TAGUE DROPS OUT OF RACE
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
SCHENEVUS – Partner in his father’s market, executive with a multinational food corporation, entrepreneur in his own market-research firm, town supervisor, county representative and, now, candidate for state Senate from the Otsego-County-centric 51st District.
Grounded in Main Street and Wall Street, Peter Oberacker confirmed Tuesday, Jan. 28, that he will seek to carry forward the 34-year legacy of the retiring state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford.
“It’s been reassuring to have a state senator who knows us by name,” said the 53-year-old Republican from Schenevus, That’s also “the hardest part: trying to emulate Jim Seward, how he’s been serving the district for 30-40 years in a calming, non-controversial way.
The way forward opened up Tuesday evening as Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-Schoharie, whose district includes four Otsego County towns and was seen as the leading Republican contender to succeed Seward, took himself out of the running. He cited loyalty to his 102nd District, where he was elected less than two years ago.
In the next two weeks, Oberacker said, county Republican Chairman Vince Casale will be introducing him to the county chairmen in the other eight counties in the 51st District, asking for their support.
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Initial soundings he’s taken are encouraging, Casale said. “It’s important for us to keep representation in Otsego County” – it’s also the geographic center of the 51st – “as we’ve enjoyed for the past 34 years,” he added.
Asked about Oberacker’s intentions, Seward said “I’ve known the Oberacker family for decades. He has the right skill set, demeanor and experience to make a great candidate.” If Oberacker wins the support of the county GOP chairmen, “he certainly will have my full support. I would consider him a very worthy successor.”
Before Seward announced he will be retiring on Dec. 31, when his current term ends, Jim Barber, a Schoharie farmer and son of J. Roger Barber, state Ag & Markets commissioner in the Carey Administration, announced he was seeking the Democratic nomination. It’s unknown if other Democrats will now emerge.
Locally, two possible Democratic contenders, former Oneonta Mayor John Nader, now SUNY Farmingdale president, and Dan Crowell, the former county treasurer who is leaving the Army Reserves after returning this month from Somalia, have both said they are not interested in a Senate campaign.
Oberacker and his two sisters were born on Long Island. As his father, Peter Sr., used to tell it, the family’s VW bus “ran out of gas and I bought a house.” Actually, the son says, his mother’s parents lived in the area.
The son was 5 at the time and grew up locally, graduating from Schenevus’ Andrew Draper High School, then studying food sales and distribution at SUNY Delhi.
He joined his father in operating Spicy Pete’s Meats, a retail and wholesaler. When his father passed away in 1993, the son joined General Spice, then became an executive chef at Conagra, developing Wendy’s spicy chicken breast, among other products.
By the turn of the century, he was working for German-based Budenheim USA, a food-additive company. When Budenheim laid off U.S. executives, he and a colleague, Ron Wheeler, founded their own company, FormTech Solutions.
The R&D firm located in College Station, applying research developed by Texas A&M scientists to industry. In 2018, Oberacker, the CEO, and Wheeler, the COO/president, moved the company to the Town of Maryland, east of Schenevus.
Oberacker and his wife Carol have two grown children, Holli and Derek.
During this period, Oberacker had been calling on accounts nationwide and commuting back and forth between College Station and the family’s home on Smokey Avenue. He was elected Maryland town supervisor and, then, in 2015, was elected to the county Board of Representatives, succeeding Worcester’s Don Lindberg.
He quickly began to accumulate responsibilities, for the past two years as chairman of the Public Works Committee, which is currently studying a possible combined highway garage at the Northern Catskill BOCES in Milford, among other initiatives.
On learning of Seward’s decision to retire, Oberacker said he was concerned that initiatives of particular interest to him – a prospective 300-job distribution center at Schenevus’ I-88 exit, and a finding a safe berth for students in the financially troubled Schenevus Central School District – would fall by the wayside.
The first step of any prospective candidate, he said, is “you go to your wife, and you basically ask permission.” Then “I called my business partner. He looked at me as if I’d lost my head.” However, “they both supported me,” and the effort was launched.