CONTROLLING COUNTY BOARD
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
LAURENS – When Caitlin Ogden was 11 and living in Palm Harbor, Fla., west of Tampa, her parents learned of a Black Arabian for sale near their native Elmira, and determined to buy it for their horse-loving daughter.
When they contacted the seller, it was gone. But the horse’s cousin, two months younger, was available.
Thrilled at the gift, Caitlin named it Black Knight, after a horse in the Thoroughbred Series novel she was reading at the time. She rode it, tended it, with no inkling of a danger ahead.
In August 2004, the news broke: Hurricane Charlie, Category 5 – the most dangerous classification – was headed for Palm Harbor. As recommended, she spray-painted her phone number on Knight’s side. The paddock gate was left open, in case her horse and the others needed to scatter in face of the storm.
The storm veered away, but for Ogden, already considering abandoning the busy Florida suburb with its congested roads for the pleasures of small town living, Charley settled it: She and her horse were moving north.
“I wanted some place to ride my horse in the woods, not on the street,” she said. “I wasn’t going to find that in Florida.”
Enrolling at Elmira College, she obtained a B.A. in History. Intrigued with a particular period, Ogden went on to SUNY Binghamton for a B.A. in Medieval Studies, while working as education services coordinator for the National Soaring Museum, Elmira.
She became interested in fundraising, and while earning her master’s (2018) at the Cooperstown Graduate School in Museum Studies, interned at the Roberson Museum in Binghamton, then in SUNY Oneonta’s development office, before joining the Baseball Hall of Fame as a grants writer.
She bought two acres in the Town of Laurens, near the former Edgewood Golf Course, big enough for her current horse, Leo – official name, Lucci the Lion. “I chose to settle here and call it my home,” she said in an interview at The Funny Farm, the restaurant and minimart on the Laurens/New Lisbon line.
Since 2016, “like many Americans, I was feeling stress and tension about how politics had become very divisive,” she said. Instead of “yelling at the TV set,” she volunteered for county Rep. Liz Shannon’s 2017 campaign.
There she met other politically minded young people, like Clark Oliver, who is running unopposed for county board in the City of Oneonta’s District 11, and MacGuire Benton, the Cooperstown village trustee and assistant Democratic elections commissioner.
“I’m doing my little part to get things back on track,” she said. Despite the national divide, “we have more similarities than differences.”
She has been going door to door every evening after work and 4-8 hours on weekends, “to get to know as many people as I can.”
Such hard work, she suggested, resulted in her winning the Independent Party primary in June. Her opponent’s was the only name on the ballot, but a write-in push won her the fall ballot line, 30-4.
“I’m quite honored they selected me by a large margin,” she said.
If elected, Ogden said she will seek to ensure the Cooperative Extension Service is sufficiently funded. (Its director, Don Smyser, was chided by county reps in September for a shortfall.)
Her goal is for local farmers to benefit from budgeting, grants and equipment, mental health and other available Cooperative Extension programs.
She favors rural broadband as soon as possible, noting satellite service is too expensive. Lack of broadband “is hurting property values; it’s hurting rural education,” she said.
She saluted the City of Oneonta for obtaining downtown-restoration grants, and said she will seek similar programs for downtown Laurens and Otego.
There no downtown in Laurens, she said, but she pointed to Rubera’s in downtown Otego, which began as a pizza parlor and has expanded serving lunch and dinner. It’s a model for others entrepreneurs to follow, she said.
Of her conversation at the last county board meeting with county Rep. Kathy Clark, R-Otego, the woman whom Ogden would succeed, if elected, she said, “That was the first time I actually talked with her.”
Clark suggested Ogden increase the size of her name on roadside signs.
“I appreciated the fact that she was pleasant to a Democrat who might be her success,” Ogden said.