As interim president of the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce, Al Rubin has committed up to a year of his time to recruit a successor to departing Barbara Ann Heegan.
The president of A&D Transport Services, a 16-county medical transport business and local taxicab company, Rubin said he has no interest in the job.
However, he wants to ensure the Chamber is in a position to fulfill its mission: “We should be a driving force in helping build the economic landscape of Otsego County,” he said.
Before the search begins, Rubin intends to ask the Chamber’s executive committee to review and ensure the strategic plan is sufficient to that task.
The executive committee includes Realtor Joan Fox, the new chair; Family Planning’s Deb Marcus, CDO Workforce’s Alan Sessions and Springbrook’s Chris Hurlburt.
He plans to ask at least two outside executives with related experience to participate, but had not yet invited them, and said he will announce their names after they’ve agreed to serve.
When a structured search begins, “we will encourage people within the county and beyond to throw their hats into the ring,” he said.
Rubin came to SUNY Oneonta from Levittown, majoring in political science, intending to become a lawyer. But he discovered his calling as an entrepreneur.
While an undergrad, he developed World Is Yours Delivery, 20 years before Uber Eats, delivering food and other necessities to SUNY and Hartwick students.
He graduated in 1993, and founded A&D Transport Services in 1996 with partner David Freed – the two still co-own and operate the business today. In 1998, A&D won approval to transport Medicare patients and vital goods as a subcontractor.
After 17 years, state law changed to allow A&D to provide those services directly, allowing the expansion of medical transport services to the 16 counties, and expand its workforce
“It’s like a tree,” he said in an interview, “you start at one point and there are so many ways to branch off and grow.”
In the early years, he discovered after the fact that Common Council had expanded the city’s taxi code from three pages to 27, and he realized a Chamber’s importance to the business people.
“This is the thing – small businesses are working to survive – the chamber can advise its members of what they should know before they end up in a tough spot,” he said.
Along the way, Rubin married Michelle Ianelli-Rubin, and the couple has three sons: Allan Michael, 14, Matthew, 13, and Luca, 11. He tells them, “You get out what you put in.”
As it happens, his wife is a member of the family that ran Ianelli’s Restaurant at 99 Chestnut St., torn down to make way for Walgreen’s.
While a SUNY student, he asked his roommate to pick him up a fettucine Alfredo from Ianelli’s. That inspired him to found World Is Yours Delivery.
To begin, no one can rival state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, in contributions to our Otsego County. He’s a giant. THE giant, who is retiring at year’s end after 34 years representing us in the state Legislature.
He’s primus inter pares – or simply primus. The gold standard. (More accolades coming.)
But he’s at the top of a pretty tall pyramid of people with energy and brainpower in Otsego County public life, evident this week in two front-page articles.
The first retraces Barbara Ann Heegan’s local career, culminating in eight years as Otsego County Chamber of Commerce president.
The second reports on Republican County Chairman Vince Casale’s advances in the political field since he was chosen to lead the local GOP seven years ago.
Both stories overflow with initiative, initiative, initiative.
Heegan, mother of three at-home children when she took on her daunting new duties after a time of trial within the Otsego Chamber, hit the ground running.
Within a year, by “going out and talking to people in person” – as mentor Gordon B. Roberts, the Oneonta insurance man, advised her – Heegan doubled the membership, with new money making all things that followed possible.
For a while, until COVID kept us at home, it seemed like she was everywhere.
Some of her initiatives were flashy – the Workforce Development Summit at The Otesaga in October 2018, for instance, where Oneonta businessman Al Cleinman convinced us “knowledge workers” are our future– but the accomplishments were steady. Leadership Otsego introduced rising county leaders to each other, to the county’s major institutions, and to the players they will succeed. The Energy Summit in 2019 fed vitality into the county’s Energy Task Force, (its outcomes delayed by the pandemic.)
Her latest boss, board chairman Al Rubin, spoke of her sensitivity to small-business needs: When a potentially costly regulation from Albany lands in local entrepreneurs’ laps, she would bring in
an expert to guide the way – for $35 apiece, forestalling costly individual consultation with lawyers.
Picking up on an idea behind the first “Seward Summit” on economic development just before her hiring in 2012, Barbara Ann rarely missed an opportunity to introduce businesspeople from around the county to each other.
Former Cooperstown mayor Jeff Katz remembers the buzz in Foothills’ “Black Box” theater when, on Jan. 2, 2013, there he was sitting on the dais beside his Oneonta counterpart, Dick Miller, at the chamber’s traditional “State of the State” breakfast. Unheard of. (“My thought at the time,” Katz remembers, “was: ‘This might be the only time I’m invited. I better let it rip!’”)
Barbara Ann’s favorite activity was the twice-yearly gala, the Celebration of Business in the spring in Oneonta – it includes the Bettiol Citizen of the Year Award – and the Small Business of the Year banquet at The Otesaga in the fall. The record attendance came in March 2014, when attorney John Scarzafava won Bettiol honors and more than 300 people cheered him, (at $100 a head!)
Vince Casale’s efforts were more focused, but no less impactful. Approached by two committee members and two county board members to take over the helm in 2013, he arrived to find the party in post-fracking shambles.
Polling in local races for the first time, he found the GOP’s candidates far behind in county board races, and the party in danger of losing its majority. The fracking battles had peaked by then. Stop talking about it, he told candidates. Talk about keeping taxes low, about keeping under Governor Cuomo’s recently imposed 2 percent property-tax “cap.”
To give just one example: He saw Republican challenger Rick Hulse in the Cooperstown/Town of Otesgo district rise from 20 points behind to 10 points behind to winning by seven points on Election Day 2013. In Democratic Oneonta, Republicans Janet Hurley Quakenbush and Craig Gelbsman carried the day.
There’s much more. Check page one article on Vince.
Barbara Ann is leaving Jan. 4 to lead the chamber in Greenwood, S.C. Vince is refocusing his attention on his political consulting firm, The Casale Group, with has represented such lights as Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive who challenged Cuomo in 2018.
Let’s wish them well as they leave our local scene. But here’s a parlor game for this Christmas season – via Zoom, of course: Let’s identify all the similarly energetic, selfless, smart and creative people who continue to work on our behalf.
To prime the pump: County Treasurer Allen Ruffles, glassrecycling entrepreneur Cynthia Andela in Richfield Springs, Cooperstown and Oneonta’s mayors, Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch and Gary Herzig respectively, the county board leadership team, David Bliss and Meg Kennedy, it goes on and on.
You’ll end the COVID year in a pretty good frame of mind.
Chamber President Heegan Takes People Skill To Carolina
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
No job could be as tough as Barbara Ann Heegan’s first.
Right out of SUNY Oneonta with a B.Sc. in Child & Family Studies, she joined 9/11 Family Support Services in Elmont, L.I., where the Queens native had been raised, seeking to help 122 family members mourn the death of loved ones in the attack on the Twin Towers.
About the same time, her mother, Florence, died.
“While I was helping them, they were helping me get back on a positive track,” said the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce president, who on Dec. 7 told the Chamber board she has agreed to join the Greenwood (S.C.) Chamber of Commerce as president/CEO on Jan. 4.
“You can be empowered by grief,” said Heegan in an interview, after an eight-year tenure that, above all else, has been marked by a cheerful outlook and positive thinking – not to mention doubling the membership, energizing young professionals through Leadership Otsego, and hosting countywide “summits” on issues ranging from workforce development to energy.
Raised on Long Island, a mile from the Belmont Park race track – her father, James, was an OTB inspector: “I would get to see the horses, but not bet on them,” she said – she was introduced early to Central New York.
Her parents, Barbara Ann and older brother Douglas would spent vacations horseback riding and hiking at the Round Up Ranch Resort in Downsville, Delaware County. A family of Yankee fans – and Douglas a ballplayer – led to numerous trips to Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame in those early days.
That, in turn, led to SUNY Oneonta and, as the demand for grief counseling tailed off in her hometown, her first job Upstate as Bassett Hospital’s director of volunteers – 200 of them.
At the time, she would talk about her parents’ experience with assisted living communities downstate, and how such facilities were needed here. Gordon B. Roberts, the Oneonta insurance man, had a similar dream, and as the Plains at Parish Homestead became a reality, Heegan joined the effort as director of sales.
All the patio homes in that West Oneonta retirement community were sold within two years, and half the apartments were filled within a couple of months, Heegan reports.
“You need to go out there and talk to people in person,” the outgoing Roberts advised her, and she was soon talking to Rotary and Lions clubs and community groups around the county, a practice she continued after assuming the Chamber leadership on May 18, 2012, two months after state Sen. Jim Seward’s first “Seward Summit” on economic development at The Otesaga.
The Summit had introduced community leaders from Oneonta and Cooperstown to each other for the first time, and Heegan pushed that forward. Attendees were pleasantly shocked when, in January 2013, Cooperstown Mayor Jeff Katz joined Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller on the dais of the chamber’s annual State of the State breakfast.
Heegan’s first dramatic accomplishment, though, may have been putting the Chamber on a sound financial footing by following Gordie Roberts’ Dictum and doubling membership from 300 to 600 in a single year.
Always the height of fashion, Heegan said she particularly enjoyed the Chamber’s twice-annual galas, the NBT Distinguished Citizen Dinner & Celebration of Business at the Hunt Union or Foothills in the spring, and the Small Business Awards at The Otesaga in the fall.
They were also good fundraisers, with attendance hitting a 300-plus record when Oneonta attorney John Scarzafava received the Bettiol Award in 2014.
The Greenwood Chamber’s signature event is the six-week South Carolina Festival of Flowers, and Heegan expressed enthusiasm about digging into that. Smith said her arrival also comes as the Chamber board wants a review of the event, to ensure Greenwood is getting maximum benefit.
The community, home to two colleges, 1,000-job FujiFilm, and Greenword Lake, reminds her of Oneonta.
Heegan’s younger son, Scott, 15, is moving with her. Daughter Christina, 21, at Siena College, and Sean, 19, at SUNY Adirondack, will remain Upstate, along with Barbara Ann’s significant other, Bob Pondolfino, who plans to move to South Carolina in the next year.
But the couple will maintain their Arnold’s Lake home, so Barbara Ann Heegan will not be gone completely.
OPENING RECEPTION – 3 or 4:15 p.m. Find beautiful works by local artists throughout ‘Small Works’ annual celebratory exhibit. Find works for sale to take home the same day for wonderful Christmas presents. Register for one of the free showings, only 50 guests allowed at a time. Roxbury Arts Group, 5025 Vega Mountain Rd., Roxbury. 607-326-7908 or visit roxburyartsgroup.org
VIRTUAL EXHIBIT – 9 a.m. View artworks in exhibit ‘Pieces of Me’ by recipient of Bright Hills Annual emerging artist feature, Sophie Bille. Suggested donation $3, works are available for purchase. Presented by Bright Hill Press & Literary Center. 607-829-5055 or visit brighthillpress.org/wordandimagegallery/
VIRTUAL TOUR – 2 p.m. Zoom meeting featuring walk through of exhibit ‘Pete Souza: Two Presidents, One Photographer’ with photographer Kevin Gray featuring in-depth discussion and Q&A session. Free, registration required. Suggested donation $5. Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown. 607-547-1400 or visit www.fenimoreartmuseum.org
VIRTUAL TOUR – 2 p.m. Zoom meeting featuring walk through of exhibit ‘Albrecht Dürer: Master Prints’ with Assistant Curator of American Art Ann Cannon featuring in-depth discussion and Q&A session. Free, registration required. Suggested donation $5. Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown. 607-547-1400 or visit www.fenimoreartmuseum.org
VOLUNTEER – Last day to register to help with The Lords Table Free Community Thanksgiving Dinner. Cooks, Drivers, Food Prep, Serving, & Clean-up needed. Presented by The Lords Table. Call 607-226-1785 to sign-up.
EAT LOCAL – Support local restaurants for the years ‘Restaurant Week.’ Participating restaurants offer a 2 course prix fixe for $20, more deals. Visit website for menu. Presented by Otsego County Chamber of Commerce. Visit otsegocc.com for info.
ENTREPRENEURIAL AWARDS – 4:30 p.m. Hop online to celebrate local businesses for their innovation, entrepreneurship, & resilience in the face of a global pandemic. Features videos by winners Theresa’s Emporium & Pathfinder Produce. Other winners include Custom Electronics receiving award the NBT Bank Distinguished Business of the Year, and NY State Senator James Seward receiving A. Bettiol, Jr., Distinguished Citizen Award. This years theme is #togetherwethrive. Register to participate on Zoom. Presented by Otsego County Chamber of Commerce. Visit otsegocc.com for info.
ONEONTA – Retiring state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, will receive the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce’s Eugene A. Bettiol, Jr., Distinguished Citizen Award during a virtual ceremony at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 12.
“Senator Seward has been a strong supporter of business and manufacturing in the regions he serves, and he has always worked hard on behalf of the business community’s needs,” wrote Barbara Ann Heegan, Chamber president, in a press release.