News of Otsego County

Serving Otsego County, NY, through the combined reporting of Cooperstown's Freeman's Journal and the Hometown Oneonta newspapers.


Kay Stuligross

For Stuligross, Career-Long Dream Coming To Fruition


For Stuligross, Career-Long

Dream Coming To Fruition

By JIM KEVLIN  •  Special to

Kay Stuligross this week at Meadowood, a continuing-care community in Lansdale, Pa., where she retired to be near one of her five sons.

ONEONTA – Kay Stuligross has come a long way, baby.

Growing up in Oberlin, Ohio, in the 1940s and ’50s, the daughter of a college professor, her mother sometimes wouldn’t vote “because she didn’t want to cancel out my father’s vote.”

Raising a family in Oneonta in the 1980s, she and her husband, Hartwick College Economics Professor Jack Stuligross, agreed her time would be better spent raising their five sons instead of holding a fulltime job.

While attitudes of the time may have kept her from a fulltime profession, there was one constant for the inquisitive, engaged woman, who retired from the Otsego County Board of Representatives in 2018:  The League of Women Voters.

In the 1960s, she met her husband at college in Detroit, and they married “a year and a month to the day” after their first date.  In fact, “I set my wedding date on our first date.  It was a good marriage, providential.”

After obtaining a master’s, he joined the Federal Reserve in Dallas and, realizing he was the only one in the office lacking a Ph.D., soon enrolled at the University of Oklahoma, moving Kay and two babies to Norman.

Grocery shopping her third day there, she found the local League of Women Voters’ “Voters Guide” in her shopping bag.

In those days before websites and Facebook, it was common for local Leagues to submit written questions to candidates; the answers would be published in a booklet.  “Based on their answers,” the newcomer to the Sooner State said, “I knew who to vote for.”

Even today, age 80, retired to The Meadows, a complete-care community in Lansdale, Pa., she declared in a telephone interview the other day, “I don’t want to vote a straight ticket. I want to be informed.”

She joined Norman’s League, and became involved in collecting local data for a nationwide League study of poverty.

A newly minted, Ph.D., Jack got a teaching job at Central Missouri State, Warrensburg; Kay joined the League.  He moved to Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisc.; she joined the League there and, when they departed for Hartwick in 1981, she was president.

“I came prepared to look hard at government here,” Kay said.  She soon joined the League of Women Voters, Oneonta chapter, and in the next decade served as president, and also on the League’s state board for two terms.

Her husband died in 2006, struck by a car while riding a bicycle in Southside Oneonta.

In 2007, she decided to run for the county board and was elected, and said her intent was, if possible, to see professional management achieved.  In 2009, she was also appointed to the city’s Charter Revision Commission, which created a city-manager job, with mixed results.

Naturally, she declared she was “pleased” on learning the Otsego County Board of Representatives, almost 30 years after the local Leagues’ recommendation, created a county administrator position Wednesday, Dec. 4, by an 11-2-1 vote.

“We need a trained administrator,” she said.  “The board members are hardworking, dedicated people, good hearted people who want the best for their county and the taxpayers, but don’t really haves the experience to do it.”  (Except, she said, farmers, some who have run sizeable operations before joining the county board.)

“No school board would act without a superintendent,” she said, “and they are much smaller than the county.”

In 2007, David R. Brenner of Oneonta, former county board chair (who then served as city mayor), conducted a study of professional management for the county board, and offered options to pursue.

At the time, however, the representatives were angry and divided after minority Democrats reached an agreement with Republican Donald Lindberg, Worcester:  He agreed to caucus with them; in turn, they elected him board chairman.

While supporting the concept of professional management, Brenner recommended against acting at that time:  Bringing a manager into such a rancorous situation would guarantee the innovation’s failure.

“It would not be successful until most of the board is firmly on board,” Stuligross recalled Brenner concluding.

Today, with Republican David Bliss’ relatively benign, bipartisan approach, the time may be right.  But Stuligross had some advice.

One, department heads will have mixed feeling, appreciating someone who can resolved issues day-to-day, but apprehensive about closer oversight.

“It is important the board not cause confusion by letting department heads come to them,” said Kay.  “They must reinforce the administrator is in charge.”

Two, the board must let the administrator fulfill responsibilities outlined in the contract, but should also ensure the “full performance” clause is met.

In particular, “the ability to work with others is crucial,” she said.  “Somehow,” before hiring, “they need to observe or otherwise learn about the candidates’ interpersonal skills”






Marietta’s Resolution From Floor

‘Disrespectful,’ Frazier Declares

Chiding Democrat Marietta for seeking a decision on moving toward hiring a county manager are, from left, Republicans Dan Wilber of Burlington, Ed Frazier of Unadilla, and Kathy Clark of Otego, the board chair. (Jim Kevlin/

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

County Rep. Andrew Marietta, D-Cooperstown/Town of Otsego, rises to make what turned out to be a controversial motion. Seated is Meg Kennedy, R-Mount Vision.

COOPERSTOWN – County Rep. Andrew Marietta’s attempt to introduce a resolution to hire a county manager quickly blew up into high drama and parliamentary gamesmanship a today’s county Board of Representatives meeting.

The vote itself was quickly derailed.

Marietta made a motion, Kay Stuligross, D-Oneonta, seconded it, and Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla, with some prompting from County Attorney Ellen Coccoma, quickly said, “I’m objecting to the presentation of the resolution.”

Frazier’s objection, according to Coccoma’s ruling, required a two-third vote for the resolution to move forward.

The 7-5 vote favored the resolution.  But the weighted vote went the other way, 3,408 against versus 2,856 for.  Either measure, though, fell short of the two-thirds mark.

3 Final Bumps In Road, But County Budget OK’d

3 Final Bumps In Road,

But County Budget OK’d

county-logoCOOPERSTOWN – Otsego County’s 2017 budget was approved today, but not before three final wrinkles were ironed out:

  • County Rep. Kay Stuligross, D-Oneonta, objected to a $700 allocation to help the Otsego County Historical Society erect one historic marker next year. Lacking a policy on such requests, the veteran representative said, she was unable to approve the money. However, a vote of the full board overruled her.
  • On the motion of county Rep. Andrew Marietta, D-Cooperstown/Town of Otsego, $1,500 was added to appropriations to allow the county board meetings to be audio-recorded. Marietta had hoped his colleagues would agree to video-recording their meetings, which would then be posted on, but that was set aside due to cost and technical challenges.
  • County Rep. Keith McCarty, R-East Springfield, objected to $4,000 to help the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce operate its tourist kiosk in Pioneer Park next summer, saying only chamber members are allowed to display their brochures there. The county board approved the money, on the condition the chamber pass a resolution allowing the kiosk to distribute promotional materials from all in-county tourism entities, whether they are chamber members or not.

Charter Input Parsed

Charter Input Parsed

By JIM KEVLIN•Hometown Oneonta

Edition of Friday, Oct. 17, 2014

There were many issues raised, but two predominated at a tense Common Council meeting Monday, Oct. 13.
One, that watering down city-manager credentials from a master’s in public administration (MPA) to a bachelor’s, was an attempt to circumvent the new City Charter, which residents adopted by a 1,128-348 vote in November 2011.

Two, that by bypassing former City Manager Mike Long – the city’s first – and going directly to department heads, Council members were undercutting the charter’s support of professional management.

Long’s successor, Marty Murphy, had been sworn in earlier in the evening, and sat at the mayor’s left hand through the 90-minute session, answering questions and offering advice when he was consulted.

The special meeting had been called for the sole purpose of assessing the 20-page report of the Charter Review Commission, formed by Mayor Dick Miller following Long’s departure May 31 after only 18 months on the job.
As evening’s end, he concluded, “The council feels, virtually unanimously, that the charter was implemented.”

The exception to that unanimity was Council member David Rissberger, who chaired the original Charter Commission. Challenged at one point by Council member Mike Lynch, Rissberger shot back, “Just because I’m in the minority does not mean I’m wrong.”

Earlier in the discussion, citing the requirement for an MPA – the new city manager has one; the preferred candidate of some Council members for the job, Director of Finance Meg Hungerford, did not – Rissberger said, “I don’t think we fulfilled that at all.”

Council member Chip Holmes said he didn’t believe voters cared about the higher qualification. He voted for the charter, he said, and “that – the MPA – didn’t matter to me as a voter.”

He pointed out that City Attorney David Merzig had written an opinion allowing the lower qualification – “we had Merzig in on the whole thing” – which brought that topic to an end.

Discussion then shifted to working through the city manager or going directly to department heads, and a debate ensued on what on “lines of supervision,” specified in the charter, means. “Lines of supervision are different than lines of communication,” said Council member Bob Brzozowski.

Holmes said he would go through the city manager first when seeking to get something done. “If things aren’t getting done,” he said, “then you have to bypass him to get it done.”

Working through a city manager “is a very new idea for us,” said Council member Maureen Hennessy. “That is a sea change for us.” But, she added, “with an effective city manager, that will take a lot of the angst out of it for us.”

Discussion also arose about how the city manager, under the charter, has the authority to hire and fire. Saying he assumed a city manager would brief council before making significant personnel decisions, the mayor asked the new city manager to weigh in.

“Removing an employee is a pretty significant step,” said Murphy. “That decision should come with the concurrence of city council.” “Concurrence” rather than “approval,” he said. A council vote on a dismissal “allows politics to come in.”

Under an outline proposed by the mayor, the number of council committees was reduced from five to two: Finance & Administration, including Human Resources, and Facilities & Community Improvements.

In place of the police committee – a “committee of the whole” – the fire and police chiefs, and also the code enforcement officer, would be asked to report to the full board once a month.

This means council members would have to attend fewer committee meetings, which can be lengthy, and the meetings would be scheduled for 7 p.m., more convenient to the public.

Also, agendas and minutes would be posted on the city website, another recommendation of the review commission.
Miller said he would prepare a memo outlining those changes. “The charter will be better and our functioning will be better as a result of this,” he said.

County Rep. Kay Stuligross, D-Oneonta, a member of both the Charter and Charter Review commissions, was at the meeting and said later she approves of those adjustments as making City Hall more transparent.

“They were all too defensive,” she added. “We (the commission) wanted them to look forward. I would rather have them look forward. How can we do a better job?”




Otsego Manor's sale will be completed a week from today.
Otsego Manor’s sale will be completed a week from today.

INDEX – Otsego Manor, the county nursing home, will change owners Wednesday, Oct. 8, moving from public to private hands, county Rep. Kay Stuligross, president of the Local Development Council that negotiated the sale, announced today.

“Otsego Manor prides itself on being ‘home’ to all its residents. That doesn’t mean their home away from home, but the place where they really feel at home when they need skilled nursing care,” Stuligross said.

County Will Go It Alone

County Will Go It Alone

•By JIM KEVLIN• Hometown Oneonta/The Freeman’s Journal

For the time being, anyhow, the County of Otsego doesn’t intend to participate in the “single point of contact” economic-development strategy.

The county Planning Department has been renamed the Planning & Economic Development Department, and will continue handling the small-business programs that the former county Economic Development Office did under Carolyn Lewis, who resigned last August.

The county IDA (Industrial Development Agency) “is doing the big grants,” said county Rep. Kay Stuligross, D-Oneonta, who had been interim chair of the Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, which oversees ec-dev initiatives. “The county has reserved to itself the smaller items.”

Stuligross was interviewed as she passed the chairmanship back to county Rep. Betty Anne Schwerd, R-Edmeston, who had been absent from county board deliberations since July. Schwerd attended the Friday, Sept. 12, IGA meeting and resumed the chair.

The county representative attended the second Seward Summit on economic development last November at Foothills and heard Dick Sheehy, one of the nation’s foremost industrial recruiters, say all successful ec-dev efforts have a “single point of contact” for businesses seeking to relocate.

However, Stuligross said, given modern communications, a website and telephone number can serve that purpose, and any calls received by the county office will be forwarded if they concern matters that under the IDA purview. The IDA is working with Paper Kite Creative, Hartwick, to develop a new brand and relaunch its web site in mid-January.

In the spring, the IDA had been negotiating to absorb the county’s ec-dev responsibilities, but talks broke down over how much the county had been spending on its Economic Development Office, and how much should be contributed to the IDA. Stuligross said two new IGA committee members, county Reps. Rick Hulse, R-Otsego, and Craig Gelbsman, R-Oneonta, elected last November, were going through a “learning period” and were reluctant to offload the ec-dev responsibilities immediately.

At IDA meetings since, authority President Sandy Mathes has expressed disappointment at the turn of events, but said that efforts will instead be focused on numerous other initiatives being pursued, including two commerce park projects, the revival of Oneonta’s D&H yards and an agricultural hub to market local farm products in the New York metropolitan area. The next round of state economic-development grants, to be announced in mid-October, will determine what goes first.

Over the summer, the IGA committee contracted with a consulting firm, Thoma Associates, to explore delinquent loans dating back to 2011 received through the Economic Development Office. Since, Stuligross said, county Treasurer Dan Crowell had assumed responsibility for collecting the loans and she is confident the process is moving forward.

Now, she said, the IGA committee plans to issue an RFP, a request for proposals, to find a consultant to administer the county programs – microenterprise grants, revolving loans and Main Street initiatives – next year.

“The optimum outcome in terms of the business committee is easy access, assistance in applications, and efficient administration of the loans,” said Stuligross, and she expressed confidence the new P&ED office can.

“In a sense, this isn’t a bad thing to happen,” said the county rep. “We’ve learned a lot. We’re not finished.”




County Rep. Kay Stuligross, D-Oneonta, this afternoon signed a contract to sell Otsego Manor to Focus Ventures, a nursing home operation based in Airmont,Rockland County.

Stuligross chairs the Otsego Manor Facilities Corp., established by the county Board of Representatives last year to facilitate the sale of the public nursing home.  When Focus Ventures was identified as the potential buyer in January, the price was reported at $18.5 million.

Focus Ventures must now apply to the state Department of Health for a “certificate of need” to allow the sale to go through.  “We’re not anticipating any problems getting approval, but you never know,” said Stuligross.

It would be “normal” for the health department to take a few weeks to four months to review Focus Ventures application.  If approved, it would take another month to close on the sale.

“So we’re still saying we expect to close by the end of the year,” Stuligross said.

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