County Legislature elects leadership

Led by New York Supreme Court Judge Gregory Gilbert, at left, Oswego County legislators take their oaths of office. Six new lawmakers were sworn in at Thursday's ceremony.

OSWEGO — Republican control of the Oswego County Legislature is now almost complete with six new GOP lawmakers sworn in Thursday.

The Legislature’s annual reorganizational meeting saw the 25-member body elect officers, assign committee membership and look forward to its 2020 session, among a number of other business items.

Legislature Chairman James Weatherup, R-Hastings, was elected to a second consecutive term as top officer. Linda Lockwood, R-Volney, was similarly returned to the role of vice chair.

“It’s very humbling,” Weatherup said of receiving unanimous approval from his peers in the county Legislature. “I’m looking forward to a good year working with everyone here.”

There are no major initiatives on his 2020 agenda, the chairman said, adding the next year would be a continuation of the legislature’s efforts over the past several years to deal with the many challenges facing the county and mandates handed down from Albany.

Weatherup noted, however, “the budget process starts tomorrow” for county legislators, who would constantly be reviewing spending throughout the year.

“Although it was small we did have a tax rate decrease which was symbolic of our thoughts that we’re only going to take what we need from the taxpayer,” Weatherup said. “Moving forward, I don’t know if we can, but I’d like to repeat that.”  

Democrats have been marginalized due to a spate of retirements and departures from its five-member conference last year. Now down to just two members, Legislator Tom Drumm, D-Oswego, will serve as minority leader with Legislator Marie Schadt, D-Minetto, taking the role of minority whip.

Drumm said Democrats in the county Legislature would continue efforts to be watchdogs for the county.

He and Schadt would work together to fight for common sense measures and fiscal responsibilty, Drumm said after the meeting.

“Even with our smaller numbers that’s only going to be more important,” he said. “We’re going to call things out on the carpet that we don’t think is right, and budget-wise we’ve always been the fiscal watchdogs.”

Schadt said she would continue the Democrats’ efforts in recent years to push for more shared services, both at the county level and between other municipalities, and a reduction in the number of county legislators.

Longtime government operations professionals Richard Mitchell III and Phil Church were reappointed as county attorney and county administrator, respectively. Church has been the county administrator since 2007.  Legislators also reappointed department directors for a variety of local government components such as solid waste, emergency management and youth bureau.

Majority Leader Terry Wilbur, R-Hannibal, will serve his second stint in that role, and said the Republican caucus would soon be meeting to set forth goals for the coming year to “protect taxpayer money and continue to move the county forward.” Wilbur cited economic development, infrastructure improvements and securing a tax deal with Exelon for the Nine Mile Point nuclear facilities as major focuses in the coming year.

The Legislature also unanimously passed a resolution advanced by Legislator and Majority Whip Tim Stahl, R-Oswego Town, supporting the county’s involvement in the state Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (REDI).

“Projects that repair and fortify properties and infrastructure which have been impacted by recent flooding and wave action resulting from the new higher water levels on Lake Ontario are consistent with Oswego County’s commitment to economic development and to its businesses and residents which help sustain our local economy,” Stahl’s resolution read.

The Legislature is “committed to partnering with and participating in New York’s REDI Program” with local match or in-kind services and established a “local match fund of up to $100,000” for local REDI submissions for eligible businesses.

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