspeople, and citizens to whom he reached out and helped in time of need – have now done so in tributes that appear in this Special Edition – from The Editor

State Sen. James L. Seward was surrounded by the people he loved most as he was sworn in on Jan. 2, 2019, for his last term by County Judge Brian Burns. From left are son Ryan with his wife, Kelly; daughter Lauren with younger daughter Vivian; wife Cindy and Vivian’s sister Norah. (Ian Austin/

Next Generation Buys Rudy’s
Business Partners Rethink Village Mainstay

Next Generation Buys Rudy’s

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

Business partners Matt Denison, left, and Joe Festa have bought Rudy’s. (Jim Kevlin/

Matt Denison, new proprietor of Rudy’s with Joe Festa, remembers running into Karen Lemister in the alleyway between the liquor store at 143 Main St. and Alex’s Bistro.

“I think this is something you would have a lot of fun with,” said Lemister, who owned Rudy’s for 48 years with husband Fred. One thing led to another, and over the Christmas holiday the venerable business changed hands – and generations – from the retirement-age Lemisters to the 30-something business partners.

Karen calls the new owners “the three Es” – “They have never faltered in energy, exuberance and excitement.”

The transition from one generation to another “is really exciting,” said another 30-something merchant, Jess Lanza, Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce president, who operates Kate’s Upstate with his wife, across from Rudy’s.

What happened is the ideal, Lanza said: “Instead of having a business closed by retirement, it’s passed on to new owners who can bring new ideas and new vitality.”

Denison agrees, pointing out that Alex Guenther, a partner with her dad Brian Wrubleski in Mel’s at 22, was a classmate at Cooperstown Central. “2007 dominates!” he declared.

Matt is a member of Cooperstown’s Haggerty clan, which until recently operated Haggerty Hardware. His mother, Trista Haggerty of Cherry Valley, has also been in retail, he said.

Graduating from CCS, he attended Bennington College, finishing his degree at New York City’s Pratt Institute. Then – after a year producing videos for Sports Illustrated and other Time magazines, 70 hours a week – he came home to bartend at Alex’s Bistro, where he found he enjoyed the public contact and associated salesmanship.

Festa, The Fenimore Research Library’s special collections librarian, has a bachelor’s in art history from SUNY New Paltz, followed by two masters: in art history from Hunter College and in library science from Queens College.

He was a reference librarian at the New-York Historical Society before joining The Fenimore in 2014. “I fell in love with Cooperstown,” he said, “with the museum, with the culture, with Main Street.” A patron at Alex’s, he met Denison there.

The idea is for Matt to work days, and Joe to continue at The Fenimore – he loves that job, too – and fill in evenings and weekends.

The two have been thinking about adjusting the inventory. Matt has some ideas for the tequila section; Joe is interested in bourbons and whiskeys. They are exploring “more price-affordable wines that are good.”

They also have some ideas for social media marketing. A virtual wine-tasting, for instance, where customers buy samples and taste them with Matt’s guidance. Or a cocktail-making class. Or how to make white sangria. (Hint: It includes peach brandy and a pear liqueur.)

Over New Year’s weekend, as the partners were trying out their high-tech calculator, a patron bought a $75 bottle of Cooperstown Distillery’s premium bourbon.

The next morning, the patron came back and bought another $75 bottle.

The new merchants were thrilled.

Denison and Festa closed the deal with the Lemisters on Dec. 16, and received a certification to charge sales tax on the 24th. The store was open over the New Year’s weekend, but closed this past

Monday for two weeks of renovations – painting and reorganizing the inventory.

“This is something new, but holding onto the old tradition,” said Joe. “It’s like having a piece of Main Street to maintain and update.”

“There are ’70s vibes we really don’t want to replace,” said Matt.

City Hall Seeks $500,000 To Redo Oneonta Theatre

City Hall Seeks $500,000

To Redo Oneonta Theatre


The Oneonta Theatre has been on the market for five years.

City Hall will seek $500,000 in state funding to restore the Oneonta Theatre, the former movie house at 27 Chestnut St. that has been on the market and unused for five years.

Mayor Gary Herzig received Common Council’s unanimous approval Tuesday, Jan. 5, to seek the money through the state’s Main Street Anchor Program aimed at restoring vacant buildings.

While there is no time-frame for approval or construction, Herzig said the priority is stabilizing the building.

“The theater is not only beautiful and vintage, it is a glorious piece of Oneonta’s history,” he said. “If the building could not be restored, it would be a loss that would never be recovered.”

Plans for the restorations would include maintaining the building as a theater. “It would be a place to have a variety of performances, including live stage and film productions within the community,” Herzig said.

He added, “It would increase the quality of life of our residents and also provide an asset and attraction to visit and possibly even relocate to the area.”

“We’re off to the races,” Herzig said as the motion passed.

He plans to complete the application prior to the Jan. 15 deadline. While there is no time-frame for approval or construction, Herzig said the priority is stabilizing the building.

“The theater is not only beautiful and vintage, it is a glorious piece of Oneonta’s history,” he said. “If the building could not be restored, it would be a loss that would never be recovered.”

Plans for the restorations would include maintaining the building as a theater. “It would be a place to have a variety of performances, including live stage and film productions within the community,” Herzig said.

He added, “It would increase the quality of life of our residents and also provide an asset and attraction to visit and possibly even relocate to the area.”

“We’re off to the races,” Herzig said as the motion passed.

He plans to complete the application prior to the Jan. 15 deadline.

Lemisters’ Downtown Dynasty Ends With Rudy’s Liquor Store
Family Cooperstown Mainstay Since 1952

Lemisters’ Downtown Dynasty

Ends With Rudy’s Liquor Store

Last September, Rudy’s Liquor Store proprietor
Fred Lemister reflects on what would be his final 9/11 window display at the 143 Main St., Cooperstown, establishment. (Jim Kevlin/

Among other things, Fred Lemister was famous for decorating the front window of Rudy’s Liquor Store, which he and his wife Karen operated for 48 years.

His final window – the Lemisters sold Rudy’s to Matt Dennison and Joe Festa at year’s end – was the simple crèche you may have noticed walking by 143 Main St. this Christmas season.

A perennial was Fred’s Titanic window. “I’m a Titanic buff,” he said, also noting the local connection: Arthur L. Ryerson, president of Ryerson Steel, Chicago, who owned a summer estate on Otsego Lake, died in the sinking, although his wife Emily and four children rode on Lifeboat Four to safety.

“The one that meant the most to me was our 9/11 window,” said Lemister, himself the celebrated responder to 9,400 calls in a half-century with Cooperstown’s EMT squad. “I always found it extremely hard to put up. Tears would come to my eyes thinking of the young men and women who passed away on that day.”

The Lemister family has been a force on Main Street since 1952, when Andrew Lemister, Fred’s father, bought Sherry’s Restaurant in the three-story red brick block “at the light” where Mel’s at 22 is now.

In 1970, a few years after his father’s passing, Fred’s mother Evelyn married Rudy Omerzu, a local painting contractor.

Fred and Karen Lemister last February when EMTs from around the county honored his 9,400 calls over 50 years, and her sacrifice
that enabled his responsiveness.

Looking for a less strenuous occupation for her new husband, Fred’s mother and her son approached Cyril T. George, who had opened the liquor store, called George’s, in the late 1960s.

George also operated the Hitching Post at 149 Main, next door to the liquor store, where Alex’s Bistro is now, and he offered mother and son a two-business deal: Buy the restaurant now (1970), and the liquor store at a future date.

On Aug. 7, 1972, the Lemisters did buy the liquor store, renaming it Rudy’s, although things didn’t turn out as anticipated. That Christmas, Rudy Omerzu suffered a fatal heart attack while bowling at the Bowl-A-Rama (today’s Price Chopper).

So Fred, his mother and Karen found themselves running three establishments: Sherry’s, the Hitching Post and – keeping the name in Omerzu’s memory – Rudy’s.

In 1989, an electrical fire in the kitchen damaged the Hitching Post, and former Bruce Hall partner Richard White bought and renovated it for his daughter Ellen Weir’s Homescapes.

It became a restaurant again in 2007.

In 2018, the Lemisters sold the former Sherry’s property to restaurateur Brian Wrubleski, who operates Mel’s at 22 there.

So the Rudy’s sale, which includes the building, signals the end of a 67-year family and Main Street legacy.

In an interview, the Lemisters said they plan to put their Eagle Street house on the market in the spring. Son Andy lives in Jacksonville, Fla., and daughter Kim Knapp, near Orlando, so the parents are looking at the St. Augustine area, in between.

The four grandchildren are also a draw: Andy’s twins Addison and Andrew (A.J.), and Kim’s Makenna, 10, and Kassidy, 8.

In addition to the window displays, the Lemisters’ landmark Rudy’s is remembered for Bassett hound Barclay, who in the early days greeted patrons at the door.

When he passed away, the Lemisters commemorated him with a front window display of Bassett hound memorabilia.

“For 14 and a half years, he was the ruler,” Karen remembers.

LEVINE: Now’s Time To Invest In County

Now’s Time To Invest In County

Harry Levine is president of the Community Foundation of Otsego County.

We have only one week left in 2020, a remarkable year that hit us with surprises and painful disease. We lost jobs, got sick, and even died due to COVID-19.

But the year had its bright spots too.

One of them was the extraordinary efforts by all the front-line medical professionals and other essential workers who risked their own health to serve us.

Another is the amazing generosity that poured out from members of our community to help those in need.

A third was the extraordinary efforts of our nonprofit sector that rose to meet many challenges with fewer resources.

As the year draws to a close, there are a few days remaining when you might consider gifts to those very nonprofits which performed so well for us all.

Our tax policy rewards those who make charitable donations by allowing donors to reduce their taxable income and save on taxes.

But there is a hard deadline of Dec. 31 for taking advantage of some good ideas for 2020.

Here are a few of those ideas:

• Taxpayers who do not itemize deductions are entitled to reduce their taxable income by up to $300 by simply making gifts before the end of the year to qualified charities.

• If you do itemize your deductions and want to donate at least $10,000 but are not yet ready to decide which organizations you want to support, you can establish a donor-advised fund and benefit from the tax deduction this year, while deciding later how to allocate your gift.

• Those with IRAs who are at least 70½ can make gifts to charities (up to $100,000) directly from an IRA and the distribution comes out tax-free instead of taxable. Be careful, however, as 2020 is a year in which there is no required minimum distribution and the age for starting RMDs has been extended to 72.

• For 2020 only (thanks to the CARES Act), donors are permitted to deduct charitable gifts equal to 100 percent of their adjusted gross income (compared to the usual 60 percent for cash gifts and 30 percent for gifts of appreciated stock).

• Speaking of appreciated stock, this week may be a good time to donate highly appreciated stock (owned for at least one year) and save having to pay capital gains tax. But you will need to get any transfer in motion quickly as the year is running to its end.

• A charitable gift annuity is another way to generate a tax deduction in 2020 while securing a fixed annual income. At death, the funds in the annuity go to your designated charity. The charitable deduction is relatively high right now as interest rates used to calculate the amount of the deduction are very low.

Please consult your own tax advisers for specifics on these ideas.

Regardless of whether tax considerations are important to you, this is a great time to show your appreciation for those nonprofits in our community that work tirelessly to help us and our neighbors.

Donating today and supporting those organizations would be a very nice way to say thanks for being there for us.

The Community Foundation of Otsego County is here to help you invest in your community. For additional information, contact us a

In 2022, Ommegang Eyes $1M Expansion

In 2022, Ommegang

Eyes $1M Expansion

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Brewery Ommegang isn’t going to let a pandemic get in the way of customers enjoying Neon Rainbows – and other popular brews.

“We installed a canning line two years ago,” said Rick DeBar, director of operations at the brewery. “But we’re aiming to double our capacity on the line starting next March.”

The current line can fill five cans at a time; with the addition of a second “filler,” the line will be able to fill 10 cans with the same amount of staffing as the brewery currently has.

It’s part of a larger plan for the brewery to dramatically increase their packaged beer for sale.

“The industry began trending towards cans a couple years ago,” he said. “They’re ideal for when you’re at an event where you can’t take glass, and aluminum is much more recyclable than glass.”

Cans are also easier to ship, he said, and more can be shipped on one truck.

The canned line, which includes Neon Rainbows, Solera, Rosetta and others, had helped keep the brand afloat during the COVID pandemic. “We worked hard to transition
into packaged beer,” said DeBar. “We were told by several of our distributors that we were one of the few suppliers that could keep up with the demand.”

Prior to the pandemic, kegs for bars and restaurants were “50 percent” of their business.

“Every brewery in the world was affected by COVID,” said Matt Szymanski, CFO, Duvel Moortgat USA in Kansas City, Mo. “We were no exception. And our biggest market is New York City, and they were hit so badly. We really got the worst of both worlds.”

According to Jody Zakrevsky, Otsego Now president, the brewery dropped from selling 60,000 barrels a year to 18,000 a year.

“Their biggest issue is with COVID-19,” he said. “They’re not selling enough, because bars and restaurants aren’t ordering beer because they’ve closed.”

On Oct. 18, Zakrevsky got an email from Chance Nicols, CFO at Duvel in Kansas City. The email said the Duvel family, in Belgium, had decided to delay a decision on canning line until 2022.

The larger canning operation would cost an estimated $1 million.

“We were in contact with their Kansas City office, which is their home base (in the U.S.), about three months ago,” he said. “We had a dialogue between them and Empire State Development. My understanding is that the Moortgat family has decided to table the Ommegang canning capital project for 2021 and revisit for 2022.

He continued, “There are too many unknowns at this time with the market so they will manage with the current operational configuration for 2021.”

DeBar said doubling production will work as an “interim,” with the larger expansion down the line.

“We are seeking a grant,” he said.

In the meantime, Szymanski said the company has other priorities to keep them viable.

“Our focus right now is Neon Rainbows,” he said. “We’ve made it for the last two or three years, but it’s always been seasonal – this year, we’re launching it nationwide.”

Neon Lights, a New England session IPA, as well as Neon Neon, a New England Double IPA, are also part of the promoted line, but will remain seasonal. “Right now, our focus is firmly behind Neon Rainbows.”

Additionally, he said the creative team, including Rebecca Shafer, who relocated from the Cooperstown office to Kansas City, will “freshen” the brand of “legacy” beers, including Three Philosophers and Hennepin.

Rubin: Revisit Plan; Then Hire President At County Chamber

Rubin: Revisit Plan; Then Hire

President At County Chamber


Al Rubin

As interim president of the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce, Al Rubin has committed up to a year of his time to recruit a successor to departing Barbara Ann Heegan.

The president of A&D Transport Services, a 16-county medical transport business and local taxicab company, Rubin said he has no interest in the job.

However, he wants to ensure the Chamber is in a position to fulfill its mission: “We should be a driving force in helping build the economic landscape of Otsego County,” he said.

Before the search begins, Rubin intends to ask the Chamber’s executive committee to review and ensure the strategic plan is sufficient to that task.

The executive committee includes Realtor Joan Fox, the new chair; Family Planning’s Deb Marcus, CDO Workforce’s Alan Sessions and Springbrook’s Chris Hurlburt.

He plans to ask at least two outside executives with related experience to participate, but had not yet invited them, and said he will announce their names after they’ve agreed to serve.

When a structured search begins, “we will encourage people within the county and beyond to throw their hats into the ring,” he said.

Rubin came to SUNY Oneonta from Levittown, majoring in political science, intending to become a lawyer. But he discovered his calling as an entrepreneur.

While an undergrad, he developed World Is Yours Delivery, 20 years before Uber Eats, delivering food and other necessities to SUNY and Hartwick students.

He graduated in 1993, and founded A&D Transport Services in 1996 with partner David Freed – the two still co-own and operate the business today. In 1998, A&D won approval to transport Medicare patients and vital goods as a subcontractor.

After 17 years, state law changed to allow A&D to provide those services directly, allowing the expansion of medical transport services to the 16 counties, and expand its workforce
to 150.

“It’s like a tree,” he said in an interview, “you start at one point and there are so many ways to branch off and grow.”

In the early years, he discovered after the fact that Common Council had expanded the city’s taxi code from three pages to 27, and he realized a Chamber’s importance to the business people.

“This is the thing – small businesses are working to survive – the chamber can advise its members of what they should know before they end up in a tough spot,” he said.

Along the way, Rubin married Michelle Ianelli-Rubin, and the couple has three sons: Allan Michael, 14, Matthew, 13, and Luca, 11. He tells them, “You get out what you put in.”

As it happens, his wife is a member of the family that ran Ianelli’s Restaurant at 99 Chestnut St., torn down to make way for Walgreen’s.

While a SUNY student, he asked his roommate to pick him up a fettucine Alfredo from Ianelli’s. That inspired him to found World Is Yours Delivery.

PIERCE: When Did People Stop Caring For Each Other

When Did People Stop

Caring For Each Other

To the Editor:

Yesterday I had a conversation with a lady I’ll call Ginny. Her three grocery carts were stacked high on top and in the bottoms. Asked about “stocking up so much,” Ginny replied, “I do this once a year for our food bank.”

My mother, who worked three jobs seven days a week with two hernias to meet the basic needs of the seven of us had been ordered by our doctor not to work. She also walked 5.5 miles a day to work and back to save having to pay a taxi.

At that point in time, our government bought good foods then poisoned them or dumped them into oceans to keep farm prices higher. Back then, 85 percent of registered voters were farmers and Republicans. Democrats pleaded for those foods to be given to the poor, and to schools for lunch programs. Decades later Democrats succeeded.

Many Republicans make fun of the recipients by calling them all kinds of names instead of paying them a living wage with benefits. It’s the new form of slavery.

One quits or dies and another is hired.

It was found that grocery stores were best equipped to handle foods, especially perishables, so Food Stamps came into being. Because of name-calling in grocery-store lines, the method was changed to SNAP, using plastic “credit cards.” Note: SNAP is a “farm program,” not a program to help the poor.

A 36-percent excise tax on USA dairy products recently put many New York State farmers out of business. Canada now buys its dairy products elsewhere, even though the tax has been lifted. Guess that makes America great!

I worked on farms until age 19. It is hard work and in my opinion farmers should be well respected, not destroyed.

Cows must be milked two or three times a day. Milk is perishable. To give some help to Upstate farmers, Governor Cuomo set up a program to buy the milk and give it away at places like schools.

Cars were lined up from the Gilbertsville-Mount Upton School all the way back to Gilbertsville Village … the result of making America great.

My dictionary has nine definitions of great … but none seem to apply.

Big grain farmers had the same experience but were given $12 billion then $16 BILLION. The tax was dropped and the grains were sold to China, meaning farmers who donate heavily to your President got paid twice. He doles out our tax dollars as if they were his.

I like Ginny’s thinking better. To me people are much more important than greedy enrichment of and by the wealthy. Let’s show the world how good America is and that people, not money, are more important. If you have never been poor and hungry you won’t understand this as much. If you say you are a Christian, perhaps you can wonder what would Jesus say and do. Ginny gets it.


Heegan, Casale Engergy, Brains, A Credit To County

Heegan, Casale Engergy,

Brains, A Credit To County

Barbara Ann Heegan Departing Barbara Ann Heegan, Vince Casale exemplify dedication to duty around here.
Vince Casale

To begin, no one can rival state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, in contributions to our Otsego County. He’s a giant. THE giant, who is retiring at year’s end after 34 years representing us in the state Legislature.

He’s primus inter pares – or simply primus. The gold standard. (More accolades coming.)

But he’s at the top of a pretty tall pyramid of people with energy and brainpower in Otsego County public life, evident this week in two front-page articles.

The first retraces Barbara Ann Heegan’s local career, culminating in eight years as Otsego County Chamber of Commerce president.

The second reports on Republican County Chairman Vince Casale’s advances in the political field since he was chosen to lead the local GOP seven years ago.

Both stories overflow with initiative, initiative, initiative.

Heegan, mother of three at-home children when she took on her daunting new duties after a time of trial within the Otsego Chamber, hit the ground running.

Within a year, by “going out and talking to people in person” – as mentor Gordon B. Roberts, the Oneonta insurance man, advised her – Heegan doubled the membership, with new money making all things that followed possible.

For a while, until COVID kept us at home, it seemed like she was everywhere.

Some of her initiatives were flashy – the Workforce Development Summit at The Otesaga in October 2018, for instance, where Oneonta businessman Al Cleinman convinced us “knowledge workers” are our future– but the accomplishments were steady. Leadership Otsego introduced rising county leaders to each other, to the county’s major institutions, and to the players they will succeed. The Energy Summit in 2019 fed vitality into the county’s Energy Task Force, (its outcomes delayed by the pandemic.)

Her latest boss, board chairman Al Rubin, spoke of her sensitivity to small-business needs: When a potentially costly regulation from Albany lands in local entrepreneurs’ laps, she would bring in
an expert to guide the way – for $35 apiece, forestalling costly individual consultation with lawyers.

Picking up on an idea behind the first “Seward Summit” on economic development just before her hiring in 2012, Barbara Ann rarely missed an opportunity to introduce businesspeople from around the county to each other.

Former Cooperstown mayor Jeff Katz remembers the buzz in Foothills’ “Black Box” theater when, on Jan. 2, 2013, there he was sitting on the dais beside his Oneonta counterpart, Dick Miller, at the chamber’s traditional “State of the State” breakfast. Unheard of. (“My thought at the time,” Katz remembers, “was: ‘This might be the only time I’m invited. I better let it rip!’”)

Barbara Ann’s favorite activity was the twice-yearly gala, the Celebration of Business in the spring in Oneonta – it includes the Bettiol Citizen of the Year Award – and the Small Business of the Year banquet at The Otesaga in the fall. The record attendance came in March 2014, when attorney John Scarzafava won Bettiol honors and more than 300 people cheered him, (at $100 a head!)

Vince Casale’s efforts were more focused, but no less impactful. Approached by two committee members and two county board members to take over the helm in 2013, he arrived to find the party in post-fracking shambles.

Polling in local races for the first time, he found the GOP’s candidates far behind in county board races, and the party in danger of losing its majority. The fracking battles had peaked by then. Stop talking about it, he told candidates. Talk about keeping taxes low, about keeping under Governor Cuomo’s recently imposed 2 percent property-tax “cap.”

To give just one example: He saw Republican challenger Rick Hulse in the Cooperstown/Town of Otesgo district rise from 20 points behind to 10 points behind to winning by seven points on Election Day 2013. In Democratic Oneonta, Republicans Janet Hurley Quakenbush and Craig Gelbsman carried the day.

Unheard of.

There’s much more. Check page one article on Vince.

Barbara Ann is leaving Jan. 4 to lead the chamber in Greenwood, S.C. Vince is refocusing his attention on his political consulting firm, The Casale Group, with has represented such lights as Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive who challenged Cuomo in 2018.

Let’s wish them well as they leave our local scene. But here’s a parlor game for this Christmas season – via Zoom, of course: Let’s identify all the similarly energetic, selfless, smart and creative people who continue to work on our behalf.

To prime the pump: County Treasurer Allen Ruffles, glassrecycling entrepreneur Cynthia Andela in Richfield Springs, Cooperstown and Oneonta’s mayors, Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch and Gary Herzig respectively, the county board leadership team, David Bliss and Meg Kennedy, it goes on and on.

You’ll end the COVID year in a pretty good frame of mind.

At Year’s End, Transitions

At Year’s End, Transitions

Chamber President Heegan Takes People Skill To Carolina

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

When Barbara Ann Heegan left her first job, counseling families of 9/11 victims, one of her clients anonymously left a “Flag of Honor” with the names of all 2,996 victims on it for her at the front desk. She’s hung it on her office wall at every job since.

No job could be as tough as Barbara Ann Heegan’s first.

Right out of SUNY Oneonta with a B.Sc. in Child & Family Studies, she joined 9/11 Family Support Services in Elmont, L.I., where the Queens native had been raised, seeking to help 122 family members mourn the death of loved ones in the attack on the Twin Towers.

About the same time, her mother, Florence, died.

“While I was helping them, they were helping me get back on a positive track,” said the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce president, who on Dec. 7 told the Chamber board she has agreed to join the Greenwood (S.C.) Chamber of Commerce as president/CEO on Jan. 4.

“You can be empowered by grief,” said Heegan in an interview, after an eight-year tenure that, above all else, has been marked by a cheerful outlook and positive thinking – not to mention doubling the membership, energizing young professionals through Leadership Otsego, and hosting countywide “summits” on issues ranging from workforce development to energy.

Raised on Long Island, a mile from the Belmont Park race track – her father, James, was an OTB inspector: “I would get to see the horses, but not bet on them,” she said – she was introduced early to Central New York.

Her parents, Barbara Ann and older brother Douglas would spent vacations horseback riding and hiking at the Round Up Ranch Resort in Downsville, Delaware County. A family of Yankee fans – and Douglas a ballplayer – led to numerous trips to Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame in those early days.

That, in turn, led to SUNY Oneonta and, as the demand for grief counseling tailed off in her hometown, her first job Upstate as Bassett Hospital’s director of volunteers – 200 of them.

At the time, she would talk about her parents’ experience with assisted living communities downstate, and how such facilities were needed here. Gordon B. Roberts, the Oneonta insurance man, had a similar dream, and as the Plains at Parish Homestead became a reality, Heegan joined the effort as director of sales.

All the patio homes in that West Oneonta retirement community were sold within two years, and half the apartments were filled within a couple of months, Heegan reports.

“You need to go out there and talk to people in person,” the outgoing Roberts advised her, and she was soon talking to Rotary and Lions clubs and community groups around the county, a practice she continued after assuming the Chamber leadership on May 18, 2012, two months after state Sen. Jim Seward’s first “Seward Summit” on economic development at The Otesaga.

The Summit had introduced community leaders from Oneonta and Cooperstown to each other for the first time, and Heegan pushed that forward. Attendees were pleasantly shocked when, in January 2013, Cooperstown Mayor Jeff Katz joined Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller on the dais of the chamber’s annual State of the State breakfast.

Heegan’s first dramatic accomplishment, though, may have been putting the Chamber on a sound financial footing by following Gordie Roberts’ Dictum and doubling membership from 300 to 600 in a single year.

Always the height of fashion, Heegan said she particularly enjoyed the Chamber’s twice-annual galas, the NBT Distinguished Citizen Dinner & Celebration of Business at the Hunt Union or Foothills in the spring, and the Small Business Awards at The Otesaga in the fall.

They were also good fundraisers, with attendance hitting a 300-plus record when Oneonta attorney John Scarzafava received the Bettiol Award in 2014.

The Greenwood Chamber’s signature event is the six-week South Carolina Festival of Flowers, and Heegan expressed enthusiasm about digging into that. Smith said her arrival also comes as the Chamber board wants a review of the event, to ensure Greenwood is getting maximum benefit.

The community, home to two colleges, 1,000-job FujiFilm, and Greenword Lake, reminds her of Oneonta.

Heegan’s younger son, Scott, 15, is moving with her. Daughter Christina, 21, at Siena College, and Sean, 19, at SUNY Adirondack, will remain Upstate, along with Barbara Ann’s significant other, Bob Pondolfino, who plans to move to South Carolina in the next year.

But the couple will maintain their Arnold’s Lake home, so Barbara Ann Heegan will not be gone completely.

Oneonta Airport Will See Growth Over Next 20 Years, Consultants Say

Consultants: Oneonta Airport

To Grow Over Next 20 Years

Zach Staff, regional aviation planning manager for the McFarland-Johnson consulting firm, Binghamton, presents recommendations for airport upgrades to Oneonta’s Albert S. Nader Regional Airport during a presentation to Common Council this evening. With him, seated, is Turner Bradford, senior engineer for the firm. (Jennifer Hill/

By JENNIFER HILL • Special to

ONEONTA – For years, it was believed that as many as 23,000 takeoffs and landings happened annually at the  Albert S. Nader Regional Airport since the 1980s.

In reality, said Zach Staff,  McFarland-Johnson Consulting’s regional aviation planning manager, research for an updated airport master plan found annual takeoffs and landings over the last 30 years really averaged about 4,600.

“People would go with the old number and it was just gathered by word of mouth,” said Staff.

Staff and  Turner Bradford, senior engineer for the Binghamton-based firm, presented the updated data to Common Council this evening.

Chobani Doubles Grant Dollars for SC New York Economic Development

Chobani Doubles Grants

To Underwrite ‘Big Ideas,’

Bring Jobs To CNY Region

By JENNIFER HILL • Special to

WEST EDMESTON – Chobani has doubled its “impact fund” from $100,000 to $200,000 to award Central New York organizations that propose “big ideas” that “strengthen local economies…right at home,” a company spokesperson announced in a press release.

The company created a Community Impact Fund in 2018 for ideas to  “help expand economic opportunity and promote entrepreneurship in the regions where our employees live and work” – Otsego, Delaware, Chenango and Madison and Otsego counties.

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