By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – In 2016, administering a half-dozen major state and federal grants at the same time, Cooperstown’s part-time, unpaid village trustees concluded they needed more administrative firepower at 22 Main.
A Village Board committee – Mayor Jeff Katz and Trustees (now mayor) Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch and Lou Allstadt – invited a team from NYCOM, the New York Conference of Mayors, to assess operations.
When NYCOM recommended creating the village-administrator job, there was a roadblock.
“We can’t afford a new salary,” Katz recalled telling the team.
“You don’t have to,” came the reply. “You’ve got that person”: 11-year Village Clerk Teri Barown. “Give her the title.
Give her a raise commensurate to the title” – at the time, from $55,000 to $70,000.
And that was it.
“Whatever success we had when I was mayor couldn’t have been done without Teri,” Katz continued. “She was crucial to it all. It was one thing to get the money; another to administer the grant.”
But all good things must come to an end.
Monday, Oct. 5, village trustees accepted Teri Barown’s retirement letter: She plans to care for two grandchildren – son Mike’s Blake, 8, and Olivia, 6, whose parents are strapped for childcare in time of COVID-19.
“She made herself absolutely essential to our village operations,” Tillapaugh said in announcing the news at the Village Board’s organizational meeting.
The trustees decided to advertise the village clerk position – Barown continued to fulfill those responsibilities – and reassign duties until a way forward becomes clear.
Barown obtained her “dream job” in 2005 when she was hired as village clerk, and village-administrator job was even better, she said on her promotion in 2016.
A native of Cooperstown, Barown is a 1979 CCS graduate.
She attended Herkimer Community College to become a paralegal, then studied business administration at Utica School of Commerce’s Oneonta campus.
She worked in the late Attorney Lynn Green’s offices on Main Street for eight years, then spent 12 years in Otsego County government as assistant county personnel officer. She joined the village after three years as NYSHA (now Fenimore Museum) membership manager, and four as Laurens Central School
Son Mike, Town of Maryland, works for Norfolk Southern out of Hartwick. Teri also has two daughters, Julie, on maternity leave with 5-week-old Rhyder from L.M. Townsend Catering, Cooperstown. And Nicole, who is single and working at Bassett Hospital’s accounting department.
Looking ahead, Barown hopes to travel at some point, maybe to Ireland. “I’d love to get back to Hawaii,” where Julie was married.
For a while, Barown has been the longest-serving municipal administrator in Otsego County. The City of Oneonta, the only other community with professional management, has had three administrators since 2012.
Barown was actually the village’s fourth administrator, after Village Clerk Doug Walrath was promoted to administrator in 1990. He was succeeded by Dick Linn, who served two years, and was succeeded by Trustee Giles Russell, an unpaid volunteer. When Russell stepped aside in 1995, the position was vacant
for 20 years.
Why did Barown succeed? “She’s a super-hard worker,” Katz said.
“She cared,” he continued. “But it was more than that. She’s emotionally invested in her job and the wellbeing of the village. Whatever was thrown her way, she did it gladly and she did it well. She’s tenacious that way.”
Add as single mom she raised three children and got them through college, he remembered telling her once, “You’re like a hero.”