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.
This year, Otsego County faces a big challenge, and big opportunities.
The threat: State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, is retiring after representing us in Albany for 34 years, where he was able to maintain Otsego County at the center of the 50th District, then the 51st District, through three redistrictings.
A Republican when the Senate was usually Republican, he partnered with our Democratic then-assemblyman, Bill Magee of Madison County, to obtain (probably more than – hurray!) our fair share in state largesse.
Regrettably, our senator is retiring at the end of the year – not because he wants to, but due to health challenges: cancer and, earlier this year, COVID. He departs with as close to universal good wishes as anyone could expect or hope for.
Opportunity One: Peter Oberacker, a successful businessman and energetic county representative from Schenevus, is seeking to succeed Seward – with the senator’s blessing – and deserves every Otsego County vote.
Oberacker arrived in Otsego County in time to enter first grade, and is devoted to his adopted county, moving his research and marketing business home from College Station, Texas, four years ago so he could focus more intently in developing a 300-job distribution center at Interstate 88’s Exit 18. It should happen and, based in Albany, he can better apply the levers to obtain whatever state help is possible.
His opponent, Democrat Jim Barber, a prominent farmer in the Schoharie Valley, went negative last week, suggesting he knows he’s behind. His mailer suggested Oberacker has
an attendance challenge on the county board, but that’s wrong: chairing Public Works and serving on a half-dozen key committees, he has invested more time in county duties than many of his colleagues, even managing the highway department day-to-day for weeks when a past superintendent peremptorily retired.
Barber, son of a former Ag & Markets commissioner, is something of a one-issue candidate; he’d be a great Ag & Markets commissioner himself, if Richard Ball, a neighbor and relative by marriage, eventually steps aside. But for Senate, make it Oberacker.
Opportunity Two: Dan Buttermann, an Oneonta Democrat who is running again for the 121st Assembly seat against John Salka, the freshman incumbent from Madison County.
If elected to the Democratic-majority body, Buttermann, an NYCM casualty manager (and clarinetist in the Catskill Symphony), is young enough – 36 – that he could achieve Seward-like seniority in the Democratic-dominated lower house over the next 30 years, with attendant benefits.
In an interview, Buttermann mentioned 2050 a few times – the father of three young daughters, he’s thinking long term on such issues as Climate Change, paying his way to Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Corps’ seminar in 2018 in L.A. He’s a knowledge-driven thinker who brought TedX mind-broadening seminars to Oneonta.
He and Oberacker, conceivably, could establish a Seward-Magee-like partnership, to the benefit of Otsego County.
To support the home team is not to criticize Salka, the scrappy and likeable incumbent with an inspiring personal story who, in the face of a large Democratic majority, is reaching beyond the Assembly to the bureaucracy to solve his district’s problems.
On social issues such as bail reform, he may be closer to his constituents than his challenger. Will Buttermann’s support for gradually rolling back a measure that’s keeping at least petty criminals on local streets resonate sufficiently with voters?
And, given Madison County’s larger population than Otsego’s, Buttermann is not guaranteed a win from a constituency that tilts Republican. Still the Oneontan is an engaging hard worker who beat a Madison County candidate in the Democratic primary.
He can win, and an Otsego-based Oberacker-Buttermann team in Albany would only help our county’s fortunes.
COOPERSTOWN – Where did that question on whether to fund the Catskill Regional Teacher Center come from?
Two of the 121st District candidates were caught off guard by the first question; Assemblyman John Salka, R-Brookfield, had actually toured the place and declared, “Spending on education is one of the most important investments we can make.” The other two candidates could agree with that.
Beyond that wild card, the three candidates – in addition to Republican Salka, they were Democrat challenger Dan Buttermann, Oneonta, and Libertarian Jacob Cornell – jousted on a range of issues, including three particularly hot ones: supporting law enforcement, bail reform and gun laws.
ONEONTA – It started when Denny Colgan was running for school board in Prescott, Ariz.
He and Dan Buttermann’s dad, Kent, played in the Prescott Kiwanis Jug Band together, and the father agreed to be his friend’s campaign manager.
Young Dan “saw how hard they were working,” and was captivated by the energetic strategy sessions at the Buttermann home. Even then, he knew, “I wanted to get involved.”
Buttermann, now 36, was born in Mesa, Ariz., and raised with twin brother Matt and their older brother Charles in Prescott, where dad Kent and mom Denise Jenike founded Armadilla Wax Works Factory Store in 1971.
It’s still operating today. During an interview Friday, Oct. 9, in the front room of his Ford Avenue home, where the Buttermann family moved in 2015, there was a lit Armadilla candle on the coffee table.
Studying music and clarinet performance at the University of Arizona, Tucson, he sidled up to flutist Ana Laura Gonzalez, an Argentinian who was working on her Ph.D. “I loved her smile,” said her still-smitten husband. “I don’t think she had noticed me before.”
Dan went on to an MBA at Southern Methodist University, and when Ana was appointed artist of flute in residence at Hartwick College in 2011, the couple, now married, moved to the Town of Oneonta with baby daughter Malena.
Malena, now 11, has been joined by two sisters, Layla, 8, and Nadia, 6, both born locally. At first, Dan worked for Geico, based on Long Island.
“Once we knew we intended to put down roots,” Nancy Tarr of Cooperstown, now a colleague
in SUNY Oneonta’s Music Department with Ana Laura (who is an adjunct there, in addition to her Hartwick post), helped find him a connection at NYCM Insurance in Edmeston.
For a decade, he’s been an assistant casualty manager there, investigating claims in bodily injury cases.
His urge to “get involved” was manifested first in music, although community service and politics soon followed.
He and Ana Laura were soon performing with the Catskill Valley Wind Ensemble and the Oneonta Community Concert Band. In 2015, when Robin Seletsky – the finest local clarinetist, Dan says – took a leave from the Faculty Woodwind Quintet, he stepped in, joining his flutist wife.
“I love performing. I love playing with different people. It’s a way of communicating – of teamwork,” said the candidate; today you’ll see Dan and Ana on stage when the Catskill Symphony Orchestra performs.
Soon, he had also approached the county Democratic chair-man, Richard Abbate of Cooperstown, seeking to pursue his boyhood dream of politics: “I want to get involved at some level; I wasn’t sure how.”
And he found himself in Julian Schreibman’s campaign office in downtown Oneonta, calling voters on behalf of the Congressional candidate.
Buttermann was soon being championed by Rich Murphy, who, fighting cancer, planned to retire from the county Board of Representatives at the end of 2013. With Murphy’s backing, newcomer Buttermann lost a close race to Janet Hurley Quackenbush, a Republican who served one term.
Undeterred, Buttermann was elected to the Oneonta City school board the following May, arriving in time to struggle with the state’s Gap Elimination Adjustment. (Since 2009, Albany had been cutting state aid to schools to close the state budget gap.)
“You see there are inequalities among schools,” he said. “It was completely unfair that schools could offer more because of their size.”
At the same time, he was serving on the Town of Oneonta Planning Board, and found SEQRA, in particular, unfair, as it required developers to pay for traffic studies and develop water mitigation plans at their own expense, even though others developers would benefit from the findings.
The state should do the studies, for the benefit of all, he said.
He also joined the Opportunities for Otsego board, where “it bothered me that some families were denied access to Head Start because they are making a couple of percentage points above the guideline.”
The solutions to these inequities are in Albany, he concluded, and – unwilling to wait – he challenged Assembly-man Bill Magee, the 28-year incumbent Democrat and Ag Committee chairman, in 2018.
Magee, based in Madison County, won the primary, 3,681-2,415, although Buttermann lost Otsego County by only 45 votes. John Salka, R-Brookfield, who Buttermann will face Nov. 3, then – his third time out – toppled the incumbent, 23,320-22,835, a close 50.5 to 49.4 percent.
Meanwhile, he kept “getting involved.”
Annually since the fall of 2017 (except in this COVID year), Buttermann organized TedX Oneonta events, adapting the famed Ted Talks to local scale. He remembers jitters the night before the first one. But all the speakers, from as far away as Australia, showed up.
He also pursued a personal interest in global warming, from local debates on gas lines and fracking, concluding, “I thought renewable was a better bet long term.”
Finding the cheapest flight and renting a BnB room, he paid his way to Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Corps seminar 2018 in Los Angeles – “I wanted to be able to speak intelligently about it” – and came away hopeful about the future.
With dairying in decline, if elected he’s interested in pursuing such opportunities as growing soybeans locally for the “Impossible Burger,” Burger King’s soy-based option.
He disagreed with Salka on how much a freshman can accomplish. “He thinks there’s no Democratic interest in Upstate New York,” he said. “I think that’s misguided.”
If Buttermann has been headed for elective office since his boyhood days in Prescott, the decision was locked in Nov. 17, 2017.
“That day Ana took her naturalization oath,” he said. “It was one of the most inspiring days of my life, aside from getting married and birthing children.”
Proudly watching the proceedings, he decided: I’m running for Assembly.
The intent of New York State’s bail reform law was good – to make the pretrial process equal for all and free from bias. However, the reform bill passed in 2019 had flaws. Although I fully agree that the enacted law needs reform, we cannot return to a system that allows for punishment before a conviction. At the same time, our system must be sufficiently flexible to ensure violent criminals are not allowed back onto our streets.
Bail reform was long overdue, and the state legislature rightly followed the lead of neighboring states to enact changes to the system. Thankfully, some legislators heard the call to amend the enacted law in 2020. These amendments include lengthening the discovery period, allowing more judicial consideration, and applying bail to repeat offenders even for offenses that otherwise would not require bail. These amendments were steps in the right direction because they responded directly to the concerns of citizens and law enforcement, and they did not give up any rights of citizens.
We have the right to the presumption of innocence, and justice reform is about protecting that right and our communities at the same time. Our justice system has never been perfect, but I will work to take every possible step to get there.
I will also seek the funding our local agencies need to enact change. We do not need another unfunded mandate in Upstate New York, especially now when budgets are being squeezed due to COVID-19. As an elected official, and representative, I will continue to seek ways to protect our rights and our communities.
DAN BUTTERMANN Oneonta Buttermann is running for state Assembly in the 121st District.
I was delighted to see the attorney general take direct action against the leadership of the NRA. They have profited millions of dollars at the expense of NRA members and vendors, and this is not the mission and purpose of the organization. However, I find it difficult to agree with the conclusion that the NRA no longer has a place in our society. I am writing this letter to express my view that dissolving the NRA would not be fair to its members.
ONEONTA – Dan Buttermann has won the Democratic primary in the 121st District, the candidate confirmed a few minutes ago, although he said the numbers are not “official” until the count of Otsego County absentee ballots is completed Monday.
That was echoed by his campaign manager, Martha Moore, Cazenovia, who added, “His opponent” – Hamilton farmer Corey Mosher – “has conceded. Dan is ahead. He won Oneida. Madison County was close. His opponent won it, but it was not enough to overcome (Buttermann’s) lead.”
While the Otsego County absentee count is not complete, it is expected Buttermann, an Oneontan, will win the county, she said.
COOPERSTOWN – Ahead of his democratic primary debate against Corey Mosher, Assembly candidate Dan Buttermann has received endorsements from Mayor Jeff Katz and current Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh for the 121st Assembly District seat.
“I’ve known Dan for years,” said Katz. “He’s a great listener, engaged and active, and a thoughtful person. More than that, he’s a good and decent man, exactly the kind of person we need in the Assembly. I fully endorse Dan Buttermann for Assembly in the 121st District.”
“Mother Ginger is traditionally played by a dancer ‘en travesti’,” said Donna Decker of Decker School of Ballet. “In ballet, we don’t call it drag.”
This year, Oneonta City school board member and Assembly candidate Dan Buttermann stepped into the dress that Assistant Fire Chief Jim Maloney, Bassett orthopedic surgeon Dr. Joseph Dutkowsky and professional ballet dancer Andy Wentink have filled for several years, dancing with the Polichinelles.
The Polichinelles are little children who emerge from Mother Ginger’s skirt in second act of “The Nutcracker,” put on by Decker’s Fokine Ballet Friday-Saturday, Dec. 6-7, at the Goodrich Theater.
Buttermann’s three daughters, Nadia, Layla and Malena, have danced in “The Nutcracker,” and in 2016, when there was a vacancy in the party scene, their dad stepped in.
“Then this year, Jim Maloney had a conflict, so Donna asked if I would step in as Mother Ginger,” he said.
Decker often casts local men – “ballet dads” Maloney calls them – to step in as Mother Ginger.
“You need somebody tall enough to have all the children underneath,” said Decker. “And the costume is quite heavy, so the dancer has to be able to handle it. Ours isn’t that heavy, but the New York City Ballet’s costume weights 60 pounds.”
“I’ve seen productions where Mother Ginger is on scaffolding,” said Maloney, who played the role six times between 2009 and 2018. “The costume is pretty heavy; it’s a big piece of plywood with suspenders to hold it up, then you put the dress on over that.”
Wentink debuted his Mother Ginger in 1962 when he was 14, dancing in the Fokine Ballet – Irene Fokine was Donna Decker’s mother, and the daughter has extended the tradition.
He amassed over 40 productions in the role, including a final performance in the 2017 Oneonta production.
“In the 1970s, she inherited a fan used by Gwen Verdon in ‘Sweet Charity’ which seemed to imbue her with a flirtatious and seductive, but always tasteful, allure,” Wentink wrote for Dance magazine in 2013. “In the early 1980s, Mother Ginger found herself costumed in more subdued pastel tones with hair transformed from flaming henna to softer blonde. In keeping with the new look, she projected a newfound mature modesty.”
“I let them all develop their own character,” said Donna. “Andy always played her very flirtatiously, and Dr. Dutkowsky would do the Macarena.”
“Mother Ginger is excited that she has all this attention,” said Buttermann. “And then when these clowns come out from under her skirt, she’s trying to get them all back until she realizes she can’t, and then she goes back to being part of the show.”
This year, his daughter Malena was one of the Polichinelles.
“I played her as that loopy old grandmother that shows up at the party and has too much fun,” said Maloney. “For the first few years, I wore my fireman’s helmet and boots!”
And neither Maloney nor Buttermann shaved their mustaches for the role.
“The way I see it, since Clara is asleep and dreaming this, she’s seen me at the party, so she puts me in the role of Mother Ginger, the way dreams do,” said Maloney. “That’s why I still have my mustache.”
It’s a role, Maloney said, that sticks with you. “You hear the ‘Mirliton’” – the “Dance of the Mirlitons,” which precedes Ginger – “a lot on the radio,” he said. “I was grocery shopping and it came on, and I broke out in a cold sweat because that’s my cue. I was started to get warmed up and then I realized, wait, I’m in the grocery store!”
And it’s a role that all the dancers have been proud to play. “Dr. Dutkowsky told me that he kept a picture of himself in his office,” said Decker. “When kids would be nervous about getting surgery, he would tell them, ‘I’m Mother Ginger, everything will be fine.”
“It’s on my resume,” said Maloney. “It says ‘Soloist, Fokine Ballet.’”
“If Donna asks, I’ll do it again next year,” said Buttermann, who could be Assemblyman-elect by then.
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.
I am writing to enthusiastically suggest we vote for Jill Basile for county representative from District 14 (Ward 7-8).
I have been fortunate to get to know Jill during her campaign. This campaign is not the start of her contributions to benefit our community either, as she has been giving to our community for many years. Her resume is rich with experience that will greatly benefit our county in her new role.
Jill started as a resident director at Hartwick College, working to ensure the wellbeing and safety of our college students. After Hartwick, Jill went to work for Opportunities for Otsego in its violence intervention program, then onto the county in its office for child advocacy, and now she works as an academic adviser at SUNY Delhi while raising her family right here in Oneonta.
Not only have Jill’s professional activities directly benefited our region, she also volunteers for organizations like SPCA, Reading is Fundamental and Future of Oneonta Foundation.
Jill is well equipped to take on the challenges of the board of representatives and I recommend all my friends and neighbors in District 14 cast their vote for her on Nov. 5. Wait! Head out now and vote early. Vote today!