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.
Mom told me that they promised her the “Golden Years” but she got the “Rust Years.”
She had dreamed of retiring. Yet after a couple of weeks into retirement her litany changed from “can’t wait to retire” to telling me: “Don’t do it’’.
My Mom was born when women were supposed to stay home, while their husbands supported the family.
But, my Dad, Mom’s husband, lost their farm and his health. He became too ill to work. With three girls under the age of 5 at home, my Mom had to go to work. She got lucky and landed a good-paying job at a factory. After a string of horrible jobs.
Not her Ozzie and Harriet dream. But good money to feed her family. Mom was careful and saved from every paycheck. She belonged to a union and got a good pension. She planned golden years of traveling. After a couple months staying at home she wanted to go back to work. A week or two on a bus tour was OK, but she didn’t want “vacation” all of the time.
Any point here? Sure. You have probably already figured out that I did what most of us do – I didn’t follow Mom’s advice. I retired. Afraid as always. Maybe this time I was right.
Did you know 10,000 baby boomers retire every day?
You don’t need any statistics. You know. You live it every day. Your long-time doctor and your lawyer have retired. Your plumber. Electrician. A year or so ago it seemed that all of the local CEOs, college and hospital presidents retired the same week.
Are they like Mom? Regretting every day that they retired? Baby Boomers do retire a few years later than the Greatest Generation. They are healthier and more active. But many work. Some because they can’t afford not to, but many are just like my Mom. She really wanted a longer vacation. When she wanted to take it. Not a permanent vacation.
Recently I commiserated with a 36 year old. He went from a structured job – which he loved – to self-employed when his wife took a job on a remote Caribbean island. A sort of retirement. Hard to do, he said. No structure. No people coming at you making you react. No co-workers. He liked some of the freedom but he misses having a regular job. Two months later he fell dead from a heart attack.
A week earlier I had coffee with a 67 year old who had retired almost two years ago. He has nightmares about his job. He loved his job. Didn’t really want to retire but it was time.
Intellectually he was at the top of his game. But he had great successors from the next generation. He did the right thing, he believes. But why the nightmares? Does he have a mental illness? Is this normal, he worried?
Why do we have friends who say they love retirement? That they never missed their jobs. Did they hate their jobs and count the days to retirement – those golden years?
For me, I retired at the right time, for the right reasons. I had plans. Spend more time with some terrific non-profits with which I work. Mentor? Take up those old passions like gardening, go out for coffee or lunch.
I knew how I should prepare to retire. I coached clients for 30 years. “You’ll have a black pit ahead of you. Plan”, I told them.
Frightening. Retirement – terrified me. Fear drove a planning frenzy for the next third of my life.
My French teacher was right – I am a perfectionist. I intended to corral my fears and do this perfectly.
But even with all of that planning I spent my first year in mourning. I missed my colleagues. I missed my clients. I missed feeing useful.
My friend with nightmares is suffering too.
At a conference with my Adviser Hall of Fame colleagues – many of whom are my age – they applauded my courage. Said they envied me. They’re afraid to retire. Some know they’re staying too long. Missing the chance to spend time with their spouse, children, grandchildren. To do charitable work. Give back. Pick up those old hobbies abandoned to climb to the top.
Like the 77-year-old with whom I had dinner last night? Afraid? Her husband is sliding into dementia. He retired 17 years ago.
“Be Afraid but Do it Anyway” still seems to be working. Now a couple of years later retirement seems less scary, not so heart-breaking. Eventually I plunged into my plans and some unexpected projects too. COVID has upended life, but also has bestowed its blessings.
Editor’s Note: This a letter of appreciation to the communities from Dr. Jerry Groff, who recently retired after decades among the hospital’s leadership.
Today is Thanksgiving 2020. The historic challenges and losses in the past year remind us to take extra time to give thanks for the things that have been good in our lives.
I completed my 37-year career at Bassett in October, and with that came the final move from Cooperstown to be close to family in New England. In 1977, when we arrived in town, Adam was a 1-year- old toddler, Lauren was born at Bassett Hospital the next year, and Sarah was small when we returned in 1986.
The Cooperstown community of friends became our extended family. Jeannine and I will always be grateful for your warmth and caring.
Bassett Hospital has been my professional home and I still believe in its mission. Since the usual farewells were not possible, let me say that among the great privileges of my career are the trust of my patients and the dedication of my colleagues.
It is my sincere hope that the tradition of Bassett continues into the future.
The Groff family will visit Cooperstown whenever we can (speaking of which, who has housing for Hall of Fame weekend?!). When we do come back, it will surely feel as though we never left.
COOPERSTOWN – Despite the rain, they came to praise her: Teri Barown, village administrator for the past five years and village clerk for 10 before that.
“Teri’s leadership abilities were always apparent and so very valued,” said Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch, who also emceed the ceremony. “…All have benefited from her professional and skillful handling of village administration.
“She could keep the day-to-day operations of this village flowing smoothly and, at the same time, was willing to take on new tasks, learn new skills and accept new challenges,” the mayor said. “And she always did it calmly and impartially.”
COOPERSTOWN – After 25 years on the state judiciary, Judge Michael V. Coccoma, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Courts outside of New York City, has announced his retirement at the end of June.
He began his legal career in Otsego County in private practice in 1979. In 1980 he was appointed as Assistant District Attorney. Over the years he served as Otsego County Attorney and as District Attorney. Elected in 1994 as Otsego County Judge, he heard cases in County, Family and Surrogate’s Courts.
After his election as a State Supreme Court Justice in 2007 he was appointed Administrative Judge of the 10 Southern Tier counties of the 6th Judicial District in 2008 in addition to his trial court duties.
ONEONTA – After 32 years with the Oneonta Fire Department, firefighter Jim Delello’s served his final tour of duty today as a critical care technician with the Oneonta Fire Department.
“You see people at their best and their worst,” he said. “It is gratifying to see the effect you have on people’s lives, and it’s good when you can see a positive outcome after a call.”
He began working with the department on Sept. 4, 1985, then came on as a full-time firefighter the following year. He was Union President for sixteen years, served on Mayor Dick Miller’s task force for the department and takes the roll of Crew Leader when the Captains are off.
WEST ONEONTA â€“ Cheryl Shackelton, Oneonta town clerk for the last 40 years, has announced her retirement effective May 29, 2019.
“This will be an enormous loss for the town,” said Town Supervisor Bob Wood this afternoon. “Cherylâ€™s experience and organization skills will be very difficult to replace. “Her personality perfectly fit the role of town clerk,” he said.
Wood said there are no health issues; that she simply wants to spend more time with her grandchildren. She doesn’t have to worry about her finances either, with the help of Key Equity Release has never been easier. She can continue to live in her home and will be able to enjoy her retirement with her grandchildren. It’s good to consider your retirement options before the time comes, so that you can make the most of this exciting time of life. There are lots of things to think about when you hit retirement-age, especially if you run a business as it’s not just a case of leaving a traditional job. Here are some considerations for retiring business owners.