I join community members across Upstate New York – friends and colleagues alike – to say: We will all miss Bill Magee.
His service to our communities was a lifelong passion and commitment. He worked across the political spectrum to deliver for his district and he did it without the fanfare many politicians expect to receive. He did it by acting on solutions to meet constituent needs, and not making promises he couldn’t fulfill.
I first met Bill Magee in 2013. I had an interest in public service and asked for his advice. He gave it. As we all knew about Bill – he did not add more words than needed, so his advice was short but still useful.
More than what he said to me he gave an example to follow. When I called his office to make an appointment, he set the appointment that day. I didn’t get any sort of , “I’ll get back to you.”
The day before our meeting a problem came up in his schedule. Instead of a staff member calling to reschedule, I got the call directly from Bill.
In short, I will miss Bill Magee. He served our district for many years, and as a result we have done better together. He also left us with many stories that we remember with a smile, and I suspect many reading this letter are thinking of theirs.
Going forward, I will remember Bill Magee as a friend and mentor, and whose example I hope to emulate.
WAMPSVILLE – Assemblyman John Salka, R-Brookfield, has announced he will unveil Bill A11067 that, if passed, would “completely” repeal last year’s bail reform, at a press conference at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21, at the Madison County Courthouse.
He will be accompanied by Madison County Sheriff Todd Hodd.
Salka’s district includes Madison, Otsego and parts of Oneida counties.
COOPERSTOWN – It’s been a long journey for John Salka from a boyhood in Utica’s Corn Hill section to the sumptuous New York State Capitol.
His tiny 5-foot mom Carmella, a single parent, supported him and his sister Carole by working in a suitcase factory in Whitesboro. “A lot of glue; a lot of grimy work,” said the son, who at one point worked there, too.
Evenings, Carmella Salka would take care of welfare families’ children, as well as the two young Salkas.
“We had kids at our kitchen table, black, white, Hispanic, whatever. They’d be there a couple of days; then they would be gone,” said Carmella’s son, now 66 and completing his first term as assemblyman from the 121st District, which includes western Otsego County.
Every other Saturday, young John would take a bus to the Utica Armory, the pickup point for government surplus food. “Actually, it was pretty good,” he remembers – the peanut butter, in particular.
His mom put her two children through Catholic school, St. Francis de Sales, and John went on to Utica Free Academy. Absent a father’s restraining hand, when he was a junior he said to himself, “I don’t want to be here anymore.” He walked out and never went back.
For the next two years, in Boston, he handled the soundboard for Celebration, a Utica band that was trying to make it big there. (In those days, the now-tidy lawmaker confesses, his braided hair grew down his back to his belt.)
Back home, “I worked a lot of dead-end jobs” through his 20s, including as an aide to the famously impetuous Ed Hanna, Utica’s mayor in the late 1970s and early ’80s.
After Hanna left office, Salka found himself working as an orderly at Utica’s Faxton Hospital, and loving the atmosphere. By then, he had gotten his GED, and, at age 28, enrolled in Mohawk Valley Community College’s respiratory therapy program, (where he became editor of the Student Voice newspaper.)
It was a big demand field. Still in school, he got a job at Community Memorial Hospital in Hamilton and, graduating, he joined the neonatal care unit at Children’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., and he and wife Erin – the couple had met at MVCC – headed for the Nation’s Capital.
“On one side, Marine One would be coming in for a landing; on the other was the Washington Monument,” he remembers. He’d copter out to pick up premature babies, then fly them back for treatment. “It was pretty exciting,” he said.
At the time, a two-bedroom condo in D.C. was going for $150,000. But the Salkas were looking to start a family, so in 1990 headed back to Upstate New York, buying “a fixer-upper on 62 acres of land” in North Brookfield, Madison County, across Unadilla Creek from Edmeston. “We’ve been there ever since.”
Rejoining Community Memorial, Salka rose to the head the respiratory therapy department. On the side, he pursued a mason’s trade, starting a chimney building and repair business.
In Brookfield, the Salkas began raising a family, daughter Emily (Emmy) and Aleksandr. “I got to know the folks; I got to know the community,” and in 2002, he agreed to serve on a Brookfield Central School committee planning a capital project.
The next year, he ran for the school board; three years in, he was elevated to board president, went through the state School Board Association’s prestigious School Board Institute, and served on Madison County BOCES.
In 2007, he ran for Brookfield town supervisor, beating an 18-year incumbent. With 122 miles of roads, he developed a plan that replaced aging highway equipment, cutting the maintenance budget in half and reducing the tax rate from 7.68 per thousand to 6.24.
On the county Board of Supervisors for those 11 years (until he was elected to the Assembly in 2018), he applied his medical background to chairing the Social Services, Mental Health and Public Health committees.
As vice president of the county Board of Health, he oversaw the privatization of the 42-nurse home-care agency, which was “hemorrhaging money because of legacy costs.”
“It took a year and a half,” he said. “We were very, very selective in choosing the company that took over.”
First year, “we saved $1 million. All but two of the nurses found work with the company that took over. Because the company was able to modernize, I think we are providing even better service.”
He called that “my ‘shining star’ in terms of achievement.”
On the Planning & Economic Development Committee, he was involved in installing a 10-acre solar project at the county landfill, saving the county an estimated $200,000 a year, he said.
Through all this, he faced challenges at home. Daughter Emmy contracted cancer, passing away on Oct. 27, 2015, at age 22, after a years-long struggle. Son Alek was placed on the Asperger’s spectrum, but, now 27, is living on his own and has been supporting himself.
In public service for more than a decade, Salka realized, “at the town level, a lot of budget pressures are because of what’s coming out of Albany.” Further, “education is wrought with rules and regulations that schools have to comply with that don’t improve the quality of education and accountability.”
So in 2014, the Republican challenged Assemblyman Bill Magee, D-Nelson, the ailing Ag Committee chairman who had been in office since 1990. Salka lost, 53-47 percent. In 2016, he narrowed Magee’s lead, 52-48 percent. Finally, in 2018, the challenger won, 51-49 percent.
Some question what a Republican can do in an Assembly dominated, 42 to 103, by Democrats. Salka, Thursday, Oct. 8, in this newspaper’s Cooperstown offices, said he’s been able to leverage his knowledge of the state Education Department and other agencies to the benefit of his constituents.
He knows who to call.
Salka said he had a recent success bringing in the state Canal Corp. to resolve flooding in Eaton, allowing a construction project to proceed, and in helping find state help to combat eutrophication in Oneida Lake.
HAMILTON – Corey Mosher, candidate for 121st Assembly District, which includes Oneonta and Cooperstown, raised triple the amount of his opponent leading up to next Tuesday’s Democratic primary, his campaign announced.
He characterized the donations as representing “enthusiastic grassroots donations,” but his opponent, Dan Buttermann, Oneonta, called that “misleading,” noting much of the money came from family members to pay a professional staff.
This Tuesday, June 16, the final filing date, Mosher’s campaign team announced he had raised $24,602, more than triple his opponent Dan Buttermann’s $8,812.
COOPERSTOWN – Democratic Assembly candidates Daniel Buttermann of Oneonta and Corey Mosher of Hamilton will debate via Zoom 7-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 9, in an event sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Oneonta and Cooperstown.
The Democratic primary in the 121st District is planned Tuesday, June 23. The winner will challenge Assemblyman John Salka, R-Brookfield on Nov. 3.
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ONEONTA – The field is filling up with Democrats aiming to challenge freshman Assemblyman John Salka, R-121, whose district includes Oneonta and Cooperstown, as well as Madison and past of Oneida counties.
Nick Chase, a Hartwick College students and Oneonta native, this week joined Oneonta City school board member Dan Buttermann and Corey Mosher, a Hamilton farmer and board chair of Madison County Cooperative Extension.
Chase entry makes a Democratic primary next June more certain.
ONEONTA – Dan Buttermann made it official today: The Oneonta Democrat plans to challenge Assemblyman John Salka, R-Brookfield, for the 121st Assembly District seat, although he first may face a Democratic primary next June.
The 121st includes the bulk of Otsego County, including Oneonta and Cooperstown, all of Madison County and part of Oneida. The 2020 election will be Nov. 3.
“I am deeply concerned about the future of our district, state and country,” Buttermann said in a press release. “I fear that failure to invest in the future of our economy today means that our next generation of Upstate New Yorkers will find it harder and harder to stay.”
ONEONTA – A Hamilton farmer, Corey Mosher, has announced a challenge to freshman Assemblyman John Salka, R-Brookfield, in the 121st District next year, but local Democrats say they expect Otsego County will have its own candidate for the party’s nomination, Dan Buttermann of Oneonta.
In 2017, Buttermann lost narrowly – 1,158 to 1,203 – to then-Assemblyman Bill Magee, D-Nelson, who was then defeated by Salka, former Brookfield Central school board president and Madison County Board of Supervisors chairman.
HAMILTON – At 6 p.m. today, fourth-generation family farmer and partner of Mosher Farms, Corey Mosher, announced he’s exploring a run against freshman Assemblyman John Salka, R-Brookfield, whose 121st District includes Otsego County.
Active in issues associated with farming, Mosher serves as the board chairman of the Madison County Cooperative Extension, board member of the state Vegetable Growers’ Association, and as a member of the National Barley Improvement Committee .
BROOKFIELD – While canvassing is wrapping up today, the John Salka campaign felt confident enough to announce the Brookfield Republican has defeated veteran Assemblyman Bill Magee, D-Nelson, in the 121st District.
On Election Night, Salka held a lead of 963 votes out of more than 44,000 votes cast. After most absentee and affidavit ballots were counted in Madison and Otsego counties, Salka maintained a lead of 508 votes. Oneida County has not completed its count yet, but has less than 150 outstanding ballots, so it is mathematically impossible for Magee to make up the difference.