A few days ago, the first edition of the Tempe Independent – Volume One, Edition One – showed up in the mailbox.
Inside, I learned local Congressman Greg Stanton presented Tempe City Council with a $500,000 check to renovate the Rodeway Inn on Apache Boulevard to accommodate up to 200 of the city’s 380 homeless people.
I learned miles-long Warner Boulevard, a major east-west road through the city, is being repaved, and made handicapped-friendly at the same time.
I learned the historic 1924 Hayden House restoration is complete and will be open for public events and self-guided tours. (Some 100 years ago, Charles Trumbull Hayden’s Saltillo River ferry and his nearby flour mill led to the development of modern Tempe.)
There were also obituaries, sports stories and people news — there’s a new principal at Marco de Niza High School, around the corner — and police blotter items.
I had barely put down the Independent, when an email arrived from Hometown Oneonta/Freeman’s Journal Publisher Tara Barnwell suggesting a column to commemorate the April 18, 2021, sale of The Freeman’s Journal and Hometown Oneonta to a group of citizens determined to preserve local journalism in Otsego County.
RETIREMENT RECEPTION – 6 – 8 p.m. Celebrate the 20 year tenure and recent retirement of the Greater Oneonta Historical Society’s Executive Director Bob Brzowski. Refreshments, cake will be served. A cash bar will be available. Covid safety protocols will be followed. Foothills Performing Arts Center, Oneonta. 607-432-0960 or visit oneontahistory.org/event/bob-brzozowskis-retirement-reception/
Retiring Hartwick College President Margaret Drugovich said she will miss the Oneonta community
when she steps down next year.
“I really enjoyed being part of the Oneonta community and I’ll miss it,” Drugovich said on Monday, Sept. 20, and said how much she liked the warm atmosphere of the people in Oneonta.
“They care deeply about one another and the people in it,” Drugovich said. “It’s just a great place to be and I’ll make sure to tell the next person who will be president that it’s a community they will really enjoy.”
After 32 years, local radio legend Chuck D’Imperio turned off the microphone on his WDOS morning show for the last time Tuesday, June 29.
The retiring radio host got his start in 1988 at what was then Hastings Broadcasting in Oneonta. The best offer owner Gordon Hastings had for D’Imperio was an unpaid position changing tape reels and monitoring the station during three-hour broadcasts for the Boston Pops.
D’Imperio said the time around the station early on was enough to further his radio interest.
Soon after, Hastings sold the broadcast company to Jan Laytham and paid opportunities for D’Imperio emerged. There was mutual respect between the two, and D’Imperio soon became the morning host on AM 730, WDOS.
Laytham coined D’Imperio’s radio name “Big Chuck.”
I need to add my own praise for Jim Kevlin. I moved to Otsego County in July 2018, had never lived in New York State or worked as a breaking news reporter before, and I was 52 years old – not exactly at the most agile stage of life. Yet Jim hired me in Nov. 2018 and I was there for almost a year. It was stressful, but it was also one of the most fun and interesting years of my life.
Jim and Libby Cudmore, then-managing editor, sent me on amazing assignments. I got to report on an American Ninja Warrior from Oneonta, bison who escaped from their ranch, two rescued piglets at the SSPCA, and writer Erica Jong. I got to learn about this area quickly and aspects of it I would probably never have known.
Jim was such a good mentor to me. He always gave me the background to a story that I, as a newbie, needed. He tried mightily to teach me how to take decent photographs since I was a novice at that, too. I often took way too long to write. Given we had looming deadlines, Jim was patient with me although a few times he’d bark, “Hill, why aren’t you finished yet?” in his best editor voice.
All he needed was a cigar although since I now work for Tobacco-Free Communities, I’m glad he didn’t have one.
Mostly, Jim was such a nice man. He treated people who came in to talk to him with dignity. And I enjoyed his sense of humor. I loved that he’d say, “This story could be a hot potato!”
And now that I have overwritten yet another piece for this paper, I will end with congratulating Jim and Sylvia on their retirement and their next fun adventure. Thank you, Jim, for letting me meet and write about people who make this area good and interesting to live in.
By the time he retires on Dec. 31, the Town of Oneonta’s municipal water system will be complete, and condos and houses on Southside Drive will be emerging, veteran Town Supervisor Bob Wood is predicting.
Simply, “the city does not have any more available land,” said Wood in an interview Friday, March 5, on announcing his retirement.
A handful of developers have already approached him with plans, he said, adding, “A lot of people are going to be happy on Southside Drive.”
The $8-plus million water system and a $3-plus million town highway garage, just completed behind Town Hall in West Oneonta, will allow Wood, supervisor since 2008, to leave office with a sense of completion, he said.
He also expects to see development on the town’s end of Oneida Street, where developer Eugene Bettiol Sr. was planning a hotel, plaza, diner and others attractions at the time of his passing in December 2017. Under new owners, that’s still alive, the supervisor said.
‘The Dark Horse fire,” Oneonta’s retiring fire chief, Pat Pidgeon, immediately responded when asked about the worst blaze he tackled in 36 years with the OFD.
Pidgeon was strapped into the jump seat of the fire engine as it arrived around 5 a.m. March, 1, 1992, at 18 Market St.
“There was an explosion,” he said. He looked over his shoulder. “A beam blew out, and landed on a line of cars. I knew it was going to be a long night.”
The site was what’s now that parking lot a couple of buildings east of the Green Earth health food market. Also on fire was the attached J.J. Maloney Building, a candy distributorship at 12-14 Market.
Pidgeon and Bobby Russo, his crew captain and brother of Fire Chief Francis “Cootie” Russo, set up a 2½-inch hose at the hydrant at today’s Cooper Fox, at the back end of Clinton Plaza.
“I remember the blue flames from all the alcohol that was burning,” he recalled.
At one point, as the fire appeared very close to a neighboring apartment house, he and Russo hammered on the doors of apartments in the building, awakening college coeds and protecting them with their shields as the girls hurried to safety.
Despite COVID-19, Much Let To Do,
Mayor’s Decision Firm: It’s Time To Go
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
With would-be successors able to circulate petitions in the next few days, six-year Mayor Gary Herzig Tuesday, Feb. 23, announced what many expected and others anticipated with regret: He will retire when his term ends on Dec. 31, 2021.
“During the past six years, by working together, the people of Oneonta have achieved remarkable progress,” he said in a statement, “in developing new housing options, supporting our local businesses, and strengthening our infrastructure while continuously improving upon our high quality of life.
“Even an unprecedented pandemic was not able to slow us down,” he said.
He vowed to spend his final “10 months working harder than ever” on opportunities that “will certainly present themselves in the post-COVID world.”
The political community was prepared for the announcement, with Common Council member Luke Murphy, in charge of the Democratic campaign, saying he expects a candidate, perhaps a woman, will announce by the end of the week.
James Dean, a Cooperstown village trustee since the Democratic sweep in 2012 began his party’s almost decade-long control of 22 Main St., is stepping down.
While known today as a trustee, Dean has been part of the civic landscape long before that:
• Since early 1981, when, recently arriving (in 1977) from New Jersey, he launched a fundraising drive to acquire Smith Ford’s Ed Smith’s property at the bottom of Pioneer Street to double the size of Lakefront Park. The drive failed and Smith eventually built a house there.
• Since December 1981, when future mayor Carol B. Waller, active in the 4Cs Christmas Committee, recruited Jim – a maker of fine staircases – to build Santa’s Cottage in Pioneer Park, which youngsters are still enjoying two generations later. “We manufactured everything,” he said, “the doors, the trim, the windows.”
• Since 1982, when a production executive knocked on the door of his workshop, in the parking lot behind what is now the NBT Bank branch, and asked him, “Have you heard of ‘Ripley’s Believe It Or Not’.” He hadn’t, but he agreed to play the role of the Cardiff Giant on the CBS serial, publicizing the story nationwide.
On Dec. 31, 2020, James L. Seward of Milford – everyone’s “Gentleman Jim” – retired from the New York State Senate, where he had served Otsego County since Jan. 1, 1986. Because of COVID-19, few of his constituents had the chance to say: Farewell – and thank you. When offered the opportunity, many of us – his fellow legislators, community leaders, top corporate executives and businesspeople, and citizens to whom he reached out and helped in time of need – have now done so in tributes that appear in this Special Edition – from The Editor
One of the perks of being a state senator: When your term is up, you get to buy your chair for $25 as a memento of your service to the Empire State.
The other day, Jim Seward’s chair was delivered to his home on North Main Street.
Midnight on New Year’s Eve, 36 years of serving Otsego County will be over. “Cindy and I will be at home, sipping champagne,” the county’s most celebrated politician said Monday, Dec. 29, in a farewell interview.
“I’ve survived two very serious life-threatening illnesses over the past year,” he said – a near-fatal bout of COVID-19 and a recurrence of cancer. “I’m truly blessed to have emerged from both of those as well as I have.”
So he’s particularly looking forward to “a less-structured schedule, spending more time with Cindy and our family” – son Ryan and his wife, Kelly, and daughter Lauren and her daughters, Nora and Vivian.
“Elected office at the state Senate level: the demands on time are tremendous,” he said. “It took a lot of time away from home.”
Here’s a scoop, though: The senator plans to work part time in a role that will contribute to the prosperity of Otsego and the nine other counties in his 51st Senate District. “Look forward to an announcement in January,” he said.
He’s heartened that his final year, The Year of COVID-19, is almost over.
“I was looking forward to touring the district. A farewell tour, shall we say, touching bases with the community leaders and citizens I had worked with over the years,” he said. That, of course, wasn’t to be.
“Usually, on the last night of the session,” he continued, “there are, for the retiring senators, speeches from the legislative leaders … And retiring members have an opportunity to reminisce a bit.”
“None of that was possible,” he said.
Still, there was a Zoom conference for Republicans, as part of new member orientation earlier this month, where he and other retiring senators “were able to make a statement virtually. But it’s far different.”
Still, his departure was not without accolades, albeit virtual ones. The Otsego Chamber presented him with its Eugene A. Bettiol Jr. Citizen of the Year Award; The Boy Scouts of America, Leatherstocking Council, the Community Leadership Award.
Oneonta Common Council presented him with the keys to the city. And the Cooperstown Village Board Monday issued a proclamation in his honor.
In his final days as a senator, he thinks back to “early January 1987, the day I first walked into the chamber. I took my seat – that really struck me: Hey, I’ve been given an awesome responsibility to work positively to impact people’s lives.
“Even though I had been a staff member, I was a bit awestruck.”
At the time, state Sen. Warren M. Anderson, R-Binghamton, was majority leader, and called Seward into his imposing office. “This is your first term,” said Anderson, surrounded by a phalanx of aides. “We want to get you off to a good start.”
In the late 1980s, the state was on a prison-building spree. Seward paused. “’I need one of those prisons,’ I said. And it worked,” the senator remembers.
In his district, only Cayuga County was lobbying for one. Seward delivered, winning the renewed support of Moravia’s Arbon Hatfield, who had lost the Senate nomination to Seward in a three-way Republican primary.
What’s more, the state bought Hatfield’s farm for the prison. “Now, Arby,” he was able to say next time he saw Hatfield, “I did you a favor by beating you in the primary.”
As he’s said before, his most affirming moments were when a constituent come up to him – four times over his career – and said, “Senator, you saved my life.” As longtime Insurance Committee chairman, he knew who to call to remove obstacles to insurance money for cancer treatments.
Twice, Seward had the opportunity to run for Congress, in 2006, when Sherwood Boehlert of Utica retired, and 2016, when Chris Gibson retired.
The first time, he was reluctant to primary Ray Meyers, the Utica assemblyman who wanted the job. “I might have done it if I had a clear shot,” Seward said. The second time, he believed his seniority in Albany allowed him to do more good than becoming one of 435 Congressman in Washington.
That’s because Seward established himself as an “honest broker” in the state capital. “Whatever the administration” – Mario Cuomo, Pataki, Spitzer, Paterson, Andrew Cuomo – “I’ve maintained good relationships, for the benefit of my constituents.”
His reflections returned to Day One in Albany, when he learned a particular lesson that stuck with him.
“On my first day, Warren Anderson came over, put his arm around my shoulders and said, ‘We haven’t done the seating chart yet: Why don’t you sit where’ – he snapped his fingers – ‘where what’s-his-name sat,’” Seward recalled.
“The minute you’re no longer in the Senate,” he said, “they can’t even remember your name. It’s a lesson not to take yourself too seriously.”
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.