News of Otsego County

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


Russ Southard

Mayor Schedules Special Council Meeting To Correct Lynch’s Mischaracterizations

Mayor Schedules Special Council Meeting

To Correct Lynch’s Mischaracterizations

City Manager Martin Murphy is flanked by Council member Mike Lynch, right, and City Clerk Doug Kendall at Tuesday's Common Council meeting.  (Ian Austin/
City Manager Martin Murphy is flanked by Council member Mike Lynch, right, and City Clerk Doug Kendall at Tuesday’s Common Council meeting. (Ian Austin/

ONEONTA – Mayor Russ Southard has scheduled a special meeting of Common Council for 8 a.m. Friday, in part to correct what he said was Council member Mike Lynch’s mischaracterization of an executive session that followed Tuesday’s regular meeting.

Coming out of the executive session, Lynch told the Daily Star reporter he has had “dozens of contacts with city workers who are concerned about the management of the city.  Something’s wrong.  It’s obvious that something is broken and we’re going to find out what it is.”

Southard said no one has approached him individually with such concerns.  City workers have appeared in silent vigil at the last two council meeting – Tuesday and two weeks earlier – but have not verbalized what their concerns may be.

The executive session, the mayor said, was to talk through a “360 Degree City Manager Performance Review” process, similar to one that was put in place for the first city manager, Mike Long.  Friday’s meeting is to set the record straight and to answer any questions members of the public may have.

Common Council Tables Police, Fire Study

Common Council Tables Police, Fire Study

Mayor Russ Southard, left, discusses the Center for Public Safety Management's proposed study of police, fire and EMS services. (Ian Austin/
Mayor Russ Southard, left, debates the Center for Public Safety Management’s proposed study of police, fire and EMS services. Ultimately, the motion to approve the study was tabled for further discussion (Ian Austin/


Though the completed study of the Oneonta Fire Department’s equipment was on the table, Common Council decided early tonight to table a motion that would bring the Center for Public Safety Management back to the city to put together a comprehensive analysis of police, fire and EMS needs.

“I remain opposed to this,” said Council Member Mike Lynch, Fourth Ward. “Mayor Miller had us looking at how other communities address these needs constantly.  Why would we pay some outsider to tell us what we already know?”

Mayor Southard Praises Partnership With State

Receiving Grants, City Mayor

Praises Partnership With State

Mayor Southard
Mayor Southard

ONEONTA – The $1.25 million in grants to the City of Oneonta, announced by Governor Cuomo yesterday, will “continue to strengthen economic-development activities, housing and the quality of life for our residents, businesses and our workforce,” Mayor Russ Southard said today.

They are:

• $250,000 to rehabilitate 18 housing units.

•$600,000 for infrastructure needs in the Market Street area.

• $400,000 to address streetscape needs in the Main Street area.

The local grants were part of $13 million in Community Development Block grants awarded across the state.

“Our partnership with the State of New York is a valuable asset to our community, allowing us to continue our efforts
in improving our economy and our ability to address community needs,” Southard said.

Holiday Magic in Muller Plaza

Santa, Hundreds Of  ‘Elves,’

 Bring Magic To Muller Plaza

With the help of the crowd, Acting Mayor Russ Southard and Santa Claus light the Christmas tree in Muller Plaza on Thursday night.
With the help of the “elves” in the crowd, Acting Mayor Russ Southard and Santa Claus light the Christmas tree in Muller Plaza on Thursday night. (Ian Austin/

ONEONTA – More than 200 people braved the cold and crowded into Muller Plaza to help Mayor Russ Southard and Santa Claus light the Oneonta Christmas tree earlier this evening.

“I tried to light the tree earlier, but I couldn’t get it to work,” said Southard.  “The maintenance guys told me I needed two things: Santa Claus and elves.”  He had Santa, and Santa quickly dubbed all the people gathered in the plaza as his elves, and with a countdown from ten, the tree magically sprung to light.

Main Street remained shut down for most of the evening so visitors could view the gingerbread houses, warm up with some hot chocolate from The Red Caboose, enjoy dancers from the Donna Decker School of Ballet’s performance of “The Nutcracker” and take horse-drawn sleigh rides through the center of town.  The Oneonta History Center had their holiday train set running, and stores remained open late to invite shoppers in for gifts.

Mayor Southard Vows Hard Work, Prudence

Mayor Southard Vows Hard Work, Prudence


Edition of Friday, Nov. 21, 2014

If he follows the lessons he learned from his father – “work hard and stay within your means” – City Hall promises to be well served by Acting Mayor Russell A. Southard Jr. over the next year.

He learned those lessons early on, when Russell A. Southard Sr. moved his young family – six daughters and one son, the fifth of the seven children – from Oneonta back to the family farm in Otego.

As a boy, Russ spent his summers baling hay and mowing lawns. If something was going on in the village, he never asked his folks for a ride; he hopped on his bike and pedaled there.

The father, now 94 and living on River Street with his son and daughter-in-law Tammy, bolstered that example by his own work ethic: The World War II veteran was a carpentry foreman on such major projects at the Downsville and East Sidney dams. At night, he built homes.

Oneonta’s citizens can also expect hard work will be tempered by other qualities. His brother-in-law, Paul Catan, proprietor of the city’s Sears store, described Southard as “hardworking, open minded, patient – and very supportive of community life. He’s a lifelong resident of the area and he loves Oneonta.” (When asked, Russ listed similar qualities, then, with a grin, added “fun-loving.”)

Southard believes that, on agreeing to become deputy mayor, he made a commitment to Dick Miller, and “he had to abide by his word that he would take care of the city,” said Catan. “I give him a great deal of credit.”

His Common Council colleagues, outright, could have appointed Southard – or any other citizen of Oneonta, according to City Attorney David Merzig. But they agreed with his preference to be “acting mayor.” “I wanted to continue to represent the Sixth Ward,” he said in an interview.

If Mayor Miller had passed away before Sept. 20, Merzig said, the office would have been filled in the Nov. 4 elections. As it is, he said, the position will be filled in the Nov. 3, 2015, elections, where the winner will serve the two-year balance of Miller’s term, then run again for a four-year term. Said Southard, “I don’t really, at this point, have any intention to become mayor.”

His first challenge, said the new mayor, is “to try and get my arms around everything Dick was involved in.” Southard said he will do what he can to keep all initiatives going, and his Council colleagues have offered their help. “We’re going to try to keep everything covered as a group,” he said.

Growing up, young Russ attended Otego Elementary and Unatego High School, graduating in 1974. “In a small school, you played football, basketball” – at 6-foot-4, he played center – “baseball,” he said.

He received a business degree from SUNY Morrisville, then entered the business world, selling cars at Country Club Automotive, working on Interstate 88’s construction, then spending five years at Amphenol. When his department was transferred out of Sidney, Southard joined a boyhood pal, Bob Underwood, building homes in Atlanta. He was married by then to Tammy Georgia, and their first child was born in the South.

After two years, though, the couple missed family. “We wanted our children to know their grandparents – and their cousins.” That turned out to be about two dozen first cousins. (In addition to Russ’ six sisters, Tammy was one of six sisters.) And so they returned.

Today, daughter Reisa, 28, is an LPN in Schenectady, and Russ and Tammy are expecting their first grandchild next month. Son Brandon, 25, Saratoga Lake, is a contract carpenter with a company that builds Panera Breads and Red Robins, and renovating malls.

Tyler, 23, just out of Syracuse University, is living in Charleston, S.C. – the Southards were en route on learning of Mayor Miller’s passing. He is pursuing a career in sports management.

Back in Oneonta, Southard joined NYSEG, conducting energy audits and, over 14 years, working his way into the sales force, specializing in natural gas. He shifted to Mirabito’s sales force 14 years ago now, and in recent years has been the regional sales contact in the company’s Oneonta offices on Carbon Street.

Facing a new set of challenges in City Hall, Russ Southard is drawing strength from a frequent observation of his boss, company president Joe Mirabito: When things are good, they’re never as good as they seem. And when they’re bad, they’re never as bad.

Posts navigation

21 Railroad Ave. Cooperstown, New York 13326 • (607) 547-6103