Benton, Now Bergene, Trustees Under Age 30
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
Newly elected Village Trustee Hannah Bergene was already sold on Cooperstown.
But her first Induction Weekend working for the Chamber of Commerce – in 2015, the Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez year – she got sold all over again.
Baseball fans were jammed onto the front steps of Chamber headquarters in that yellow-and-white cottage at 31 Chestnut St., trying to catch a glimpse of their heroes passing by in the Legends of the Game parade.
“They were so in awe,” said Bergene. “They had waited all their lives to come here. We” – who live here – “take it for granted.”
She maintained that excitement for her five years at the Chamber, where she rose to marketing director under Executive Director Matt Hazzard, and for the past two years as social media director at Paperkite Creative, the Internet marketing firm.
Tuesday, March 16, Bergene and Trustee Cindy Falk, the deputy mayor, ran unopposed and received 139 and 136 votes respectively. Both are Democrats.
She ran, Bergene said in an interview Saturday, March 13, “because Mac asked me too” – Trustee Mac Benton, 23, who with County Democratic Chairman Clark Oliver, 22, have been recruiting young people here, in Oneonta and countywide to run for office.
The new trustee, her interest piqued by her work at the Chamber of Commerce, had considered elected office at some point, but “in my mind, it was years in the future.
“But why not? Why not get involved?” she asked herself. “The village needs young people to attract other young people here.”
For his part, Benton said Trustee Jim Dean, 80, whose seat Bergene will fill, had wanted to retire. “He had decided, if there was a good candidate to fill the seat, particularly someone young like Hannah, that he would be supportive,” Benton said. “Hannah’s young, she’s hardworking, and she shares the vision for progress that a lot of trustees do.”
The Village Board has been criticized from time to time for not being sufficiently pro-business, he said, and Hannah, with her Chamber experience, would be someone businesspeople could turn to.
“Working with small business,” said Bergene of her Chamber, “I saw the passion young small-business owners have for their businesses.”
Plus, “with the pandemic, a lot of people have already started to come home,” she said. “Which is wonderful. We want them to stay.”
The new trustee is the daughter of Gregory and Susan (Jones) Bergene, who both had careers in the Cooperstown Central School District. Her sister, Kristin, 33, is a student services administrator at RPI.
She majored in Hospitallity at SUNY Oneonta, worked at the Stagecoach, and was hired away in 2015 by Hazzard.