By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA — City Hall was packed with more than 50 people Wednesday, July 14, as four women received the Trailblazer Award, two for 2020 and two for 2021, for being “pillars of support” in the community.
The women who received the award were Stacie Haynes of the Susquehanna SPCA, former Oneonta Mayor Kim Muller, Oneonta High School teacher Cathy Lynch and City Judge Lucy Bernier.
Mayor Gary Herzig presented the awards.
Haynes thanked everybody in the room for the “very meaningful honor.”
“One way we can really bring people together is with animals,” Haynes said. “This really is an honor and I’m so grateful.”
Herzig said Muller was the “true definition of a trailblazer” and said when visiting state legislators, “they just want to know how Kim’s doing.”
He also called Muller a pioneer in environmental issues. “This was before being an environmentalist was cool.”
“It’ll come as no surprise that being a trailblazer is hard,” Muller said. She said being a trailblazer required a “tenacity and willingness to take risks.”
Muller said she was the youngest woman at the time to serve on the county board. She said some of the men would caucus in the men’s bathroom, so one day she decided to follow them in. Her story drew cheers from the crowd.
She called being mayor, “incredibly rewarding. It was an adventure and it was fun.”
Lynch founded the Students Against Destructive Decisions at Oneonta High School and Herzig said she “exemplifies everything we want in a teacher and person who looks after our young people.” She was also founder of the Sunshine Committee and sent valentines to every senior during the coronavirus pandemic.
Lynch said she was happy to be a part of the group of women who had won the award. “I don’t really think I fit in there, but I try,” Lynch said. “I’ve been very lucky because Oneonta is my home.”
Bernier said she was “very honored” and “very humbled to receive” the award and also “a little embarrassed. I don’t think I deserve it.” She said “leveling the playing field” has “been my emphasis” regardless of race or legal representation.
“I don’t know if I succeeded but that’s what I try to do,” she said. “If you forget someone’s humanity, it’s like they’re moving through some machine. … I don’t want to be a part of that.”
Bernier she she believes women working the frontlines during COVID, whether nurses or grocery workers, were “unsung heroes.”
“I accept this award for them as well,” Bernier said.
The names of those who won will be written on a plaque in city hall to remain indefinitely.