In a way, our Citizen of the Year designation – it will continue, of course – has come full circle.
Interviewing Meg Kennedy, this year’s designee, brought to mind Tom Garretson, the first designee, in 2006.
Throughout that stormy year, when the Cherry Valley area was torn between those who feared 24 industrial-sized windmills would degrade the town’s environment and ambience, and those who saw a boon in new tax revenues, Tom always kept his cool.
And there was a lot at stake, municipally and personally: His father-in-law, who he had succeeded that Jan. 1 as town supervisor, strongly favored the wind project.
At meeting after stormy meeting, Garretson kept order, listened intently and – as
Kennedy would have observed – not only listened, but heard.
In the end, he came down against the turbines, and led the enactment of a law to hinder them. Reunion Power of Vermont finally gave up.
What changed Tom’s mind in the end wasn’t the arguments, but it was a trip he took to Fenner, a flat, indistinct town south of Utica, where a windmill farm was already functioning.
Garretson – a farmer, as is Meg Kennedy – came back with renewed enthusiasm for his adopted hometown – the Garretsons had come from New Jersey in the 1950s; the Kennedys from Long Island a decade or so later.
Compared to Fenner, he concluded, Cherry Valley simply had too much to offer – too much to preserve. Stunning scenery, among the richest and most textured local histories in the nation, a comfortable lifestyle, a farming community enrichened by the Glimmerglass Opera’s world-class culture.
He listened, he heard, he explored, he made the right decision.
This year’s designee, the county representative from Hartwick, Milford and New Lisbon, arguably made the best decision in coming up with a first step in professionalizing Otsego County’s $120 million government – a county administrator whose mandate is to implement the will of 14 representatives who, in effect, are our neighbors.
That what’s always been a controversial discussion obtained the support of 11 of her 14 colleagues is astonishing. And this was done with no table pounding or arm-twisting, but by calm consensus building.
She described what we’re labelling “the Kennedy Method.”
You listen. You HEAR. You ask, what’s fair? Then you decide. (One other step: You collect information.) “I have to get it proved to me,” she said.
Thinking as far back to the days when mom Margaret expected her to herd her nine younger siblings, she concluded, “I could always coalesce a group.”
Up to this point, it seemed impossible that the Energy Task Force effort she’s chairing would go anywhere. Now, there’s reason to be much more optimistic about a consensus result, targeted by the end of 2020.
While Kennedy made it happen, as important, the chairman of the Otsego County Board of Representatives for only one term, David Bliss, allowed it to happen. That’s another unappreciated aspect of his polite, level-headed and increasingly steady leadership.
He saw her potential. He saw her willingness to work. He saw a kindred spirit and let it fly. (Nor was he absent, attending most of Kennedy’s Intergovernmental Affairs Committee and joining IGA members in casting key votes.)
As with Tom Garretson, Meg Kennedy isn’t seeking to change Otsego County – nor is Dave Bliss, for that matter. The idea is, incrementally, to make things better, to create enough jobs to fill our needs; to solve problems one by one, not all right this minute; to make our communities more consistently vibrant in a quickly changing world.
Editor’s Note: The New York Sun’s Francis Pharcellus Church penned this famous response to 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon in 1897.
We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
115 West Ninety Fifth Street
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.
We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing
on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
Editor’s Note: What a decade! Her friends and colleagues celebrated Manager Editor Libby Cudmore’s 10th anniversary among us on production day, Tuesday, Dec. 10, and agreed to write this memoir.
By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special To www.AllOTSEGO.com
There’s a lot for Ian and I to celebrate in December. Our families do Christmas, Yule and Hanukkah, our original anniversary, the New Year’s Eve to cap it all off.
But this December, I realized that I had another anniversary to celebrate – 10 years with the Hometown Oneonta, The Freeman’s Journal and, most recently, AllOTSEGO.com. It’s the longest I’ve ever stayed with a job, but in 10 years, I’ve realized that it’s more than than a job – it’s a way to give back to a community that has welcomed me so graciously.
When I moved to Oneonta in May 2007, I wasn’t sure if I would stay. This was my husband’s hometown, after all, but I wasn’t sure that there was a place for me yet. But that changed when Jim Kevlin hired me as a freelance reporter in April 2009.
My first story was about a bridal fashion show at SUNY. My second was an interview with Roger McGuinn of the Byrds, who was playing at the now-defunct Oneonta Theatre, then re-opened and full of promise.
I was hired full-time that December, Monday the 14th, given a desk and the business cards I’ve been passing out ever since. If you look in your drawer, chances are you have one. If it was before 2017, it said “Reporter.” Since then, it has said “Managing Editor.”
Our new reporter, James Cummings, asked me: What’s the favorite story you ever written? How do you even pick?
But a few come to mind: getting to travel to Oneonta, Ala., and see the similarities (and a few differences) between our cities, and declaring actor Cuyle Carvin “Oneonta’s Heartthrob.” As an obsessive music fan, I still get giddy knowing that, at any time, I can pick up the phone and call Greg Harris, president of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, for comment.
I love being able to support the good deeds at the Susquehanna SPCA, see the rise and revitalization of the Milford Methodist Church, to be a first-hand witness to all of the change in Oneonta as the DRI gets underway. I absolute agree that we’re “Onta Something.”
Of course, there has been plenty of heartache too. The sudden death of Mayor Dick Miller was when I felt it the most profoundly. I was tasked with not only covering the tragedy, but also processing my own grief privately. I had seen Dick that Thursday evening at the Future for Oneonta Foundation reception. He gave me one of those sideways handshakes I knew so well, the quick “how ya’ doin’” in passing. We’d had our disagreements over the years – par for the course in both our professions – but I respected and enjoyed him immensely, and still miss him.
The murder of 11-year-old Jacelyn O’Connor still haunts me. I’ve written about far too many brutal deaths in our county, but in some ways, I’m honored to do so, because I task myself not with writing about the killer, but letting my readers know who the victim was to their family, their friends, their community. They’re stories I wish that I didn’t have to write, but I am always honored when I get to speak with survivors like Jennifer Kirkpatrick and Erika Heller, to be trusted with their loved ones’ legacies.
I am always in awe of the support that the people of Otsego County continue to bless me with. From the packed house at the Green Toad for the launch of my debut novel, “The Big Rewind,” to the votes that came in for my guest conductor bid at the Catskill Symphony Orchestra’s cabaret concert. Many of you were there to cheer when Ian proposed to me in the 2013 Halloween parade, and some of you came to our wedding in 2015.
But you have also been with me in the darkest times to. In 2017, we lost MJ Kevlin, my dear friend and mentor. The outpouring of love and support from all of you was overwhelming, and if I didn’t thank you then, consider this a much delayed appreciation for the kindness you showed me, the grief we shared.
Recently someone asked me where I was from. For the first time in my life, I didn’t reply “Oklahoma City,” where I was born, or generic “Upstate New York” to compensate for a hometown I don’t particularly associate myself with. “Oneonta,” I answered without hesitation.
I didn’t grow up here. But if home is where you hang your hat (and, as you know, I wear many of them) then it stands to reason that your hometown is the town where your home is located – and thus, your hat hangs.
Writing for the Hometown Oneonta, The Freeman’s Journal and AllOTSEGO.com has made me feel more a part of this community here than any career I thought I would have. Every week you welcome me into your home and your lives, you call me with good stories about graduations and strange collections and upcoming meetings, you allow me to lament with you when you send in obituaries and when we stand at the scenes of loss. It’s a position I do not take lightly, and I pledge to continue to my best to tell your stories accurately and honestly.
I’ve lived in a lot of places and I’ve traveled internationally and cross-country. But when I come off I-88 and turn onto the Lettis Highway, whether after a few days or a few weeks away, I always get the same feeling as the lights of Main Street greet me.