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.
SCHENEVUS – With $150,000 in state aid not coming through and a merger study still not guaranteed, the Schenevus Central school board voted unanimously on a resolution to begin talks with Worcester on “tuitioning out” middle and high school students.
“We started off the week with a very scary situation,” said District Treasurer Greg Beall. “The state did not give us $150,000 in aid. Fortunately, we received a $180,000 refund from BOCES and now we are funded for this year.”
And Theresa Carlin stressed that next year could be worse. “We don’t know if we’ll be able to function next year,” she said. “There is no indication that we will see additional state aid.”
SCHENEVUS – Awaiting a merger study, the Schenevus Central School Board will meet tomorrow at 6:30 to vote on a resolution to begin conversations with Worcester about tuitioning-out students for the 2020-2021 school year.
“Tutioning-out is buying a service from another school district instead of supplying that service yourself,” said Schenevus Central School Superintendent Theresa Carlin.
ONEONTA – One afternoon, Joe Muehl got the urge to build a model airplane.
“I hadn’t done one in 40 years,” he said. “And when I finished, I thought, well now what do I do with it? So I built a table around it.”
Titled “The Only Good War,” the glass and wood table depicts the model airplane dropping plastic cucumbers that dangle below the table.
After at Friday, Dec. 6, opening, it’s on display through Sunday, Dec. 22, at CANO, Oneonta’s arts council at 11 Ford Ave., part of Muehl’s show of handcrafted tables, mirrors, cabinets and lamp at CANO.
“I grew up in a farm family, so I’ve always been about the practical, rather than the sculptural,” he said. “I wanted to make stuff you could use.”
With a SUNY Oneonta degree in art and art history, Muehl built his first desk in 1971. “It worked,” he said. “It was very basic and simple, I used it at home.”
He honed his craft, working for 20 years as a cabinet maker, including making cabinets for his and wife Christine’s Schenevus home. “I like cabinetry because of the way things fit together,” he said. “I like doors and drawers.”
He went back to school for a master’s in social work, working for 19 years at an outpatient substance abuse program in Delaware County, retiring in 2015.
And in retirement, he’s found time to return to his passion for woodworking, including building his own woodworking bench.
“I always do original designs, never reproductions,” he said. “In a lot of ways, I’m self-taught, and now I have the luxury of time to play with different designs.”
He is especially influenced by Art Deco and Art Nouveau. “I like the geometry of Art Deco, but the fluidity of Art Nouveau,” he said. “I like to work with them together. And I use a lot of asymmetry to prevent them from being too boring! It causes the eye to move around more, creates something different.”
And in addition to the plane and cucumber “bombs” of “The Only Good War,” he has incorporated miniatures into other projects, including a commissioned mirror. “I made it look like someone was putting up a billboard,” he said. “I made little pulleys and scaffolding, and I used an old advertisement in the top upper left corner, above the frame.”
He called the piece “Quitting Time,” complete with tiny abandoned tools in the lift baskets.
An average piece takes three and four weeks to make, primarily with domestic hardwoods. “I’ve always been concerned about the environment,” he said. “I’ll use hardwood veneers sometimes, but I try to stay away from rainforest wood.”
In addition to CANO’s current show, he has shown in nearly a dozen exhibitions, including taking first place at this year’s Northeastern Woodworkers Association “Showcase” last March in Saratoga Springs, for his Snow-White inspired mirror, “Who’s The Fairest?” and second place for “Turkey Feathers” lamp, both on display at CANO.
“Building is a wonderful discipline,” he said. “There’s a satisfaction of working towards a goal. I feel sorry for people who don’t work with their hands – they’re missing out on something.”
But families who came out to the meeting were divided on which of those three choices to make.
Doug Gulotty, a Schenevus resident and former Wilber Bank president who spent 17 years as a board member and whose wife teaches at the school, favors tuitioning-out. “The identity of the school matters,” Gulotty said. “I want everyone to keep an open mind.”
SCHENEVUS – Scott William Roland, a former Fortune 500 executive and an antique dealer with expertise in vintage glass, died peacefully on Nov. 1, 2018.
Scott is the fourth child of Ralph Mayo Roland and Cecelia M. “Rusty” Roland.
Graduating in 1976 from Niskayuna High School, Scott was a varsity soccer, basketball and baseball athlete. He earned his undergraduate degree in 1980 from Cornell University, where he was a member of and president of the university chapter of Sigma Nu fraternity.