County leadership roles largely stay the same for 2021

Oswego County Legislature Chair James Weatherup, R-Central Square, has been re-elected to lead the governing body.

Weatherup remains chair, Schadt replaces Drumm as minority leader

OSWEGO — Republican James Weatherup will retain his post as chairman of the Oswego County Legislature in 2021 following leadership votes last week.

The Oswego County Legislature held its annual organizational meeting Thursday and voted on a number of legislature and party leadership positions, along with several housekeeping measures ahead of the coming year. As chairman of the county Legislature, Weatherup is tasked with relegating committee assignments, personnel and overseeing the day-to-day execution of county government.

Weatherup, R-Central Square, was re-elected to lead the legislature, along with legislators Linda Lockwood, R-Volney, and Terry Wilbur, R-Hannibal, who were re-elected to their posts as vice chair and majority leader, respectively.

Legislator Marie Schadt, D-Minetto, will replace Tom Drumm, D-Oswego, as minority leader.

Chairman since January 2019, Weatherup led county government through the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and called being unanimously re-elected by his peers “humbling,” especially as the county is going through difficult times.

“It’s humbling to know these people have faith in me,” Weatherup said, adding it was encouraging to have the support of his fellow legislators.

Weatherup said as chairman he’s made an effort to include everyone in the decision-making process, adding it’s been made more difficult with the COVID-19 pandemic and the meetings largely being moved to a remote setting. Despite all the challenges facing the county, Weatherup said the county Legislature would keep moving forward with the initiatives and projects while combating the pandemic.

“Government itself, we have to keep moving and we can’t let this thing win,” Weatherup said. “The roads have to be plowed, the bad guys have to be arrested and the people that can’t help themselves have to be helped.”

Over the course of the next year, Weatherup noted county lawmakers would have to start thinking about how to deliver some services in different ways in the future, perhaps without the need for as many, or as large, brick and mortar offices as in the past.

Majority Leader Terry Wilbur, who was re-elected to that post to lead the Republican Caucus in the coming year, applauded Weatherup for leading the county through one of its darkest chapters in recent years, and said it was an honor to support his re-election as the top county lawmaker.

Wilbur, who has served as the Republican majority leader alongside Weatherup for the past two years, called his reappointment to the role an honor and “a huge privilege.” Wilbur said the leadership role gives him the added responsibility of ensuring that the Republican voices are heard at the county level, and it’s not something he takes lightly.

“I work every day in this position as majority leader talking to members of my caucus and making sure they’re able to represent their districts to the fullest and that we’re able to get everything we can done for those districts,” Wilbur said.

Looking at the coming year, Wilbur said the Republican Caucus updates its goals and objectives regularly, and would be meeting in the near future to evaluate past performance and set new objectives. Wilbur noted the Republican majority, which makes up 23 of the 25 seats in the county Legislature, is a diverse representation of the county, with farmers, small business owners and others, saying it “really helps us better serve individuals throughout the county.”

“The goals will be an ongoing discussion, but definitely keeping taxes low and maintaining the health, welfare and safety of our county is very important,” Wilbur said. He added that infrastructure projects would also be a focal point in the coming year.

Minority Leader Marie Schadt, who along with Drumm makes up the legislature’s Democratic Caucus, said the leadership role would not change her objectives in the county Legislature, which have included efforts to tighten spending and push for more accurate budgeting. Schadt noted in the first meeting of the year, county lawmakers were already asked to approve a $100,000 contract that was not part of the budget.

“We need a much clearer, tighter budget format going forward, especially in the times we’re in right now,” Schadt said.

In recent years, Schadt has been a constant voice in the legislature calling for consolidation and streamlining of services as a way to reduce spending, not only on the county level but for towns, villages and cities as well. Those efforts would continue in the coming year, she said, adding local governments need “to be more cohesive.”

“We have to think outside the box,” Schadt said, noting the county could potentially end up losing a significant number of small businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “I just feel a smarter approach is a better approach, and I think right now we need to get really smart. I want to try to legitimately save money and shave the budget.”

In other leadership positions, Legislator Patrick Twiss, R-Mexico, replaced Tim Stahl, R-Oswego Town, as majority whip, and Drumm replaced Schadt as minority whip.

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