Editor’s Note: This is the editorial opinion of www.AllOTSEGO.com, Hometown Oneonta and The Freeman’s Journal. Letters to the editor on political topics received after 10 a.m. Tuesday will appear on www.AllOTSEGO.com. Polls are open 6 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7.
With all the sturm und drang over the years surrounding the Otsego County Board of Representatives – MOSA or not, road patrols or not, economic development or not – a central truth was lost: County government doesn’t work very well.
It makes sense that Andrew Marietta, the freshman county rep for Cooperstown and the Town of Otsego, would quickly recognize that. As regional director of NYCON, the state Council of Non-Profits, his job is to get struggling organizations to focus on mission and map steps necessary for success.
Locally, from Foothills to the Greater Oneonta Historical Society to merging the Smithy Pioneer Gallery with the Cooperstown Art Association, NYCON, often with Marietta in the lead, has strengthened so many key institutions we take for granted.
The road to success is simple: Identify priorities – five at a time, maybe, not 100 – resolve them systematically, then move on to the next five. The goal, progress. Simple, but requiring vision and discipline.
Shortly after taking office in 2016, Marietta salvaged the $40,000 county strategic plan that had been put together the year before by the Laberge Group out of Albany, tapping common needs among the county’s municipalities. It was headed for the shelf, but his advocacy saved it, turning it into the guiding document of the county board’s Strategic Planning Committee.
He recognized that the county board’s unwieldy committee system is designed, not to make things happen, but to slow down decision-making, often to a dead stop. He bucked the committees and brought directly to the floor the question of whether a county manager is needed or not, and – after an initial explosion by the powers that be – got his colleagues thinking.
Of course, they seem to have concluded – thanks to Marietta – that a $110 million operation with 24 departments needs a muscular central administration to ensure things that are supposed to get done get done.
What’s going on now is a vigorous discussion about whether an appointed county administrator/paid professional, or an elected county executive – as was Sherwood Boehlert, the Oneida County executive who went on to serve our county in Congress for many years – is more desirable.
As it happens, this year’s standoff with county Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr. over a disciplinary incident involving his prison-guard son Ros, 10-months-old now with no end in sight, underscores the county board simply lacks the help it needs to get things done promptly when necessary.
Andrew Marietta, in effect, is the county’s Wayne Gretzky, not looking for where the puck is now, but anticipating where it’s going. He is, at this point in Otsego County history, the indispensable man, and deserves voter support Tuesday, Nov. 7. (Polls open 6 a.m.-9 p.m.)
A bipartisan group of forward-looking representatives have embraced the Marietta way of thinking: Republicans Len Carson of Oneonta; David Bliss, who represents the east end of Cooperstown and the towns of Middlefield, Roseboom and Cherry Valley, and Schenevus’ Peter Oberacker, who represents Maryland, Worcester, Westford and Decatur. Among Democrats, Andrew Stammel, Town of Oneonta, is the foremost adherent.
As it stands, this “Reform Caucus,” if you will – not a formal caucus, but a coalescence of forward-thinking minds – lacks a majority. The Tuesday, Nov. 7, Election Day gives voters a chance to firm it up.
Leading prospects include Michele Farwell, the Morris deputy supervisor running to succeed retiring Jim Powers in the Butternuts Valley, and Nicole Dillingham, the lawyer and Otsego 2000 president, running against Keith McCarty in Richfield-Springfield.
(A caveat: Leslie Berliant, who is challenging Bliss, is an exceptionally lively, educated and entrepreneurial candidate, an unusually promising entry. Whatever happens, she should remain in public life. In particular, though, Bliss’ championing a county Ethics Board, as well as his years of service and experience as Middlefield town supervisor, make him hard to walk away from.)
This is an off-year – no presidential race; no race for U.S. Senate or Congress – so turnout will be low. Thus, anything can happen.
Marietta’s challenger, Tim Walker, is a perfectly acceptable candidate, but not this year. For the good of the county, Marietta needs to stay on, and his supporters should mark their calendars now – again, 6 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7 – and make sure to go to the polls.
Same goes for all of you across Otsego County.
An editorial writer may have a megaphone, but only one vote. You, the county’s 33,580 voters, are responsible for the final outcome. As of Thursday morning, Oct. 26, questionnaires from all participating county board candidates will be posted on www.allotsego.com. Take a look at their self-assessments, and decide for yourself.