Oneonta Businesswoman Chosen
To Succeed Oberacker On Board
BY JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – After expressions of bitterness among fellow Democrats, three of them crossed party lines today to appoint Oneonta businesswoman Jennifer Mickle, a Republican, to succeed state Sen.-elect Peter Oberacker as District 6 county representative.
Voting for Mickle were Democratic county Reps. Adrienne Martini and Andrew Stammel, both of Oneonta, and Andrew Marietta, Cooperstown/Town of Otsego. She will have to run for a full term next November.
All the Republicans voted aye, for a margin of 9-3. There was one abstention – Michelle Farwell, D-Morris. The weighted vote was 4156-1,035.
Mickle, who was Oberacker’s choice to succeed him, is a partner in Oneonta’s United Student Rentals, which she owns with husband Ron. A longtime Maryland resident, she has chaired the town’s Board of Assessment Review. She also chaired the Northern Otsego Relay for Life committee.
What bothered the Democrats was the speed of the process, and lack of consultation: Oberacker resigned Monday, Nov. 16; District 6 Republican committeemen endorsed Mickle on the 17th; and Democrats didn’t learn of it until the evening of the 18th. Then, on the 19th, the county board’s Republican-controlled Administration Committee approved Mickle and sent her name to the full board, before Democrats could nominate their own choice, former Worcester town supervisor Diane Addesso.
In voting for Mickle, Democrats walked away from what would have been a 13-month deadlock, the first time in county history where both parties would have had equal weight at the January reorganizational meeting in determining chairman, vice chairman, committee chairs, and committee membership.
But, to hear today’s discussion, fairness trumped political advantage.
“Ultimately,” said Martini, “leaving a district without representation for a year just doesn’t sit well. With the pandemic, we have a lot of stuff that’s about to come up pretty quickly. It would be helpful to have a voice for every single district to help deal with it.”
Said Stammel of the process surrounding Mickle’s nomination, “Even though we may not have violated the letter of the law, we violated the spirit. It was rushed and it didn’t have to be … Ultimately I agree with Adrienne: It doesn’t do any good to leave it vacant. It would be a disservice to the folks who live in the district.”
“We can all look at this and say, we should have done better,” said Marietta. He went on to raise the first of two related issues that arose during the discussion: Nepotism. The other was executive sessions, as the Administration Committee went in to executive session to interview both candidates,
Referring to Local Law #4 of 2017, Marietta pointed out that restrictions on nepotism – the involvement of one elected or employee official overseeing a close relative – didn’t make it through negotiations with the county’s unions, but it does cover the county representatives.
Mickle’s brother is county IT Director Brian Pokorny.
Because she could not, “directly or indirectly, supervise a relative, Jennifer would not be made a chair,” Marietta said. “…To put her on the Administration Committee, that would not be allowable in my interpretation.”
On the second issue, Jill Basile, D-Oneonta, said, “The public should have been allowed to hear from these people.” Both Mickle and Addesso had been interviewed by the Admin Committee in executive sessions.
Other comments included:
- From Clark Oliver, D-Oneonta, who is also county Democratic chairman: “I’m going to vote no, because I’m hopeful in the future we can have more of a bipartisan process from the beginning.”
- Keith McCarty, R-East Springfield, harkened back to Gene Wells, Springfield Center, his predecessor who died in 2005 while still in office. It took a year to replace him. “It’s not a good thing for people not having someone on this board for a year,” he said.
- From Farwell: “I’m seeing this through the lens of democracy. Both parties bring their best ideas to the process to solve problems. This is about winning; it’s not about good government. I am not going to participate in this disrespect of our democratic process; I am abstaining.”
- Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla: “I always thought it was simple. Pete would make a recommendation, and we would honor his wishes. Likewise, if I had to leave in the middle of the term, I would hope my opinion would be respected by the other 13 board members.”
- Danny Lapin, D-Oneonta: “It was deeply flawed form the beginning.” He said he believes Addesso had more experience than Mickle.