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News of Otsego County

Assemblyman John Salka

6th Ward Receives Proclamation

6th Ward Receives Proclamation

L to R: Assemblyman John Salka, Frank Russo

The 6th Ward Booster Club Playground was recognized over the weekend with a proclamation presented by Assemblyman John Salka.

Organized by Bill Shue (former Alderman), founding members, families and neighbors, there was a gathering at the 6th Ward Booster Club Playground Pavilion on Scramling Avenue in Oneonta.

“We are recognizing the 75 years of commitment to the community of Oneonta,” Mr. Salka said. “We present this proclamation to Frank Russo, President of the 6th Ward Booster Club Playground.

Oberacker, Salka Lead Republican Romp

Oberacker, Salka

Lead Republican Romp

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.

American Legion Post 259 Commander Terry Harkenreader, Oneonta, receives his ballot from election officials Jerod Brey, Oneonta, and Roy Bartoo, Laurens, at Foothills, Tuesday, Nov 3, just after polls opened for
the 2020 elections. (Ian Austin/

Republicans romped across Otsego County on Election Day 2020, leading with the top of the ticket, President Donald Trump.

“We’re not even purple,” said a jubilant GOP County Chairman Vince Casale, as Peter Oberacker won the 51st Senate District and Assemblyman John Salka turned back Oneonta Democrat Dan Buttermann by a large margin in the 121st District. “Otsego County is red.”

Casale said the Republican victory margins in all key local races are too great to be overcome by the 6,000 absentee ballots that will be counted in the next 10 days.

Democratic County Chairman Clark Oliver texted that he was unable to talk about the evening.
But Richard Sternberg, Cooperstown, the Democratic state committeeman, said, “There’s still a strong feeling for the Republican Party here; that’s clear.”

In Otsego County, the only Democrat to gain support from a majority of the voters was freshman Congressman Antonio Delgado. Other than that, it was red, red, red, beginning at the top.

• Trump, who is expected to lose New York State overall, took Otsego County, 12,317 to 8,682 for Democrat Joe Biden. That’s 57.1 percent to Biden’s 40.28 percent.

• In the 51st Senate District, Oberacker, the county rep from Schenevus who will now succeed, tallied 12,708 for 61.13 percent of the total against Democrat Jim Barber’s 7,959 (38.29 percent). In the 51st District, it was 63,612 (57.08 percent) to Barber’s 41,929 (37.63 percent). Late in the evening, Barber called Oberacker to concede.

• In the 121st Assembly District, Salka, R-Brookfield, blunted Buttermann’s challenge. The county tally was 7,632 (56.79 percent) to 5,437 (40.46 percent). In the 121st District, Salka tallied 29,715 (61.10 percent) to 14,972 (30.79 percent).

Republicans won the three other in-county Assembly districts as well: incumbent Brian Miller topped Chad McEvoy in the 101st; incumbent Chris Tague beat Betsy Kraat, and it was former Norwich police chief Joe Angelino over Richard Shaw in the 122nd.

In the 19th, Democrat Delgado won Otsego County with 9,661 votes to Republican Kyle Van De Water’s 9,181. Across the 19th, Delgado won 141,751 to Van De Water’s 134,503.

Reached at his victory celebration, Oberacker acknowledged, “We did crack the champagne a bit. I won’t say it was premature: All the indications are there, so we decided to celebrate.”

What gave him the edge, he said, was “just taking to folks in a common sense manner. We’ve logged 11,000 miles in the 51st, and I’ve spoken to people of all social strata, from farmers to businessmen.”

Asked if he planned to take a little time off, he said, “No, we’re going to get to work.” He was scheduled to speak with a Form Tech client in Bangkok, Thailand, at 4 p.m., and planned to attend the county Board of Representatives monthly meeting at 10 a.m.

“After that,” he said, “we’re going to get down to the business of the 51st District.”

Salka could not immediately be reached for comment.

Casale, who was at Oberacker’s victory celebration, said, “I think the voters saw the value of having individuals who can go to Albany and fight for their values.”

In particular, Salka campaigned against the Democrats’ bail-reform law, introducing a bill to repeal it.

And Oberacker said that on Jan. 1, his first day in office, he will introduce companion legislation in the Senate.

Salka Brings Bail Reform Message To Otsego County

Salka Brings Bail Reform

Message To Otsego County

Again, Oberacker Promises Companion Bill
‘On Jan. 1’ If Elected Tuesday To State Senate

Assemblyman John Salka, R-121, brought his proposed bail-reform repeal plan to Otsego County this morning, with a press conference in the lobby of the county jail.  His bill, introduced earlier this month, would repeal the Democratic majority’s controversial bail reforms of 2019. “This law set up a revolving door of justice,” he said. “But this bill doesn’t allow that to happen.” With him, from left, are Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-Schoharie, who represents the county’s eastern towns, Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr., and Republican 51st District state Senate candidate Peter Oberacker, Schenevus.  Oberacker repeated that, if elected Nov. 3, he will introduce companion legislation in the state Senate on Jan. 1.  (Libby Cudmore/

SALKA: I Know How To Help Constituents
Assemblyman John Salka

‘I Know How

To Help Constituents’

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

John Salka addresses the Monday, Oct. 6, dedication of Sgt. John Kempe Winslow Memorial Highway in Hartwick. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO,com)

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.

Herzig To Salka: Help Upstate Cities


Herzig To Salka:

Help Upstate Cities

Assemblyman John Salka, R-121, fields a questions from the audience as part of a Town Hall held tonight in Council Chambers. (Jennifer Hill/

By JENNIFER HILL • Special to

ONEONTA – Ask and you may receive.

“Cities like mine have maintained taxes at the state-mandated cap of two percent – even at zero percent, but  state aid to municipalities have not increased in 10 years,” said Mayor Gary Herzig during a Town Hall with Oneonta’s Assemblyman John Salka, R-Brookfield, in Council chambers this evening. “Why won’t the legislature not step up to and provide aid to cities who are fighting to renew their infrastructure, economic development, maintain services, attract new people and prevent people from leaving?”

Salka began his answer suggesting the lack of state aid increases to cities was because the legislature was controlled by “downstate interests,” legislators did not understand what Upstate New York needed, and the governor thought “there were too many towns and cities” and “wanted things big.”

Signs Say Loud: RSS Not Welcome

Signs Say Loud:

RSS Not Welcome

Mayor Herzig Would Be ‘Surprised’

If State Funds River Street Project

Doleen Vergari hands out signs to her fellow Sixth Ward residents including Rich Gravlin and Carl Miller following tonight’s meeting. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE  • Special to

RSS’s lack of transparency is what bothers him most, Assemblyman John Salka, R-Brookfield, tells Sixth Ward Neighbors United.  In the foreground is Fran Colone, the meeting’s moderator.

ONEONTA – Bill Shue doesn’t see the Sixth Ward’s fight against housing developer RSS as a strictly Sixth Ward issue.

Bill Shue

“If this can happen here, it can happen anywhere,” he said. “It can happen in Center City or on the East End.”

The Sixth Ward Neighbors United, which has vocally opposed Rehabilitation Support Services’ proposed 64-unit housing project at River and Duane streets, met tonight at the Sixth Ward Athletic Club, the first meeting since speaking at the Otsego County Board of Representatives’ April 3 meeting.

County Rep Danny Lapin, District 5, was in attendance, as was Assemblyman John Salka, R-Brookfield, and Mayor Gary Herzig.

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