A funny thing happened on the way to the Legislature

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It was an interesting January as I served as the chairman of the Tompkins County Legislature. The last time a Republican was chair was about eight years ago when Frank Proto was chair for two weeks. Before that? Let’s say it’s been a while.

After a number of deadlocked votes for chair, I served until the county clerk chose Democrat Shawna Black as interim chair, but thanks to a 9 to 5 vote last week, Leslyn McBean-Clairborne became the permanent chair for 2020 with the Republicans giving her the majority.

Leslyn is fair, thoughtful and kind and speaks her mind. She has the ability to disagree without being condescending. I look forward to her leadership.

I’m happy to say we had a good month while I was chairman. We moved onto the first step of building a downtown conference center. We also saw the dedication of the airport and a visit and tour by our U.S. Congressman Tom Reed, who helped secure $10 million for the airport upgrades.

I was joined by county legislators Martha Robertson, Anna Kelles, Henry Granison and Rich John in greeting Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul for a state of the state presentation at our economic forum sponsored by the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce and Tompkins County Area Development.

In local economic development, the county began a lobbying effort for converting the now-closed Cayuga power plant into a data center. Our county team travelled to Albany this month and lobbied for several county issues including the changes the governor is contemplating for Medicaid, but in terms of economic development, the data center took precedent. It has the potential to be the largest single investment in the county’s history and would recapture a use for what now is a dormant asset.

We welcomed in African American History Month with an awe-inspiring rendition of “His Eye is on The Sparrow” by Naya Griles, Maria Ellis-Jordan and Oliver Scott.

We named two new department heads, Kenneth Clarke as the head of the Office of Human Rights and Natalie Branosky as workforce development director. We welcome them and our other new employees to the county team.

In serious national and international news, the county kept watch on the coronavirus, and we were briefed at length by Health Department Head Frank Kruppa. He gave a detailed overview of what this virus means for the county, where we are with it and where we could be headed.

I want to thank my fellow legislators for this chance to serve the county in a different capacity. I think we accomplished a lot in a month, and I was proud to represent you. I also want to thank Cornell, TCAD, the Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, the city of Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick and his staff, and County Administrator Jason Molino.

I’m also grateful to our department heads and county employees for understanding the unusual position I was in, welcoming me in that role and working with me to accomplish county business that simply couldn’t be put off.

Even though I won’t be chair likely ever again, I did the best I could with the time I had, and I hope I made my colleagues and my constituents proud. I look forward to continuing my work for the town of Lansing and Tompkins County as the District 6 county legislator.

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