By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
Except for Council member Scott Harrington recusing himself, Tuesday ’s vote for Kerriann Harrington to succeed City Clerk Nancy Powell was smooth.
Kerriann is Scott’s wife.
“As an older person, I knew I wouldn’t be here for 20 years,” said Powell. “My goal was to build a team to make that transition seamless, and we were able to accomplish that.”
Among those who joined her team in 2015 was Harrington, the deputy clerk and now airport manager as well.
“Nancy put us in a really good position,” said Harrington. “We’re still going to work and serve our customers very efficiently.”
Powell, who moved to Oneonta as a young woman when her mother relocated from the Albany area, became one of the city’s first female firefighters in 2002, alongside Michele Daley Pearsall.
“After 9-11, I wanted to become an EMT,” she said. “But Chief Burns said that in order to do that, I also had to become a firefighter.”
Alongside Pearsall, she worked as a call firefighter, eventually becoming the city’s first female part-time firefighter.
When she saw an ad for an administrative clerk position at City Hall, she took the civil service exam. “While I was there, Bonnie Molinari, the deputy clerk, was retiring, and so was the city clerk,
Jim Koury,” she said. “They started looking through applications, and because I had been a notary, mine stood out.”
She was hired as the deputy clerk in 2013, and was appointed city clerk in 2015, succeeding Doug Kendall.
Like Powell, Harrington, who grew up in Middleburgh, had a background in emergency services, meeting her husband when she was taking paramedic training in Cooperstown.
She was hired as a dispatcher for Otsego County Emergency Services and then, under Chief Joseph Redman, as the dispatcher at the Oneonta Public Safety Building.
That was where, she said, she discovered her true passion. “I love technology,” she said.
She brought the Nixle system – which can send out mass alerts on anything from snowstorms to road work – to public safety, as well as updating the police department’s Facebook page.
As deputy clerk, she continued to work on developing the city’s technology, revamping the website and handling all the social media.
She also wrote a $45,000 grant to have their records digitized for easier access. “We can look at records dating all the way back to the 1900s in a matter of minutes,” she said. “And we can print them and have them certified right away too, when before you’d have to come back or we’d have to mail them. It’s saved us so much time and money.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic set in, Harrington was tasked with setting up and maintaining the city’s Zoom and live-stream meetings, something she’s aiming to work towards implementing even after the pandemic is over.
“I’d love to see a scenario where we can set up a camera and stream the meeting from Council Chambers,” she said. “Hundreds of people are able to see meetings that they might not have otherwise gone to.”
Even her daughter Meghan, 14, watches the meetings. “She’ll text me from the other room and say she’s watching me on the TV,” she said. “I could never get her to go to a meeting, but I’m hearing more and more of younger people tuning in, which is what we want.”
She and Scott also have a 9-year-old daughter, Addison.
Harrington took over as airport manager when City Manager George Korthauer retired in February; with her new appointment as clerk, it is unsure of what will become of that position.
In her immediate retirement, Powell plans to “not obligate myself” to any immediate roles, but to pursue her hobbies, including baking and, when the pandemic is over, travel. But she doesn’t anticipate staying idle for too long.
“Out of the blue, opportunities have always presented themselves,” said Powell. “I feel like that’s going to happen here.”