CONTROLLING COUNTY BOARD
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
LAURENS – A couple of months ago, Rick Brockway, a farrier by trade, arrived at a farm east of Stamford, just over the Schoharie County line.
The grandmother there directed her grandkids: Go up to the pasture and bring down the horse. As they led the horse to be re-shoed, it got caught in a gate. It reared, and its front hoofs struck the grandmother; badly injured, she fell to the ground.
Brockway ordered the children off the scene. Turning to the elderly woman, he discovered she had passed away.
He called Delaware County 911. They transferred the call to Schoharie 911, but a delay followed as the dispatcher sought to determine the accident’s exact location.
Brockway waited. Finally, the Summit EMTs arrived at the scene. Forty-five minutes had elapsed.
“I didn’t sleep for three nights,” he said.
So when asked his issues in the campaign for District 3 representative on the Otsego County Board of Representatives, the Republican replied: Helping rural emergency squads deal with declining volunteers and other challenges. (See other article, A1)
While this is Brockway’s first run for office, he’s no stranger to local politics. His father, Jesse, who passed away at age 92 in 2009, served as Laurens town supervisor for 42 years. Rick’s wife, Pat, served two terms as Laurens town justice, and will be leaving office at the end of this year after two terms as town supervisor.
“My family’s been in politics for 75 years,” Brockway said in an interview at the kitchen table of his Route 23 home. He first considered running for county board in 2017, but dropped out on learning Kathy Clark, R-Otego, planned to seek a final term. When he learned she wasn’t running again, he jumped in.
“I know their ideas,” he said of his prospective constituents. “I know their values. I know their wants and needs.”
Few people have deeper local roots. After the family settled in Lyme, Conn., in the 1600s, four Brockway brothers soon headed west, walking into the Hudson Valley.
The family then migrated into the Catskills, to Stamford, where one member, Philip, became a noted gunsmith. In 1801 or ’02, Brockways moved to Oneonta, locating on the south side of what it now Main Street, driving their cows daily up today’s Ford Avenue to graze in the neighborhood of SUNY Oneonta campus.
Returning from World War II – his boat was narrowly missed by two U-Boat torpedoes while patrolling the Panama Canal – dad Jesse bought the 267 acres in the Town of Laurens. His 34-cow herd supported two families, then one, before he gave up dairying once his children were grown – but not before young Rick experienced milking cows and other rural joys.
At 1964 graduate of Laurens Central, Brockway went to SUNY Oneonta in 1968, majoring in English and history, then taught at Wells, in the Adirondacks, Mount Upton and, finally, Worcester.
In summer 1980, he helped his brother, Skip, now living in Albuquerque, with his quarter horses, and met farrier Lloyd Watson, who planned to retire.
“Do you want a business?” Lloyd asked, and Brockway spent the next school year teaching days and shoeing horses after hours. “I made twice as much shoeing horses as teaching school,” he recalled.
He never looked back. Even today, he’s out shoeing 2-3 days a week. Contrary to some farriers, he’s willing to shoe one horse or two or three, and drives from customer to customer with a 108-pound anvil in the back of his SUV.
In recent years, he and Pat have rented their five-bedroom home to Dreams Park and All-Star Village families, spending their summers in a 39-foot trailer he set up by a pond on the back end of the property.
“I’m an outdoor person,” he added. “I spent my life in the woods, hiking, hunting and fishing.” For his 60th birthday, he took a 120-mile hike across the Adirondacks; for his 70th, he climbed on high peaks in the Catskills.
For years, he wrote an outdoors column for the Daily Star, but was asked to set it aside for the campaign’s duration.
For the past few months, he’s been canvassing the whole district systematically – lists of streets and voter addresses are stacked on his kitchen table – with the idea of knocking on every door by Nov. 5, Election Day.
Besides helping resolve EMS challenges, he’s concerned the county has sufficient fossil-fuel resources during any transition to renewables.
He also supports full broadband for the county as quickly as possible; he and Pat have Spectrum at their home, but many of his would-be constituents don’t.