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.
Though they were on opposite sides of the political spectrum, retiring state Senator Jim Seward, R-Milford, always knew he could reach across the aisle to Assemblyman Bill Magee, D-121.
“Bill was always among my first calls when I needed an assembly sponsor for legislation that would help our area,” he said. “And he never hesitated to join me As legislators representing overlapping districts, Assemblyman Magee and I worked together on a regular basis to address the shared needs of our constituents.”
Magee, who served in the State Assembly for 28 years, years, died Thursday, Dec. 24 at age 81.
He was elected as NY state Assemblyman in 1990, and was soon given a reputation as an advocate for farmers, serving as chair of the Agricultural committee.
“[Magee] was a huge asset to the [agricultural] community,” said Darin Hickling, NY District 9 Farm Bureau Director. “He was a huge help to and supporter of the Farm Bureau; he was always there for us – his contributions can’t be measured.”
Magee also ran an auction house, and frequently donated his auctioneering skills to Farm Bureau Benefits.
“He was a personable, approachable and regular guy,” Hickling said. “It was great to talk with him. You could go to him about any issue and – more often than not – he already knew about and was working on it.”
In 2018, after 28 years in office, Magee, then 79, lost his re-election bid to Republican John Salka after the third contest between the pair.
“[Magee] fought hard for farmers, business and the general public alike,” Assembly- man Salka said. “He was down to earth, understood the issues and was one of the most bipartisan people. I certainly had big shoes to fill when I came into the position.”
Salka has said he plans to attend the funeral services later this week.
“It is only respectful,” Salka said. “He was a good man and a family friend; even though we were opponents we had mutual respect for one another.”
Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh expressed her condolences at Monday’s Trustee’s board meeting. “He was a perfect, unassuming gentleman who always delivered and wasn’t shy about knowing more,” Tillapaugh said. “The assembly district lost a great politician who always put his constituents first and worked tirelessly on their behalf. His nearly three decades of service will live on through a number of projects.”
NELSON – William (Bill) Magee, who served Otsego County in the state Assembly for 28 years, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2020. He was 81.
The younger of two children of Donald and Ruth (Hart) Magee, he lived in the Town of Nelson, outside Cazenovia, all of his life. The Magee family operated a small dairy and general store in Erieville. Bill graduated from Cazenovia Central School and Cornell University, where he earned a degree in Agricultural Economics.
He married the former Jeanette Nichols. The couple were married for 52 years before her death in 2018.
State Zigged To Democrats,
But County Zagged To GOP
The Wall Street Journal headline was sly: “Blue Wave Breaks Softly.”
The article reported that, as of Nov. 6, Election Night, Democrats gained 27 Congressional seats in the midterms, regaining control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
That pales compared to Democrats losing 63 in the first Obama midterms in 2010, and losing the House as well; still, even one-vote control is control. (As canvassing ensued, it looks like Democrats may end up with plus 35 to 40 new seats; still, not the GOP Armageddon some were salivating over. And Republicans increased their margin in the U.S. Senate.)
Whatever – nationwide. But when you look at New York State government, the Blue Wave broke hard Upstate, not least over Otsego County, with some unnerving implications.
The state Senate zigged, turning from enduringly Republican to Democratic, a feat accomplished for only two years in a half-century.
But Otsego County zagged: With the loss of Democratic Assemblyman Bill Magee of Nelson, the one state senator and four assemblymen representing our county are all Republicans, about to dive into a Democratic sea.
That can’t be good.
State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, who will be operating without Magee’s steady support in the Democratic House for the first time since 1991, said he’s used to working in a bipartisan manner.
In an interview, he used the term “equitable distribution” twice, hoping the Democrats will extend the concept that has allowed the state’s largesse to be enjoyed statewide.
That would be great, but we’ll see.
More of an issue than Democrats and Republicans is Upstaters vs. downstaters, Seward observed. Only three of the state’s 30 senators are from north of Westchester County. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.
The GOP county chairman, Vince Casale, addressed the legislative picture. Now in control of Assembly, Senate and Governor’s Office, he predicts Democrats will seek to legalize marijuana as soon as January, and will press for adoption of the NY Plan, Medicare-like coverage for all Empire Staters – exciting, but perhaps bankrupting.
Depending how hard and fast the Democrats push, what went around in 2018 may come around in 2020.
Meanwhile, even local Democrats are a bit uneasy. Richard Sternberg, the Cooperstown village trustee who is also a member of the state Democratic Committee, said he hopes that, since our mayors are Democratic (Oneonta’s Gary Herzig and Cooperstown’s Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch), the funds will keep flowing.
And, as architect of Democratic gains on the Otsego County Board of Representatives last year, Sternberg is looking ahead to creating a majority next year; he’s only one seat short.
Given the new Albany reality, becoming aligned with the ruling party only makes sense, his remarks suggested.
If anything, we here in Otsego County compounded the zag by voting heavily for Marc Molinaro, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Republican challenger.
Arguably, Cuomo’s done more for Otsego County than any governor in decades, Democrat or Republican, and did so by embracing an all-American principle: competition.
The governor’s concept – divide the state into 10 regions and make them compete for state economic-development funding, and may the best ideas win – was brilliant.
In the past five years, Otsego County has competed and competed well, winning millions annually through CFAs; (the next round of “consolidated funding application” grants is due to be announced in December). Plus, remember Oneonta’s DRI.
In the world of New York State realpolitik, here’s more good news in the returns.
While the county as a whole supported Republicans, Oneonta and Cooperstown are strong Democratic enclaves, supporting Senator Seward, the county’s favorite son, but breaking blue on everything else.
Oneonta, for its population, and Cooperstown, for its iconic status, are not to be ignored, whatever party controls the state political apparatus.
Whoever’s in charge in Albany, there’s a lot to be done here, so fingers crossed.
COOPERSTOWN – Richard J. Devlin, Jr., is sheriff for another four years.
By day’s end, canvassing underway at the Otsego County Board of Elections had counted all but 387 of the absentee and affidavit ballots, and found Devlin leads challenger Bob Fernandez, the retired state trooper, by 821 votes.
Editor’s Note: Below is the introduction that set the stage for this week’s editorials: Endorsing Democrats Andrew Cuomo, Bill Magee and Chad McEvoy, and Republicans John Faso, Jim Seward and Richard Devlin in the Nov. 6 election. Reasons for our endorsements are detailed in this week’s Hometown Oneonta & Freeman’s Journal, available on newsstands today. Click here and read the full report that informed the introduction below, “The Hidden Tribes of America,” which finds, despite the surface divisiveness we hear around us, most of us are people of good will, willing to listen and to seek a middle way, the basis for our democracy at its most successful.
As voters – in Otsego County, the 19th Congressional District and nationally – struggle to make the right decision in the Tuesday, Nov. 6, midterm elections, a study, “The Hidden Tribes of America,” surfaces with a conclusion that has been widely commented on nationally:
“A majority of Americans (61 percent), whom we’ve called the ‘Exhausted Majority,’ are fed up by Americans’ polarization. They know we have more in common than that which divides us: our belief in freedom, equality and the pursuit of the American Dream. They share a deep sense of gratitude that they are citizens of the United States. They want us to move past our differences.”
It the past two years, those of us with that sensibility have been screamed at by two sides that, it turns out, are fringes. On the left, “Progressive Activists,” according to the study, are a mere 8 percent of the citizenry; on the right, “Devoted Conservatives” are only 6 percent.
COOPERSTOWN – Otsego County Republican Chairman Vince Casale today called on Assemblyman Bill Magee to make his position known on whether he still supports indicted Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
“Since Silver’s arrest on corruption charges last week, Assemblyman Magee has been a steadfast supporter of Speaker Silver. Now that several Assembly Democrats from all parts of the state have done the right thing and stood up against the culture of corruption that Shelly Silver has created, its only right for Assemblyman Magee to let his constituents where he stands,” Casale said.