News of Otsego County

Craig Gelbsman

Campaigns Off To Fast Start In ’21

Campaigns Off To Fast Start In ’21

Revised Calendar Requires
6-Month Campaign Season

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

Election Day is still six months away, but in the past few days it’s been off to the races, the local races.

With Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig’s announcing his retirement last week, three candidates immediately emerged to succeed him, a Democrat and two Republicans.

Leading up to Tuesday, March 2, the first day nominating petitions can be circulated, a similar outpouring occurred in races for the Otsego County Board of Representatives.

Get used to it.

The early entries, a half-year in advance of the elections, are required by changes implemented in January 2019 by Governor Cuomo and the state Legislature, then newly in control of the Democrats.

State and local primaries were moved from the second Tuesday in September to the fourth Tuesday in June, to align with federal elections. The idea, Democrats said, was to save money and to increase turnout for local elections.

However, with petitions in local races due to be filed with the county Board of Elections between March 22 and 25, it also extends the campaign season for local offices from four to
six months.

Oneonta Republicans Endorse Len Carson

Oneonta Republicans

Endorse Len Carson

Gelbsman Didn’t Concede At Caucus

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

Len Carson

ONEONTA – Mayoral candidate Len Carson announced a few minutes ago that he received the city Republican Committee’s endorsement this evening to run for the city’s top office in the Nov. 2 elections.  The committee chair is Susan Lettis.

Carson said both he and Craig Gelbsman, who has also indicated he is interested in running for mayor, were at the caucus.  After receiving the endorsement, Carson said he asked Gelbsman if he intended to continue in the race, but Gelbsman was noncommittal one way or the other.

Carson, Gelbsman Both Intend To Run For Oneonta Mayor


Carson, Gelbsman

Both Intend To Run

For Oneonta Mayor

2 Republicans Would Primary On 6/22;

So Far, Mark Drnek Is Sole Democrat

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

Craig Gelbsman
Len Carson

ONEONTA – Republicans Len Carson and Craig Gelbsman confirmed today they intended to run for mayor to succeed incumbent Gary Herzig, a Democrat, at the end of the year.

If both candidates continue, it would ensure a Republican candidate June 22.  A primary may also be shaping up on the Democratic side.

Common Council member Mark Drnek announced Wednesday he is running for mayor as a Democrat.  Republicans said they’ve heard of a second Democratic possibility, which would cause a primary for that party as well.

Scrappy, Innovative GOP Chair Resigns, Focuses on Consulting

Scrappy, Innovative GOP Chair

Resigns, Focuses on Consulting

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

Vince Casale and wife (and fellow consultant) Lynn Krogh with a wall of memorabilia. (Jim Kevline/

It was 2013. The issue was fracking. And four prominent local Republicans knocked on Vince Casale’s door.

“It was conveyed to me that the party was in some trouble,” said Casale, who last week advised the Republican County Committee he is resigning as chairman.

“My work is done,” he said. “It’s time for a change.”

He recommended Lori Lehenbauer of Worcester, Republican county elections commissioner, as his successor.

His seven years spanned the tenures of four of his Democratic counterparts.

In 2013, the first Democrat elected to countywide office in memory, Dan Crowell, was running for reelection unopposed, Casale recalled.

There was a shortage of candidates and, “when people were asked to run, they were just left to themselves.”

The committee had been using raffles to raise money – that was illegal, it turned out, leading to a sizable fine.

“At the time, I was consulting,” Vince recounted the other day – he still operates the Cooperstown-based Casale Group with his wife, Lynn Krogh, most recently helping guide state Sen.-elect Peter Oberacker’s campaign. “I was very happy.”

But the GOP contingent told him, “We need to win races. You know how to win races.”

Remembers Casale, “With the blessing of Senator Seward, I was good to go. I took over in September,” two months before the fall elections.

“The first thing we do is run polling,” a first in local races. It discovered not only newcomers, but longtime incumbents were in tight races, he said. “It’s going to be a drubbing like we’d never seen.”

Fracking had damaged the Republicans, but by then it had been discovered there was too little natural gas here to frack. The issue “was just at or past the peak,” Casale said.

“I told the candidates: Don’t mention it. It wasn’t that we wanted it or didn’t want it. It was political survival,”

The new message: Republicans will protect your tax dollars.

“Rick Hulse was down by over 20 points when we first did that poll,” said Casale. “I remember him cutting it to 14 points. I had him down to 7 points. ‘If we only had one more week,’ I told myself.

“I went into Election Day thinking we would lose the Town of Otsego,” including most of Cooperstown, he said. “We ended up winning by 10 points.”

Republicans Janet Quackenbush and Craig Gelbsman also won in Democratic Oneonta, and Len Carson, the retired fire captain.

Casale, then 40, was no stranger to politics. At age 5, he was handing out pencils at county fairs on behalf of his father, Assemblyman Tony Casale of Herkimer.

During school breaks, young Vince would ask to accompany his dad to Albany.

A music major, he taught for a few years before joining Herkimer Arc, then the community college, as development director.

He started the Casale Group in 2007. His first campaign: Cooperstown’s Mike Coccoma, for state Supreme Court. The next year, John Lambert for county judge. “The company just kind of grew,” he said. “I had a decision to make: Continue as is, or make the jump.” And jump he did.

This year, he managed the elevation of county Judge Brian Burns of Oneonta to replace the retiring Coccoma, and the campaign of county Rep. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, to succeed Seward, keeping both influential positions in Otsego County.

Now, he and Lynn are busy, but looking forward to 2022, the next gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races.

Gelbsman Holds On To Otsego Now Seat

Gelbsman Holds On

To Otsego Now Seat

He Won’t Quit, So Reps Keep Him There

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.

Craig Gelbsman at last week’s monthly Otsego Now meeting. ( photo)

COOPERSTOWN – It appears former county rep. Craig Gelbsman of Oneonta will remain on the Otsego Now board of directors.

The county board originally appointed Gelbsman to Otsego Now as its “liaison”, intending that he keep the Cooperstown reps in the loop on what the Oneonta-based economic-development entity was up.

Then Republican Gelbsman was defeated by Democrat Adrienne Martini last Nov. 7.  But when his term expired Dec. 31 he continued to sit in on Otsego Now meetings, vote on measures, and last Thursday was elected board secretary.

Hulse, Joyner, Gelbsman, Lord To Lead Otsego Now

Hulse, Joyner, Gelbsman,

Lord To Lead Otsego Now

IDA Officers Chosen At Today’s Annual Meeting
The Otsego Now board of directors today elected acting chair Rick Hulse, Fly Creek, as chair; Fox Hospital President Jeff Joyner, Oneonta, as vice chair; businessman Craig Gelbsman, Oneonta, secretary, and Community Bank vice president Jeff Lord as treasurer. Posing after the annual meeting are, front row from left, board member Patricia Kennedy, Springbrook; administrative assistant Meaghan Marino, Oneonta; board members Sarah Harvey and Cheryl Robinson, both of Otego, and CEO Jody Zakrevsky.  Second row, from left, are directors Tom Armao, Country Club Automotive, and Lord, Joyner, Hulse and Gelbsman.  At rear is attorney Kurt Schulte, counsel.  ( photo)
Bliss Appointments Reflect ‘Continuity’ 


Bliss: Appointments

Aim At ‘Continuity’ 

Meg Kennedy Emerges With New Status

As Chairman Of Both Administration, IGA

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

County Rep. Meg Kennedy, C-Hartwick/Milford/New Lisbon, presides at this morning’s reorganizational meeting. (Jim Kevlin/

COOPERSTOWN – She went into today’s reorganizational meeting of the Otsego County Board of Representatives already with the greatest clout under the weighted voting system.

But Meg Kennedy’s rising stature was quickly affirmed.

She was nominated and elected temporary chair of the reorganizational meeting, presiding over the transition of the chairmanship from Kathy Clark, R-Otego, to David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield.

And she emerged from the morning’s decision-making as chair of the Administration Committee – Ways & Means, through which all resolutions must flow before getting to the floor of the monthly county board meeting.

County Board OKs Nepotism Policy, Fills Ethics Board


County Board OKs

Nepotism Policy,

Fills Ethics Board

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury? Not quite. Due to concern over a perceived online threat, the county Board of Representatives convened in the jury dock in Courtroom #1 this morning instead of their usual chambers. In the foreground is county Rep. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus. ( photo)

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

COOPERSTOWN – With six days to go to a briskly contested Election Day, the Otsego County Board of Representatives today acted on two ethics questions it has struggled with for months, even years:

  • One, appointing three members to a county Board of Ethics, created in the early 1990s but never populated.
  • Two, adopting a nepotism policy that limits situations in which close relatives can work for other close relatives in Otsego County government.

questionnaire — craig gelbsman




PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: 4 years of being your current Representative, Small Business Owner, employ between 20-30 people.


Oneonta Little league board member
Opportunity for Otsego County Board Member
Oneonta Little Coach
Donor to many organizations throughout the region.

FAMILY: A wonderful wife, Melinda, teacher at Oneonta High School and four children, three of which attend Oneonta School System, and one that attends the YMCA.

PHILOSOPHY OF GOVERNMENT: Serve the people! Keep government out of the people’s pocket.


When I first entered the board four years ago I felt and experienced the major problems. During my first two terms we have made great progress to solving these issues I talked about when I first ran for office.

• We have invested in our infrastructure to the tune of millions more than ever. New vehicles, equipment, roads, culverts, etc.

• We are in the process of new method of replacing our aging vehicle fleet that will help budget years out.We will be on a pattern of turning the vehicle fleet over at a max every five years.

• We actually put together a shared services agreement for purchasing with another county and is saving hundreds of
thousands of dollars. We aren’t just talking about we are doing it. First of its kind and now another county is doing the same thing. Otsego County lead this in NYS!

• We put together our first solar farm and negotiated that all maintenance cost will not be any burden to the county taxpayers.

• We finished an upgrade on the moving our new state of the art 911 center.

• We are nearly finished with our multi million dollar upgrade of our tower communication system bringing it the 21st century.

•  Making Otsego County safer for everyone.

• Did our first strategic plan with county wide involvement we are currently implementing many parts in our current budget.

• Jump-started economic development going from a part time consultant to a full-time economic developer. This is huge to being able to help our current local businesses while striving to get others to invest here. It’s an exciting time.  We have spent millions to jump-start development.  It’s now time to create jobs.

• We this year put Otsego County “in the best financial position in tens years,”  according to the county treasurer.

• Cut the user-fee tax in half.

These are just a few large dents we made in now major past issues in a just a few short years. I still need to work harder the next term. I will be continuing to invest like we have and balance budget under the mandated tax cap while providing better services.

Major issues that I believe needs addressing this term are the major issues affecting the county going forward.  The opioid epidemic discussions are happening now. Whether the consensus can be built to have centralized management is an issue I will be addressing. Continue the fight with Albany on unfunded mandates. Continue making Otsego County a safer better place to live and a better quality of life.

MY QUALITIES: As I have the first four years I will continue to work hard. Whether the meetings are morning day or night I will show up for my district as there voice. Whether we conclude together we need a centralized management or not I will put in the time, show up and work hard for my district. We are elected to represent and work. I have been doing that from day one. I have the ability to communicate, build consensus and get business done for my district and the county.

STATEMENT: I hope I have shown you I’m moving the county forward with the most experience and ability to give WARDS 3 AND 4 IN THE CITY OF ONEONTA a strong voice and will be the best steward of their money. You can be confident I will be able to tackle the tough issues on day one and make informed decisions since I have the experience and knowledge of the issues. I ask for your vote on Election Day so I can continue to work hard for
district 12, the city of Oneonta and Otsego County to make it an even better place to live. Again, thank you!

Board Chair Clark Has Earned Defeat


Board Chair Clark

Has Earned Defeat

3 Key Allies Let County Down, Too

Editor’s Note: This is the editorial opinion of, Hometown Oneonta and The Freeman’s Journal.  Letters to the editor on political topics received after 10 a.m. Tuesday will appear on; email letters to  Polls will be open 6 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Otego and Laurens voters should deny county Rep. Kathy Clark, another term.

The first vow in physicians’ Hippocratic Oath is, “Do no harm.” It’s not a bad standard to apply across the board, and county board Chair Kathy Clark, R-Otego/Laurens, failed to meet it.

After standing at the podium on Jan. 10, 2014, with state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, and Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller to herald a new era of economic development in Otsego County, Clark withheld funding, withheld cooperation and hammered through appointments of directors hostile to the goals of what became Otsego Now.

On Thursday, May 25, 2017, she accomplished her goal. Otsego Now’s director, Sandy Mathes, was forced to resign, all the staff quit, and the most promising economic-development initiative in Upstate New York, which had garnered tens of millions of seed money for Otsego County’s renewal, collapsed.

When your high school graduate departs for a construction job in Florida or the Carolinas, or your college grad for the Silicon Valley or Seattle, thank Kathy Clark. Meanwhile, she’s up for reelection Nov. 7, and the citizens of her districts – Otego and Laurens – should vote her out.

Republican To Challenge Marietta For County Board

Republican To Challenge

Marietta For County Board

Dems Berliant, Martini Target Bliss, Gelbsman

COOPERSTOWN – Tim Walker today officially announced his candidacy for Otsego County Board Representatives in District 8, Town of Otsego (which includes most of Cooperstown).

He is challenging Democrat Andrew Marietta, who is completing his first term and plans to run again.

While the deadline for filing petitions is still a month away, the fall campaign is already heating up.

In the last 24 hours, Leslie Berliant, a writer and entrepreneur, announced she is challenging David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield, and Hartwick College professor Adrienne Martini is challenging Craig Gelbsman, R-City of Oneonta.  In all, Democrats have identified 12 candidates so far to run in the 14 districts.

Otsego Now Committee Goal: Full-Time CEO

Otsego Now Committee

Goal: Full-Time CEO

Hanft: Provision Will Blunt Momentum
Otsego Now chair Devin Morgan, left, and board members Rick Hulse, center, and Craig Gelbsman after voting aye on the committee minutes at Thursday’s meeting. ( photo)

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

ONEONTA – The Otsego Now board of directors, at its monthly meeting Thursday, approved minutes of its new Reorganization Committee that includes among the committee’s goals: “engage in a search and hire a full-time CEO.”

The 2-5 vote came over the objections of board member Bob Hanft, immediate past chairman.  He said including that line in the Reorganization Committee’s 11 “duties and responsibilities” will only serve to slow Otsego Now’s current momentum.  “I think it does more harm than good.”

Hanft said the committee had been directed to come up with a plan for the future, and that taking on the mandate of seeking a new CEO should come only after a plan is developed and approved.  “I think that’s line should be stricken,” he said.

Gelbsman Assumes Chair Of Admin Without Incident

Gelbsman Assumes Chair

Of Admin Without Incident

Without incident, county Rep. Craig Gelbsman, R-Oneonta, assumed the helm of the county Board of Representatives’ key Administration Committee this morning, signalling an end to questions raised about the board chair appointing committee chairs, at least for this year.  When two of the board’s committees – Health & Education and Performance Review – convenes in the past several days, members voted for their committee chairs.  That occurred after county Rep. David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Middlefield, observed the board chair appointing committee chairs is not provided for in the board’s bylaws, and thus must be governed by Robert’s Rules of Order.  Bliss said Robert’s Rules call for committees to elect their own chairs, but County Attorney Ellen Coccoma e-mailed an opinion to reps saying her reading of the latest edition gives the appointing officer authority to appoint chairs.  She also reportedly said “past practice” rules.  The initiative may have been motivated, in part, by board chair Kathy Clark, R-Otego, removing Len Carson, R-Oneonta, from his Public Safety Committee chairmanship after he challenged her for board chair at the reorganization meeting on Jan. 4.  Gelbsman is flanked by Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla, right, and Brian Pokorny, county IT director. (Jim Kevlin/




City of Oneonta District 12


County Representative for District 12; Small Business owner for 25 years with 24-45 employees. Own real estate in city, town and other parts of county for 25 plus years. Entertainment business for 21years.

Craig Gelbsman
Craig Gelbsman


Current County Representative, member of the IGA committee(two years), member of Public Safety committee (two years), Chair of the Telecommunication/Broadband committee (two years), member of Administration committee (one year), Budget committee (one year), member of the IDA board of Directors (two years), member of the Opportunities for Otsego board of Directors (two years), Gov’t Efficiency committee (two years).

Supportive of many non-for-profits including YMCA, Hospice, Pit Run, Bassett hospital, Fox Hospital, Coats for Kids, Mr. Rogers sweater drive, Opportunity for Otsego, Coach Boys and Girls club, Varsity girls and boys basketball, United Way, Hartwick College and Mens soccer, Mayors cup, and many others over the years.


Wife of 11 years Melinda. She is a Biology teacher in the Oneonta School System. We have four children ages 10 to 3. I try hard every day to be a better dad!


I believe government should represent and protect the individual rights of each person. Our job as elected representatives should be to listen and be vocal to what our constituents needs and wants are. Government is for the people and most bad government results from to much government.


As member of the public safety committee I have been leading the discussion of the drug issue in our county. The Sheriff, District Attorney and judges have been very receptive to the conversation and I’m making sure we are doing all we can. The conversation has not been limited to heroin as we also have a resurgence of “meth” in Otsego County. I have learned that incarceration is not the only solve for drug problems. Getting the dealers off the streets helps but conversation, education and the ability to get drug treatment is what will stop the epidemic. Its a Public Health issue as much as a criminal issue. Im one of the few with young children on the board so this issue means a lot to me. I have started the conversation, continually look to fund and will going forward.

As a member of the IDA (Otsego Now) which is in its infant stages of a huge overhaul we are making great strides in economic development. I will continue to work hard for moving smart growth for good paying jobs, it is desperately needed.  I was personally asked to be a member of the MV500 committee I will continue being at that table going forward. Understanding the challenges of other counties gives me the ability to have the conversation with other board members and Otsego Now on what makes us more attractive for Economic Development.

Being chair of the telecom/broadband committee I brought together the parties that we are working with to get broadband to every area of the county. We currently have an excellent plan and we will be putting together our application for funding. The next two years should be very exciting for rural areas and rural schools in the county. Its extremely important for the future of our economic development.

As a member of the administration and budget committee I continually work on keeping taxes low while providing the services we need and want. Im making the hard decisions so we stay within the tax cap set upon by Albany while providing the services.  Otsego County has excellent employees and during my term I have continually asked for funding on creating efficiencies. In the government efficiency committee I worked to put the first process map together so everyone with a flip of the page can see a complete outline of each dept in Otsego county. Now dept. heads and board members can make educated decisions not reactive decisions.  I motioned and passed that the county will put in our first strategic plan on having professional management in the county. I don’t believe in more government but having professional management for day to day will help board members and employees have a better synergy on carrying out budgeting and direction.


I understand budgets, working with people, and how the innovation and projects I have done in the private sector can work in the public sector. Im doing it now and will continue to do it. I have been asked for input and included in many conversations from the Mohawk Valley to Albany on Otsego County and with your vote will continue to be that strong voice. I’m trusted from my peers! I bring stability, knowledge, and consistency to the board. Ive proven I can get legislation passed for the betterment of the City of Oneonta.


As I have been doing for the past two years I will continue to work hard for the City and the County of Otsego. Ive started to change the discussions and will continue to move this county positively into the future. Please vote for me on Nov. 3rd.

Gelbsman May Succeed Schwerd On IDA Board

Gelbsman May Succeed Schwerd On IDA Board


Given a colleague’s legal troubles, county Rep. Craig Gelbsman, R-Oneonta, is in line for appointment as liaison to the county IDA, the Industrial Development Agency spearheading redevelopment of Pony Farm Industrial Park.

He would replace county Rep. Betty Anne Schwerd, R-Edmeston, who District Attorney John Muehl said is under investigation for misuse of campaign funds following a complaint by her former employer, state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford.

The idea of replacing Schwerd with Gelbsman surfaced at the Friday, June 20, meeting of the county board’s Administration Committee. But its chairman, Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla, said no resolution appointing Gelbsman was drafted and he believes board chair Kathy Clark, R-Otego, can simply make the appointment if she wishes.

If the Gelbsman appointment goes forward, it will be the first result of reports earlier this month, confirmed by Muehl, that Schwerd is under investigation. The D.A. said he had referred the matter to the county Sheriff’s Department, but “no arrest has been made” as of Tuesday, June 24.

While IDA liaison serves at the pleasure of the county board chair, Schwerd is also chair of the county board’s Inter-Governmental Affairs Committee, but that appointment may be until the county board’s next reogranizational meeting.

Posts navigation

21 Railroad Ave. Cooperstown, New York 13326 • (607) 547-6103