COOPERSTOWN – The 2021 battle for the Otsego County Board of Representatives has been joined, with more candidates fielded than any time in recent memory, with contests in 11 districts.
In the 14 districts, 11 Republican candidates, one Conservative (allied with the Republicans) and 13 Democrats filed petitions to run by 5 p.m. Thursday, the deadline for the filings in the Nov. 2 local elections, which include county and town boards.
Independent candidates can still enter races. The first day to circulate independent petitions is April 13, and they must be submitted to the county Board of Elections between May 18 and 25. Contact the board or county chairman for details.
As it stand, if the Republicans lose one district, they would lose their majority (which rests on an alliance with board Vice Chairman Meg Kennedy, a Conservative). If the Democrats lose even one district, the Republican hold on the county board would be cemented for another two years.
COOPERSTOWN – County Rep. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, (and Otsego Now then-President Sandy Mathes) must have been prescient.
A little over three years ago, they proposed 130 acres of level land on a rise to the north of I-88’s Exit 18 at Schenevus for a 250-500-job distribution center, the type used by Amazon, Dollar General, Walmart — virtually every major U.S. retailer.
Today, after months of study, Adam Frosino, an engineer from McFarland Johnson, Binghamton-based consulting engineers, told the county Board of Representatives that 86 potential sites had been identified within two miles of Otsego County’s nine I-88 exits. They had been winnowed down to 26, then 10, then five, then two.
Of those two, the reps selected … the site championed by Oberacker and Mathes at the outset.
Editor’s Note: This is the last of three profiles of new members of the Otsego County Board of Representatives who will take office Jan. 1.
By JAMES CUMMINGS • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – It was in elementary school that Clark Oliver realized he would always have to fight for what he believed in.
“Maybe if your kid didn’t wear pink shoes, he wouldn’t get bullied,” a teacher told Oliver’s mom, Karen.
“I was a young gay person,” he said. “Growing up in this town was hard. I experienced bullying at different times in elementary school and that was my catalyst. I want any kid to wear pink shoes and be safe in school.”
And years later, that moment would be one of many that inspired Oliver to venture into politics, now becoming the youngest Otsego County Board member in the history of the county.
“More than just voting matters, activism and direct involvement matters,” he said.
But it wasn’t until 2012, when gay marriage was legalized, that Oliver recognized the influence of politics.
“I knew the fight that was going on. I knew that gay people couldn’t get married in many parts of this country, but I saw the White House lit up in rainbow and I realized that people we had elected did that and that voting matters,” he said. “That was the moment I realized the power of politics.”
Oliver, an Oneonta native, attended Valleyview Elementary from kindergarten to fifth grade, before going on the national tour with “101 Dalmatians,” playing one of the puppies.
He graduated from Oneonta High School in 2016 and recently graduated from SUNY Oneonta. During that time, he decided to join the Young Democrats and by August, became the president.
“I wanted to make sure that Democrats were better represented in Otsego County. When I became president, there were four Democrats and 10 Republicans on county board. That disproportionate of a tilt was not OK with me.”
For Oliver, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the election of Donald Trump in 2016. “I had a large desire to do more after I saw the election of Donald Trump and the dysfunction in Washington,” he said.
His idea was the Young Democrats would help hold back the Republican majority in Otsego County in the fall of 2017.
“We now have seven Republicans and seven Democrats,” he said. “The Young Democrats were the primary driving force behind that shift. We enacted a ground game that hadn’t been present before – knocking on doors and organizing phone banks. We also had a candidate in 13/14 districts. It was unprecedented.”
Afterwards, he spent time helping Brian Flynn during his Congressional Primary campaign in the spring of 2018 and later managed Joyce St. George’s state Senate campaign.
“We increased the Democratic vote share by 10 percent and I’m really proud of that,” he said.
When Gary Koutnik retired from county board in early 2019, he endorsed Oliver.
“I prioritize and want to encourage youth involvement in politics. I wanted to show young people that they’re just as qualified, just as capable as anyone in office.”
Clark has plans for when he takes his seat in January, starting with the county administrator position.
“Now that it has passed, I want to make sure that we hire the right person. I would like to see it be someone outside of county government,” the new representative said.
HARTWICK – Leadership gravitated toward Meg Kennedy, to hear her tell her story.
She first realized that was happening at an Oneonta Farmers’ Market vendors’ meeting in 2008 or 2009, where a difficult issue was being debated.
As the point of decision approached, Tom Warren, who runs the Stone & Thistle Farm, raising meadow-fed lamb and other natural products in East Meredith, spoke out: “Whatever Meg thinks we should do, that’s what we should do.”
To hear her tell it, Kennedy was as surprised by Warren’s comment as anyone.
“You suddenly have this reputation,” she reflected the other day in an interview in front of a roaring fire at her family’s Pleasant Valley Road home on being named 2019 Citizen of the Year by Hometown Oneonta, The Freeman’s Journal and www.AllOTSEGO.com. She added with a grin: “You have to make sure you aren’t saying anything stupid.”
Just starting her third term, Kennedy, the sole Conservative Party member of the Otsego County Board of Representatives, represents Hartwick, Milford and New Lisbon. The facts: but they just scratch the surface.
Warren reiterated his respect for Kennedy the other day: “She stays calm in the storm. She’s very reasoned about how she thinks and talks. If she reaches a decision, it’s done with a great deal of consideration.”
County Board Chairman David Bliss called Meg Kennedy’s selection as Citizen “a very good choice.” He singled her out for key roles because “she’s intelligent and hardworking, and has a lot of common sense: Intelligence and common sense don’t always go together.”
He was confident she would approach difficult issues “with an open mind. She didn’t prejudge. I could trust her to do good work.”
All those qualities – and the woman who personifies them – were front and center in 2019, The Year of Meg Kennedy, if you will, which can be defined in at least four ways:
►ONE, COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR
Opposed to the idea of a county manager/administrator/executive when she first ran in 2015 – she considered it “another layer of government” – she gradually changed her mind on experiencing the complexities of county government.
She grilled Gerry Benjamin, SUNY New Paltz vice president, when that local government expert keynoted a community meeting locally in December 2017, soon after election to her second term.
Named the next month by the new chairman, Dave Bliss, to chair the Intergovernmental Affairs Committee (and the key Administration, the ways and means committee), she scheduled a second monthly meeting for the IGA – every month for 24 – dedicated to studying the optimum managerial option for this county.
On Dec. 4, the Otsego County Board of Representatives voted 11-2, with one absence, to create the job of county administrator, moving Otsego with its $120 million budget out of the last half-dozen counties statewide that lacked professional management.
► TWO, THE ENERGY TASK FORCE
In the year’s first month at the Otsego Chamber’s Energy Summit at The Otesaga, she announced the formation of the county board’s Energy Task Force, 21 members in four “work groups” – Building & Efficiency, Energy Supply & Distribution, Environmental Development, and Environment – plus 14 technical advisers.
The goal: to bring a range of sometimes warring advocates – renewable purists on one side and fossil-fuel bridge builders on the other – together behind a coherent,
workable energy future.
After a year of fact-finding, the group received a $50,000 state grant Dec. 19 – the county’s anteing up another $50,000 – to hire a consultant to pull together this year’s fact-finding into a Community Energy Plan by the end of 2020.
This year, she was also elected to New York State Association of Counties’ board of directors, the first Otsego County representative to receive that honor. That puts her in touch with cutting-edge ideas in county governance, which she can then use for the benefit of the rest of us back home.
►FOUR, THE FULCRUM
In the run-up to this year’s Nov. 5 county elections, when Democrats talked about winning a majority, and some Republicans may have worried about losing it, the arithmetic became clear – it’s a Meg Kennedy majority.
Six Republicans command 3,421 points in the board’s weighted-voting system; seven Democrats, 3,433, a difference of 12 votes. That means Kennedy, on partisan matters, Meg – her dad, Paul Kennedy, is Otsego County Conservative Party chairman (and founder) – controls the outcome.
Meg Kennedy rules! (But given her record to date, it’s unlikely she would do so without deliberation, discussion and reflection.)
She was born in 1967 at Stamford Hospital; her parents, Paul and Margaret Kennedy, had moved up from Long Island and bought a farm in Roxbury. As Kennedys multiplied, the parents moved to Laurens in 1974 so the kids, eventually 12 in all, could get a Catholic education at St. Mary’s School in Oneonta.
In conversation the other day, Bliss’ sister Patty, herself a former St. Mary’s principal, recalled her girlhood, seeing the Kennedy clan each Sunday filling a pew at St. Mary’s “Our Lady of the Lake” in Cooperstown. (The Bliss family, with eight children, would be arrayed nearby.)
Paul and Andy (a decorated Marine colonel) are older, but – after Meg – came Betsy, John, Tricia, Owen (Owen Jr. was star center on last year’s CCS state championship basketball team), Jim (vice president of the international Chicago-based Ball Seed Co.), Susan (a Dominican nun with a Ph.D., now based in Nashville), Katie, Joe and Anne.
As third eldest, and eldest daughter, Meg’s leadership skills were soon required.
“I always got the young kids to do what we needed to do at home,” she recalled.
Growing up in the family’s Federal-style home – painted green, appropriately – that may date back to the 1700s, she wanted to do what her older brothers did, playing outside – in particular, riding horses. Of many horses raised on Pleasant Valley Road property over the years, the family still has seven, all born on the farm.
Meg credits St. Mary’s School with giving her an ethical grounding, from the 10 Commandments, the Rosary and the church’s other teachings and rituals. “It was a small school, I knew all the kids,” she said. “The teachers were very kind, and made sure everyone lived up to their potential.”
At CCS, “the teachers expected a lot of us.” With sister Betsy, a year behind her, she played field hockey and volleyball, and ran track. An indication of her future career in elective office, she was president of her sophomore and junior class, and was elected Student Council president her senior year, staging fundraisers for famine relief in Africa.
“I always could coalesce a group,” she said, again seemingly surprised. “You don’t see these things as you are moving through them.”
Graduating from high school in 1985, she followed brothers Paul and Andy to Cornell, the College of Agriculture & Life Science, studying horticulture and greenhouse management “with the idea I could come back and work in the greenhouses” – the family’s greenhouses on the Hartwick farm – “to do what needed to be done.”
Early on, her father had taken over his father’s Andrew R. Kennedy Seed & Bulb Co., selling to grand estates in the Hudson Valley and around Philadelphia; at its height locally, the family had 27,000 square feet of greenhouses – and Meg took over office functions after graduating from Cornell in 1989.
In addition to running Kennedy Seed, the family began selling flowers at the Oneonta Farmers’ Market, expanding to Cooperstown’s, Delhi’s and Callicoon’s, in Sullivan County. As the seed and bulb business changed, the farmers’ markets became a much larger part of her family’s operation.
In 2010, soon after Tom Warren made his pronouncement, Meg was approached by Fred Fields, the former Hartwick Town Board member, and asked to fill a vacancy on the Planning Board, (where she still serves.)
That set the stage for 2015, “one of those years where there were going to be a lot of open seats,” recalled Republican County Chairman Vince Casale. Held by Democrat Ed Lentz, District 5 “was one of the districts we knew we had to win. We were having a hard time finding the right person to commit to that seat.”
As he scanned the town boards and planning board in the three towns, he saw Meg’s name. Bingo.
“I picked up the phone and called her. I knew there had been some hot issues she had contended with on the Planning Board,” Casale said. Within a few minutes, “it was obvious she was up to the task. You knew she was one of those people who had instinctive leadership qualities. We talked for two hours.”
He added, “We never think of her as being from another party. She fits right in. She aligns with the values Republicans hold.”
Even though their father established the Conservative Party in Delaware County in the 1960s, then brought it here, her brothers and sisters are a mix of Conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, Kennedy said.
Conservatism fit her, she continued: “I take a more careful approach to change. I have to get it proved to me.”
As it happens, she was asked about a county manager in 2015 during a candidates’ night with Lentz at the Hartwick Community Center on Route 11. He supported the idea; she was unconvinced. Fracking was also an issue.
That fall, she won, 813-590, including 99 Conservative votes. “I won because I was more neutral on the issues,” she believes, adding, “I know a lot of people.”
Hearing the news, Tom Warren said something she still reflects on: “Meg won because of who she wasn’t.”
In 2017, she turned back a challenge from the former Hartwick town supervisor, Pat Ryan, 1,055 to 524. This year, she was unchallenged.
Joining the board in January 2016, she only knew Dave Bliss, also a freshman, and – just a bit – Oneonta then-rep Craig Gelbsman. “I wanted to get to know the people, to get an understanding of what they were doing.”
She was assigned to the IGA, Solid Waste & Environmental Concerns, and the Human Services committees.
Asked about a defining moment, she paused, then spoke of an executive session involving a personnel matter. “I believe my contribution saved the situation from escalating to the point where there could have been a very different outcome,” Meg said.
Since executive sessions are confidential, she couldn’t get into details, but said, “I was really glad I was there that day.”
What happened that day? Her approach coalesced into what we’ll call here, “The Kennedy Method” of problem-solving. One, listen. Two, hear. “They aren’t the same thing,” she said. Three, “what’s the fairest thing to do?”
“Then,” she concluded, “we could stay within the box of appropriateness.”
The 2017 campaign was a vigorous one – Democrats fielded candidates in 13 of 14 districts – and more of a consensus approach emerged from the organizational meeting, with Bliss, who represents Cooperstown and the towns of Middlefield and Cherry Valley, elected chairman, and Democrat Gary Koutnik, D-Oneonta, as vice chairman.
“I knew when I voted for Dave” – his predecessor, Kathy Clark, R-Otego, had been a mentor of sorts toward Kennedy – “I was voting for more work.”
He appointed her chairman of the IGA and Administration committees – the two most challenging – and, later, to the committee that built the 2020 budget. Plus, she served as vice chairman of the Greater Mohawk Valley Land Bank, tasked with rehabilitating or razing blighted buildings to get property back on the tax rolls.
In 2018, amid a general energy debate, 150 XNG natural-gas tankers were criss-crossing the county daily, and activists were protesting plans for a gas-decompressing station at the Oneonta Commerce Park.
A Democrat, Michele Farwell, representing Butternuts, Morris and Pittsfield, joined the board, and eventually approached Meg Kennedy with the idea of forming an Energy Task Force, as Tompkins County had done. “Maybe we could get everybody seated at the table and talking to each other and past each other,” Farwell said.
Kennedy, by then chairing the IGA, agreed. “What that shows about Meg is that she’s very open to hearing new ideas and talking,” Farwell said, adding, “As a leader, she is very happy to let other people play as much of a role as they may like.”
Meg had observed an impasse in the energy debate, and was concerned it would prevent much-needed economic development. “We need to do something,” she told herself. “If we do nothing, nothing will ever happen. We need to get started, and see where it takes us.”
Coming out of Benjamin’s December 2018 presentation at Springbrook, “County Manager v. County Executive,” Kennedy’s IGA Committee also took on the task of exploring that choice.
“People who voted for Dave to be chair, they also wanted to talk about a county administrator,” Meg said, adding characteristically, “We started with a clean, blank slate.”
A first key decision was not to pursue an executive, which would have been an elected position and require the county to develop a charter and take it to referendum. If the vote was nay, the effort would be back to the beginning.
The IGA’s study – it included inviting in top executives from similar counties, and such experts as Steve Acquario, NYSAC executive director – also found an elected executive can elevate politics in county government, vying with a county board for primacy.
“An executive was not a good fit for a rural county with a small population,” Kennedy said. “Sometimes, lower population centers are overlooked.”
And so the county administrator option was pursued. In the New Year, the challenge of filling the job begins, and Bliss has said he plans to ask Meg to lead the search.
At one point during the process, Meg Kennedy was waved over to a table to join a conversation. Looking back, she followed her internalized tick list: Listen, HEAR, what’s fair…
“Wow,” she said to herself as she got up, “we just had a very productive discussion!”
Editor’s Note: This is the second of three profiles on newcomers will be joining the Otsego County Board of Representatives on Jan 1. Next week: Clark Oliver.
By JAMES CUMMINGS • Special To www.AllOTSEGO.com
LAURENS — An avowed conservative and lover of the outdoors, Rick Brockway hopes to bring that outlook to the Otsego County Board of Representatives.
For instance, as a long-time gun owner, the new District 3 (Laurens-Otego) rep sees a possibility of making the county an example of good practice when it comes to firearms.
“My dad was an avid hunter,” he said in an interview. “From the moment I could hold a gun he took me along, but we always respected the game. I was raised that way.”
With all the local knowledge, is there a way to showcase Otsego County “as a possible sanctuary for the Second Amendment.”
“We’re a rural county,” he said. “We’re hunters who’ve been raised with guns and know how to use them safely. It’s something I’m going to address. It’s important to me,” he said.
After taking his oath of office Jan. 2, he’ll have his opportunity. “I’m not one to sit back quietly; I’m a man of a lot of words,” he said.
The Brockway family first moved to Otsego County in 1802, farming in the vicinity of what is now Oneonta City Hall.
“In 1870, my great-great-grandfather Jesse Brockway acquired 260 acres in Lauren. My family has lived here for 149 years,” he said.
The new representative who was born in Oneonta, raised in Laurens and graduated from Laurens High School. He went on to SUNY Oneonta, obtaining a English Literature degree, then taught middle school English and Social Studies for 10 years before realizing that it wasn’t for him.
“My brother had horses out here, and his farrier, Lloyd Watson, asked me if I wanted a summer job. I’ve been a farrier ever since,” he said.
The next 40 years as a farrier connected him with people around the region.
“I used to shoe horses seven days a week. Horses are very popular in this area. From Margaretville to Cobleskill to Binghamton, everyone knows me from the horse business,” he said.
And his family’s history made getting involve “a natural step.”
“The Brockways have been in local politics for over 70 years,” he said. “My dad was either town councilman or supervisor for 50 years. He urged me to run for the councilman position and I ended up being town councilman for eight years.”
His wife Pat was a town justice for eight years, and is finishing up two terms as Laurens town supervisor at the end of the year.
“A few years ago, I decided I wanted to do something more. I wanted to give back to the community,” he said, and the county board seat seemed like a natural.
When county Rep. Kathy Clark, R-Otego, “decided not to run, I said to myself, this is my time.”
And with his first county board meeting coming up, Brockway is ready to tackle the issues of rural living.
“One thing that is important to me is the rural ambulance service. In late August I was in Jefferson trimming horses. Three kids got one of the horses tangled and it trampled their grandmother.
“It took 45 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. I witnessed the whole thing. There’s no excuse for an ambulance to be 45 minutes away. It’s one of the things I’m deeply committed to doing something about,” he said.
COOPERSTOWN — In its final meeting of the year, the Otsego County Board of Representatives today bid farewell to three of its members in unanimous resolutions:
• Kathy Clark, R-Otego, former board chairman, was praised for “sincere effort … to represent the county’s best interests,” and — as the first woman to chair the board — “an important role model for young women and girls.” She served six terms, or 12 years.
The issue’s been hanging out there for a while: What role should the Otsego County Board of Representatives play in funding the Susquehanna Animal Shelter?
Schoharie County’s contribution is $75,000 a year to its shelter. Delaware County splits $88,000 among two shelters. Until now, Otsego County has contributed nothing.
The county has been allocating $5,000 a year. It is not a donation, but a fee for services, which seems like the better way to go.
At its Nov. 26 public hearing on its 2020 county budget, county representatives were advised the Susquehanna SPCA, using cost-accounting data developed by a volunteer, Cooperstown’s Richard Sternberg, plans to “unilaterally” begin charging what it has determined its true costs are.
In a situation with a lot of moving parts, doing anything “unilaterally” is not the best way forward.
For one thing, everyone seems to agree abused animals have to be taken care of, and that county government should pay for costs incurred.
County Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr., whose department out of necessity, drops animals seized in cruelty cases at the Hartwick Seminary shelter, said “the welfare of animals is both our priorities.”
County Board Chairman Dave Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield, also buys into the general concept. “The board wants to take care of its responsibilities,” he said in last week’s newspaper.
So the issue isn’t that the county pay for costs incurred. It’s simply how much (and, perhaps, to whom)?
The shelter’s annual operating budget is over $700,000. Last year, with the 103 starving animals seized on that Garrattsville farm and 56 Lhasa Apsos surrendered in Milford, Sternberg estimated the county received some $70,000 worth of services.
(Remember, that’s the year-to-year “operating budget,” separate from the $3 million that’s been raised to build a 21st-century animal shelter on Route 28 at Index. Two different pots of money.)
Averaged out with Sternberg’s guidance, SQSPCA Executive Director Stacie Haynes estimated the county’s annual cost at about $40,000 a year, some 5 percent of its total expenses. That includes caring for dogs dropped off by the sheriff’s department, or when a shelter team responds to a call through the county’s 911 system.
When County Treasurer Allen Ruffles returns in January from his National Guard deployment in Djibouti, he should review those figures and come to a common understanding about the value of the services provided.
Under the state Ag & Markets Law, law enforcement – locally, mostly the sheriff’s department – is required to respond to animal-abuse complaints. When deputies remove an animal, they have to take it someplace.
The Susquehanna Animal Shelter has been the preferred option, but it doesn’t have to be.
As Bliss explains it, if the county wanted to contract for services, it would be required to go out to bid, and other shelters – Oneonta’s Superheroes in Ripped Jeans, for instance – could bid, as could individual veterinary practices. Or the county could set up its own pound.
Clearly, acting “unilaterally” may have unintended consequences all around.
The Susquehanna Animal Shelter has a lot going for it.
Under Haynes, it’s been a first-rate operation, evident most recently in bringing the heart-rending case of Zoe, the
German shepherd discovered chained last month in the Town of Exeter with a chewed-off leg and large tumor in her shoulder. Zoe was seized, treated and is now in a new home in the Butternuts Valley.
Successes like this have raised the shelter’s profile, and pet owners are aware of and likely to use its services.
People – that includes members of the county board – want to back a winner, to support excellence, so Susquehanna SPCA, in its current incarnation, is in a position of strength.
Still, it’s determine to do what it believes in. As Haynes put it in last week’s paper, “We have a moral obligation to do what we do. We’re never going to stop doing what we’re doing.”
Admirable, but it weakens the shelter’s bargaining position. It takes the county board off the hook: It can be assured, regardless, our Zoes will be taken care of regardless.
So it only makes sense to cool off the rhetoric. Get the numbers. In an $11 million local tax levy in a $120 million budget, $40,000 is smidgeon. It’s there somewhere. Still, the county board shouldn’t just give away money because somebody asks for it. Fee for service is the way to go.
Demanding will get us nowhere. Let level-headed representatives on both sides sit down, figure out what’s fair and mutually agreeable.
COOPERSTOWN – With board Vice Chairman Gary Koutnik abstaining, and another Democrat voting nay, the county Board of Representatives today asked the state Parole Board “to deny the release, conditional or otherwise,” of David Dart, convicted of slaying 18-year-old Jill Gibbons with a “Rambo-style knife” in the Oneonta Municipal Parking Garage in 1989.
The resolution, passed 12-1-1, also put the county board on record supporting a bill, S4354, introduced several times by state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, to increase the time between parole hearing for “violent crimes” from two to five years.
ONEONTA – Former county rep Len Carson confirmed a few minutes ago he is planning to run for Common Council this fall to represent Ward 5 in the city’s west end.
A Republican, he said he has spoken with the current Council member, Democrat Dana Levinson, who told him she isn’t planning to seek another term. All Common Council positions are up for reelection in November.
“You know me,” he said. “I’m not into the ‘D’ and the ‘R’ and the ‘C.’ We need to have a leader, the mayor, and representatives of the wards working together to do the good work that needs to be done. Party politics don’t work at the local level. We need good people.”
COMMUNITY OF RESIDENCE: Wilson is a lifelong resident of the 8th Ward of Oneonta.
EDUCATION: Wilson graduated from Oneonta High School in 2014, and will be graduating from SUNY Oneonta in May of 2018 with degrees in Political Science and Criminal Justice.
PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: Wilson has worked as a Studio Engineer at TownSquare Media in Oneonta, a teacher’s assistant at Oneonta Nursery School, and the Coordinator of Outreach on the re-election campaign of Senator Rand Paul in 2016.
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Wilson has supported and volunteered for a number of local organizations, including Orpheus Theatre, Oneonta Little League, and Oneonta Nursery School.
FAMILY: Parents George and Kelly Wells have lived in Oneonta for decades, uncle Sean Farrell is an Oneonta Town Justice.
PHILOSOPHY OF GOVERNMENT: The government exists to represent all of their constituents, not just those in the representative’s own political party.
MAJOR ISSUES FACING OTSEGO COUNTY: The county needs to address the constant, year-over-year overspending. Spending over $250,000 a day is not being responsible to the taxpayers. We have to cut spending, and then proceed to cut taxes; The county needs to return to full and absolute governmental transparency. Our representatives need to be more accountable and accessible to us, the taxpayers; Partisan gridlock keeps any real change from happening. It’s important to elect representatives who will represent every one of their constituents, and not just those in their own party; Otsego county needs help overseeing the day-to-day operations of the county, however appointing an unelected bureaucrat is dangerous. We have to make sure the Board is not a rubber stamp yes vote to the first county manager that comes along. We must ensure fiscal responsibility; The opioid crisis is beginning to creep into our area and we must address the issue head on. The numbers bear out the fact that the current approach, treating these people like criminals as opposed to people who need help, simply does not work. We must do everything we can to help this people reintegrate into society, as opposed to locking them up and throwing away the key.
MY QUALITIES: Wilson has a unique combination of energy and experience. He will be accessible to every one of his constituents at all times, he will work tirelessly to improve quality of life in Otsego county, and will never give up on his principles.
STATEMENT: This country was founded by, and has been protected by, since day one, young men and women. More than a dozen of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were under 35 years old when they signed. The average age of the men that stormed Normandy Beach was 20 years old. And the average age of the American soldier in Vietnam was just 19 years old. 51% of the world’s population is under 30 years old. The future of Otsego County can include a road back to prosperity. As my former boss Senator Rand Paul once said, it’s time for a new way. A new set of ideas. A new leader. One you can trust, who works for you. I am running to take Otsego county back and give it to the people! Thank you to everybody who is taking the time to learn about the candidates, and for voting on Tuesday, November 7th at Foothills in Oneonta.
COMMUNITY OF RESIDENCE: City of Oneonta District 12
EDUCATION: Allegheny College; University of Texas at Austin
PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: I began my career as a writer for a newspaper in Texas. After a few years there and as an editor in Tennessee, we moved to Oneonta to raise our family. Once here, taught for ten years at SUNY Oneonta as well as, on occasion, at Hartwick College. I wrote for the Daily Star both as a reporter and as a columnist. My freelance work has appeared in national publications. Currently, I work as a writer and editor in the SUNY Oneonta Alumni Engagement Office.
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Girls on the Run Coach, UUSO Board of Trustees
FAMILY: Married for 24 years to Scott Segar. We have two kids: Madeline, 15, and Cormac, 12.
PHILOSOPHY OF GOVERNMENT: “We All do Better When We All Do Better” As much as I’d like to claim that quote as my own, those words were said by Senator Paul Wellstone from Minnesota. When I first heard them, I knew that they summed up the purpose of government. Both as a community and individually, we are only as strong as those around us. It’s up to us to figure out how to ensure equal access for all to decent healthcare, quality education, and living wage jobs. That’s not easy, of course. The first step is creating an accessible and accountable county government that transparently represents all of Otsego county’s citizens.
MAJOR ISSUES FACING OTSEGO COUNTY: Otsego county has an embarrassment of riches, from its dairy farms to its higher education. Yet, as a county, we seem to be stagnating. We are too reliant on the same old leadership that talks a good game but isn’t able to get points on the board. If the county board is making great strides in supporting our business community, protecting our health care, and training a 21st century workforce, it is not transparent enough to show us how it is doing that.
MY QUALITIES: The bulk of my job at SUNY Oneonta is producing the alumni magazine, a three-times per year publication that is mailed to more than 60,000 readers. In order to make that happen, I have to have a deep understanding of schedules, deadlines, and budgets, as well as the ability to co-ordinate all of the parts that need to come together to make it happen. A big part of being a professional writer is also being a professional learner, meaning that I have to understand all of an idea, plan, or policy before I can communicate what it is and what it will do. After a couple of decades in this business, I’m pretty good at asking questions until something makes sense.
STATEMENT: My husband and I chose to live in Oneonta nearly 15 years ago and have never once regretted that decision. This has been a wonderful community in which to raise our kids, grow our careers, and, most recently, move other family members. We’re here for the long haul — and I want this county to thrive in ways that benefit us all.
COOPERSTOWN – Republican Tim Walker is the winner of this round of the contest with county Rep. Andrew Marietta, D-Cooperstown/Town of Otsego, for the District 8 seat on the county Board of Representatives.
State Supreme Court Judge Eugene D. Faughnan today issued his opinion in an action brought by Marietta: “Independent party names are only protected to the extent their petitions for the same office are filed first, for that election cycle. There is nothing in the election law which provides any ‘year over year’ protection to an independent party’s name or symbol.”
County Rep. Len Carson, R-Oneonta, who fell short in his attempt yesterday to replace Kathy Clark, R-Otego, as chair of the Otsego County Board of Representatives, lost his committee chairmanship and was removed from the board’s two key committees.
As board chair, Clark appoints the committees at the county board’s annual reorganization meeting.
COOPERSTOWN – The county Board of Representatives may be reentering the natural-gas fray in favor of the Constitution Pipeline project.
County Reps. Jim Powers, R-Butternuts, and Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla, the board’ vice chair, this morning volunteered to draft a letter for the board’s consideration as reps began focusing information from their strategic planning process into a half-dozen first-round priorities.
One of the “key initiatives” in the plan is: “Support the Constitution Pipeline and Leatherstocking Pipeline in appropriate locations in the county.”