ONEONTA – Independent county board candidate Wilson Wells in is for the duration.
The county Board of Elections this morning rejected a challenge to independent Wilson Wells’ petitions to run in District 14, Oneonta’s Wards 7 and 8. The election is Nov. 5.
The challenge was filed by retiring Ward * Common Council member Joe Ficano, a Democrat. A fellow Democrat, Jill Basile, is running in District 14, and would have been unopposed if Wells had been knocked off the ballot.
By LIBBY CUDMORE • Hometown Oneonta & The Freeman’s Journal
ONEONTA – Community engagement doesn’t have a minimum age requirement.
MacGuire Benton, 21, of Cooperstown, and two Oneontans, Clark Oliver, 21, and Wilson Wells, 23, have all thrown their hats into the ring of local politics.
“Our age group is horrible about voting,” said Oliver. “And I think part of that is that we don’t have people who look like us running for office.”
Benton is already in: Tuesday, March 19, he was elected to an uncontested, one-year seat on the Cooperstown Village Board. “I never thought I’d be a politician,” he said. “But my engagement in the community has led me to public service.”
Oliver and Wells are both running for seats on the Otsego County Board of Representatives.
Wells, an independent, also ran for the District 14 seat in 2017. This time he’s facing Democrat Jennifer Basile for a seat now held by Democrat Liz Shannon, who’s stepping down at the end of her term.
Oliver is running in District 11 to succeed the board’s vice chairman, Gary Koutnik, who is also retiring.
Petitions do not have to be filed until April 1-4, so more candidates may surface for both seats.
While they’re young, the three candidates have experience working for political campaigns.
Benton, the former chair of the Otsego County Young Democrats, worked last year for both Bryan Flynn’s 19th Congressional primary campaign and on the campaign of state Sen. Jen Metzger, whose 14th District runs from south of Poughkeepsie to across southern Delaware County.
Oliver, current chair of the county’s Young Democrats (a job Benton held before him) was the campaign staff for Joyce St. George’s Senate campaign against state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford.
Wells, a SUNY Oneonta graduate with a double major in Political Science and Criminal Justice, worked the reelection campaign of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.
For Wells, his campaign’s key issue is transparency. “I’m not focused on party politics,” he said. “I have a vision of the government for the people, by the people.”
He has pledged weekly town halls with not just his constituents, but anyone who wants to meet with him. “And I plan to explain every vote and why I voted the way I did,” he said. “I don’t want there to be any questions. I want it all on the table.”
Oliver, meanwhile, is focused on putting the County Administrator/Manager debate to rest. “The manager (system) works in other counties,” he said. “So much of what the County Board does in their meetings could be done by a manager, so that we can empower the legislature to spend more time innovating instead.”
“My biggest concern is that an unelected manager wouldn’t be accountable to the people,” Wells countered. “We need some sort of administrator, but I think it needs to be an elected position.”
Oliver said that, if elected, he will push for a conclusion on the administrator/manager discussion. “It’s time we deliver,” he said. “It’s one of the reasons we’re being left behind.”
All three agreed that climate change and sustainability is a key focus of their campaigns. “It’s reflective of the younger generation, regardless of party,” said Oliver. “If we don’t act now, we won’t be able to move forward.”
Both Oliver and Wells agreed redevelopment of the D&H railyards is necessary if Oneonta is to grow in the future, and agreed that environmental sustainability must work hand-in-hand with economic sustainability.
“I’d like to see, for every $1 spent in the railyards on fossil fuels, another dollar spent for green energy,” said Clark. “I really want to bring economic and environmental stakeholders together.”
“I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting a ton of money in fossil fuels in the railyards,” agreed Wells. “But sustainability is most efficient at the local level, rather than the federal.”
For his part, Benton wants to keep sustainability at the front of his mind on the Village Board.
“In a county where we rely so much on agriculture and tourism, we have to keep our county clean and beautiful,” he said. “A lot has been accomplished, and I want to continue that good management. For example, could we look into a community buy-in for solar? Sustainability is a passion of mine.”
While Benton get acclimated in his new role, Oliver and wells will be campaigning until Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 5.
“I want to get a record-breaking turnout,” said Oliver. “I plan on knocking on every door in my district. This isn’t about being partisan. It’s about bettering our community.”
ONEONTA – Wilson Wells is making a second bid to represent District 14 on the Otsego County Board of Representatives.
Now 23, the lifelong Oneontan graduated from OHS in 2014 and in 2018 from SUNY Oneonta with a double major in political science and criminal justice.
Wells serves on both the Fundraising and Marketing Committees of Orpheus Theatre, taught at Oneonta Nursery School for a number of years, and currently volunteers as a Crisis Counselor for Crisis Text Line.
COMMUNITY OF RESIDENCE: Wilson is a lifelong resident of the 8th Ward of Oneonta.
EDUCATION: Wilson graduated from Oneonta High School in 2014, and will be graduating from SUNY Oneonta in May of 2018 with degrees in Political Science and Criminal Justice.
PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: Wilson has worked as a Studio Engineer at TownSquare Media in Oneonta, a teacher’s assistant at Oneonta Nursery School, and the Coordinator of Outreach on the re-election campaign of Senator Rand Paul in 2016.
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Wilson has supported and volunteered for a number of local organizations, including Orpheus Theatre, Oneonta Little League, and Oneonta Nursery School.
FAMILY: Parents George and Kelly Wells have lived in Oneonta for decades, uncle Sean Farrell is an Oneonta Town Justice.
PHILOSOPHY OF GOVERNMENT: The government exists to represent all of their constituents, not just those in the representative’s own political party.
MAJOR ISSUES FACING OTSEGO COUNTY: The county needs to address the constant, year-over-year overspending. Spending over $250,000 a day is not being responsible to the taxpayers. We have to cut spending, and then proceed to cut taxes; The county needs to return to full and absolute governmental transparency. Our representatives need to be more accountable and accessible to us, the taxpayers; Partisan gridlock keeps any real change from happening. It’s important to elect representatives who will represent every one of their constituents, and not just those in their own party; Otsego county needs help overseeing the day-to-day operations of the county, however appointing an unelected bureaucrat is dangerous. We have to make sure the Board is not a rubber stamp yes vote to the first county manager that comes along. We must ensure fiscal responsibility; The opioid crisis is beginning to creep into our area and we must address the issue head on. The numbers bear out the fact that the current approach, treating these people like criminals as opposed to people who need help, simply does not work. We must do everything we can to help this people reintegrate into society, as opposed to locking them up and throwing away the key.
MY QUALITIES: Wilson has a unique combination of energy and experience. He will be accessible to every one of his constituents at all times, he will work tirelessly to improve quality of life in Otsego county, and will never give up on his principles.
STATEMENT: This country was founded by, and has been protected by, since day one, young men and women. More than a dozen of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were under 35 years old when they signed. The average age of the men that stormed Normandy Beach was 20 years old. And the average age of the American soldier in Vietnam was just 19 years old. 51% of the world’s population is under 30 years old. The future of Otsego County can include a road back to prosperity. As my former boss Senator Rand Paul once said, it’s time for a new way. A new set of ideas. A new leader. One you can trust, who works for you. I am running to take Otsego county back and give it to the people! Thank you to everybody who is taking the time to learn about the candidates, and for voting on Tuesday, November 7th at Foothills in Oneonta.