COOPERSTOWN – To calm troubled political waters, county Rep. Meg Kennedy, C-Hartwick, has scheduled an Administration Committee meeting for Dec. 2 to give the Democratic prospect to succeed state Sen.-elect Peter Oberacker a hearing before that day’s county board meeting.
“I felt this was the right thing to do,” she said a few minutes ago. “I always try to do what’s fair, and I think this is fair.”
That’s how Peter Oberacker, hand-picked to succeed state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, describes what he would take to the state Senate if elected Nov. 3.
That approach has guided the job he’s done as Maryland town board member, then town supervisor and, for five years now, county representative from Schenevus, Worcester, Westford and Decatur.
He uses the term “ROI” – return on investment. “Where do we get the most satisfaction for what we’re spending?” Oberacker, 57, asked during a Friday, Oct. 16, interview in the renovated barn on Route 7 east of here, headquarters of Form Tech Solutions, a culinary research firm the CEO operates with COO Ron Wheeler, who’s also his campaign manager.
As town supervisor, Oberacker’s main concern was maintaining and plowing 61 miles of road with decrepit equipment. Instead of buying new, Oberacker determined to lease equipment.
At the end of five years of operating new leased trucks, enough money had been saved
to expand the Maryland Highway Department’s fleet, with more new leased trucks.
Elected to the county board in 2015, he proposed – as Public Works Committee chairman – doing the same with the county’s fleet, with similar results – dependable vehicles at less cost. (He’s also vice chair
of the Administration Committee, and serves on Public Safety, Intergovernmental Affairs, and the Budget and Negotiations committees.)
Oberacker, born on Merrick, L.I., was introduced to private enterprise early in life. When he graduated from SUNY Delhi, he joined his dad, also Peter Oberacker, in operating Spicey Pete’s Meats, a market in Schenevus that, as its height, had an outlet in Cooperstown’s Danny’s Main Street Market.
While his dad provided exemplified entrepreneurship, mom Carolann exemplified public service as a 25-year Maryland town justice. She passed away in 2009; his father in 1993. In 1990, Peter – brother Karl, now of Albany, and sister Cheryl Delello of Oneonta, also survived – joined Conagra, then Budenheim, food research and marketing companies.
When Budenheim eliminated his division, in 2004, it was a blow. But, inspired by watching
Mel Gibson rally his men on “Braveheart” in the wee hours one morning, Oberacker hammered out a business plan, called Budenheim colleague Wheeler at dawn, and the two founded Form Tech.
The partners ran the product development and market research firm in College Station, Texas – ask him about allergen-free soy sauce, one big success. In 2018 – with Oberacker focused on county politics and bringing a distribution center to I-88’s Exit 18 at Schenevus –company headquarters were moved here.
He continues to promote the distribution center – aimed at mega e-marketing companies, from Google on down – and is working on making the site shovel-ready. The other day, he was able to show where an 8-inch main is being put under Route 7 to serve the site’s south end; on the north end, water is available from Smokey Avenue.
As a county rep, Oberacker is also pushing ahead a four-town consolidation plan – it would be a statewide model.
He and Wheeler continue to operate Form Tech, although it is on the market. Their new focus is Sparrow Hawk Winery, where the men are planning to produce a semi-dry Riesling using a newly developed
grape, La Crossaint, within a couple of growing seasons.
With so much on his plate, you can imagine Oberacker’s surprise when the phone rang over the winter. It was Seward, announcing he didn’t plan to run again and suggesting the county rep run to succeed him.
“I was always impressed with Peter,” said Seward, who had known his parents. “He had local government experience; he had private sector experience.” It would later impress the senator that,, after the candidate introduced himself to county chairmen in the nine counties, no primary challenge surfaced.
Still, “your head starts spinning,” Oberacker said, as he reflected on the time commitment, the prospective public criticism, and the toll on the family – wife Shannon, son Derek, 29, and daughter Holli, 31, a teacher in Milford, Conn. “Jim set a high bar,” he added.
“My expertise,” he said, “is with local governance, and how Albany effects local government.” He’s always been guided by a “bottom up” approach, which he plans to follow if elected on Nov. 3.
He’s committed, as are most candidates, to getting broadband everywhere. “It’s akin to the 1930s,” he said, “when they ran electrical lines.”
He’s also committed to expanding support to local fire departments and EMTs after son Derek was injured in a farm accident and his father, a member of the fire department, waited, listening to the signal, for a volunteer ambulance crew to arrive.
“My son” – now recovered – “will be here,” the father said with some emotion. “He’s going to stay here. He’s going to raise my grandchildren here.
“If I can keep half as much as I experienced growing up here,” he said, “I’ll be satisfied.”
COOPERSTOWN – In five years directing the Susquehanna SPCA, Stacie Haynes has never once had someone bring in a bird.
Now, she has 30 of them. Lady Gouldens, to be precise.
“We need volunteers ASAP to either foster them or come in and tell us how to take care of them,” she said. “They’re these absolutely gorgeous birds, but we have no idea how to take care of them, and want to get them into their proper homes.”
The finches – as well as a dog, a cat, two mini-horses, a mallard duck, two chinchillas and a hedgehog – were surrendered by a homeowner after the animals’ owner moved out of their shared Schenevus residence.
“When the owner left, she was unable to take the animals with her,” said Haynes. “The homeowner works long hours, and was unable to provide these animals with the care they each require.”
The owner first reached out to the shelter last week, and Haynes worked with Sheriff Richard Devlin as part of the PETS task force, and determined the animals needed to be surrendered by the homeowner.
“This is a great example of how being proactive got these animals into a situation where they could be safe and adopted out to people who can care for them,” she said. “This way, we’re not coming back in a month after they’ve been neglected or perished.”
The two mini-horses were adopted from the scene, but the other animals all came back to the shelter, where they will soon be put up for adoption.
All but the duck came willingly, giving the volunteers a little bit of a chase.
“The duck is tame!” she insisted. “We’ve had geese and turkeys before, so we weren’t intimidated. But any animal, no matter how tame, is going to be a little freaked out when a van rolls up.” She did note that the dog and the hedgehog are elderly, and their eventual adoptee will need to get them proper veterinary care.
But she stressed that the animals were not purposefully neglected, and that the homeowner surrendered them willingly. “These animals all require different kinds of care,” she said. “It’s a full-time job keeping up with these animals, and he did the right thing by reaching out to us and saying he needed help.”
She continued, “If more people did this, we wouldn’t end up with barns full of dead cows. This is a great example of how we can help when people reach out to us.”
SCHENEVUS – Roy A. Henderson Sr., 80, who amid varied careers spent 21 years as a maltster in a New Jersey malt plant, passed away peacefully on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020, at his home in Schenevus. Malt is used in brewing and distilling.
He was the son of Ray & Selma (Anderson) Hendrickson, who predeceased him.
Over his lifetime, Roy also worked for his brother-in-law’s flooring company and at a charcoal plant in New Jersey. After retiring to Schenevus, he cut logs for several years.
SCHENEVUS – William John Liggio, 70, of Schenevus, a Vietnam veteran and career-long truck driver who specialized in car carriers, passed away Thursday, July 23, 2020.
Born on August 25, 1949, Bill grew up the eldest of two siblings in an Italian family in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens. He was the son of the late William Robert and Raffaela (Margio) Liggio.
SCHENEVUS – Charles “Charlie” Duane Scofield, 93, passed away on April 18, 2020 at A.O. Fox Nursing Home, Oneonta from complications of COPD.
Charlie was born in Otego, Sept. 26, 1926, the son of Charles E. and Dorothy (Hamilton) Scofield. He lived most of his childhood on a farm in Otego and going to school there. He joined the United States Navy in 1943 and served for three years.
Upon discharge in 1947, he married Isabel Davis and they moved to Schenevus in 1949, where they raised their four children. They were married for 63 years.
SCHENEVUS – Charles “Charlie” Duane Scofield, 93, passed away on April 18, 2020, at A.O. Fox Nursing Home, Oneonta, from complications of COPD.
Charlie was born in Otego, Sept, 26, 1926, the son of Charles E. and Dorothy (Hamilton) Scofield. He lived most of his childhood on a farm in Otego and going to school there. He joined the United States Navy in 1943 and served for three years. Upon discharge in 1947, he married Isabel Davis and they moved to Schenevus in 1949, where they raised their four children. They were married for 63 years.
SCHENEVUS – Beulah E. Tuckett, 91, a Schenevus native who pursued a career as secretary to high-ranking officers in the State Police, passed away on April 9, 2020, at the Baptist Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Scotia. She had lived in Voorheesville for many years.
She was born on Dec. 3, 1928 in Schenevus, the daughter of Carl and Emma (Vossler) Gesell. Beulah grew up on the family farm in Schenevus and graduated from Andrew S. Draper Central School in Schenevus in 1946. Immediately after high school she attended and graduated from Mildred Elley Business School in Albany.
SCHENEVUS – It’s not perfect. It needs natural gas. It needs a waste-water treatment solution.
But what the 130-acre site at I-88’s Exit 18 – selected out of 86 sites within two miles of Otsego County’s nine interstate exit as the best for a 350-500 job distribution center – has that’s almost impossible to find is “99-percent community support,” said county Rep. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus.
“When we had discussions with development firms,” said Oberacker, “they said that’s one of the biggest positives: The town is for it. They said, ‘That’s huge.’”
Oberacker was interviewed after a consulting firm, McFarland Johnson of Binghamton, hired by the county Board of Representatives to rank distribution-center sites, reported last week it had narrowed its selection from 86 to 62 sites, then to 10, then to five – and then two: the one at Exit 18, and another to Tait Road atop a mountain on the other side of I-88.
The study was commissioned after Oberacker had convinced Sandy Mathes, then Otsego Now president, of the benefits of the Kinch property for a distribution center, the county board commissioned the McFarland Johnson study to make sure the optimum site was chosen.
After Adam Frosino briefed the county reps at their March meeting on the 4th – the Tait Road site was bigger and flatter, he said, but the approach was up steep Route 41 – the board gave the go-ahead to the Schenevus distribution center, the type used by Amazon, Dollar General, Walmart — virtually every major U.S. retailer.
The site, said Frosino, is right off I-88, where an entrance with “curb appeal” can be created by turning the T at the exit and Route 7 into a four-way crossroads. Plus, a second entrance is possible from Smokey Avenue, which runs along the site’s west side.
There’s sufficient land for a 600,000 square foot building, access to utilities, and an owner — Ron and Helen Kinch — willing to sell.
While Tait Road could accommodate a million-square-foot building, Frosino was asked what big retailer would be interested in a 600,000-square-foot one possible at Exit 18. Yes, he replied. Some distribution centers are as big as 1.5 million square feet; some as small at 300,000 square feet.
The Schenevus site is just right, he said.
Oberacker, who is now running for state Senate to succeed retiring state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, points out the #1 site is also south-facing, meaning anyone who locates there can take advantage of solar energy to allay costs.
Two challenges remain, he said the interview. One, sewage disposal: he said a package plant might suffice. Two, natural gas; in addition to solar enhancements, truck deliveries along I-88 might be sufficient, he said.
It was also pointed out that a distribution center could spur related development — a truck stop/gas station, for instance, or a motel.
The next steps, Frosino said, are a market survey, conceptual site plans, a conceptual cost estimate and obtaining environmental reports. The idea is to make the site “virtually shovel-ready,” he said.
The idea, also, is that Otsego Now, the county’s economic development arm which last week received a $75,000 allocation from the county reps, would buy the site and market it. Since it would be job-creating, there would likely be state grants available to help with its development.
COOPERSTOWN – County Rep. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, (and Otsego Now then-President Sandy Mathes) must have been prescient.
A little over three years ago, they proposed 130 acres of level land on a rise to the north of I-88’s Exit 18 at Schenevus for a 250-500-job distribution center, the type used by Amazon, Dollar General, Walmart — virtually every major U.S. retailer.
Today, after months of study, Adam Frosino, an engineer from McFarland Johnson, Binghamton-based consulting engineers, told the county Board of Representatives that 86 potential sites had been identified within two miles of Otsego County’s nine I-88 exits. They had been winnowed down to 26, then 10, then five, then two.
Of those two, the reps selected … the site championed by Oberacker and Mathes at the outset.
SCHENEVUS – Partner in his father’s market, executive with a multinational food corporation, entrepreneur in his own market-research firm, town supervisor, county representative and, now, candidate for state Senate from the Otsego-County-centric 51st District.
Grounded in Main Street and Wall Street, Peter Oberacker confirmed Tuesday, Jan. 28, that he will seek to carry forward the 34-year legacy of the retiring state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford.
“It’s been reassuring to have a state senator who knows us by name,” said the 53-year-old Republican from Schenevus, That’s also “the hardest part: trying to emulate Jim Seward, how he’s been serving the district for 30-40 years in a calming, non-controversial way.
The way forward opened up Tuesday evening as Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-Schoharie, whose district includes four Otsego County towns and was seen as the leading Republican contender to succeed Seward, took himself out of the running. He cited loyalty to his 102nd District, where he was elected less than two years ago.
In the next two weeks, Oberacker said, county Republican Chairman Vince Casale will be introducing him to the county chairmen in the other eight counties in the 51st District, asking for their support.
Initial soundings he’s taken are encouraging, Casale said. “It’s important for us to keep representation in Otsego County” – it’s also the geographic center of the 51st – “as we’ve enjoyed for the past 34 years,” he added.
Asked about Oberacker’s intentions, Seward said “I’ve known the Oberacker family for decades. He has the right skill set, demeanor and experience to make a great candidate.” If Oberacker wins the support of the county GOP chairmen, “he certainly will have my full support. I would consider him a very worthy successor.”
Before Seward announced he will be retiring on Dec. 31, when his current term ends, Jim Barber, a Schoharie farmer and son of J. Roger Barber, state Ag & Markets commissioner in the Carey Administration, announced he was seeking the Democratic nomination. It’s unknown if other Democrats will now emerge.
Locally, two possible Democratic contenders, former Oneonta Mayor John Nader, now SUNY Farmingdale president, and Dan Crowell, the former county treasurer who is leaving the Army Reserves after returning this month from Somalia, have both said they are not interested in a Senate campaign.
Oberacker and his two sisters were born on Long Island. As his father, Peter Sr., used to tell it, the family’s VW bus “ran out of gas and I bought a house.” Actually, the son says, his mother’s parents lived in the area.
The son was 5 at the time and grew up locally, graduating from Schenevus’ Andrew Draper High School, then studying food sales and distribution at SUNY Delhi.
He joined his father in operating Spicy Pete’s Meats, a retail and wholesaler. When his father passed away in 1993, the son joined General Spice, then became an executive chef at Conagra, developing Wendy’s spicy chicken breast, among other products.
By the turn of the century, he was working for German-based Budenheim USA, a food-additive company. When Budenheim laid off U.S. executives, he and a colleague, Ron Wheeler, founded their own company, FormTech Solutions.
The R&D firm located in College Station, applying research developed by Texas A&M scientists to industry. In 2018, Oberacker, the CEO, and Wheeler, the COO/president, moved the company to the Town of Maryland, east of Schenevus.
Oberacker and his wife Carol have two grown children, Holli and Derek.
During this period, Oberacker had been calling on accounts nationwide and commuting back and forth between College Station and the family’s home on Smokey Avenue. He was elected Maryland town supervisor and, then, in 2015, was elected to the county Board of Representatives, succeeding Worcester’s Don Lindberg.
He quickly began to accumulate responsibilities, for the past two years as chairman of the Public Works Committee, which is currently studying a possible combined highway garage at the Northern Catskill BOCES in Milford, among other initiatives.
On learning of Seward’s decision to retire, Oberacker said he was concerned that initiatives of particular interest to him – a prospective 300-job distribution center at Schenevus’ I-88 exit, and a finding a safe berth for students in the financially troubled Schenevus Central School District – would fall by the wayside.
The first step of any prospective candidate, he said, is “you go to your wife, and you basically ask permission.” Then “I called my business partner. He looked at me as if I’d lost my head.” However, “they both supported me,” and the effort was launched.
SCHENEVUS – County Rep. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, who is also president of FormTech Solutions, a national food research consultancy, is exploring running for the 51st District state Senate seat to succeed James L. Seward, he said yesterday.
Last evening, Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-Schoharie, considered the front-runner for the nomination. pulled out, saying he has commitments to fulfill in his 102nd District job.
Otsego County GOP Chairman Vince Casale said he will be introducing Oberacker to other county chairmen in the nine-county district over the next two weeks to firm up support for the candidate.