March 19, 2009
Dryden mayor reflects on her time in office
Reba Taylor says she accomplished much in her 12 years; she leaves her seat on April 6
DRYDEN — Reba Taylor entered village politics 13 years ago because other people liked her energy.
She had retired early from Cornell University’s payroll department and was volunteering in village groups. Two fellow Democrats, Elaine Young and Sue Gilbert, convinced her to run for village trustee.
Taylor won. A year later, in 1997, she ran for mayor at the suggestion of Mayor Robert Day, a Republican who was stepping down. She was unopposed.
Taylor remained mayor for five more two-year terms. She decided in February not to seek a seventh term.
Along the way, she switched affiliation from Democrat to Republican, and helped bring $7.5 million to $8 million in state and federal funds to rebuild streets and curbing, add sidewalks and fix bridges and sewer lines, chiefly on West Main and North streets.
Village residents chose Republican Randy Sterling as her successor Wednesday. Taylor’s time as mayor will end April 6.
At tonight’s Village Board meeting, she plans to submit a tentative budget for the coming year and continue to seek funding for the wastewater treatment plant the board plans to build on the current plant’s site.
“Twelve years is a long time,” Taylor said earlier this week. “I wanted to stay and see the new sewage treatment plant built, but then where does it end? I want to enjoy my retirement.”
Taylor, 63, and her husband, Ken, plan to travel. Usually at this time of year, she heads for Tampa to visit a childhood friend, Joanne Woodin, but this year Woodin will come north.
The Republican Party held a farewell party for Taylor Sunday at the Village Hall. Tompkins County Legislator Michael Hattery (R-Dryden), officers of Neptune Hose Co. 1 volunteer fire department and Carl Haynes, president of Tompkins Cortland Community College all thanked Taylor for her service. Congratulatory letters came from state Sen. James Seward (R-Milford) and U.S. Rep. Michael Arcuri (D-Utica).
Seward has been a strong Taylor ally, helping her obtain state funding for her efforts to renovate infrastructure. His early support was one of the reasons she left the Democratic Party during her second term as mayor.
“I’d endorsed Alan Cohen for mayor of Ithaca, and the Tompkins County Democrats told me that I could not do such things,” Taylor said. “They said I had to do things their way.”
She also felt that Assemblyman Martin Luster, a fellow Democrat, had not helped her find funding for village projects, while Seward had arranged funding through the state Department of Transportation.
“I waited until after I was re-elected, then I became a Republican,” she said.
An Ithaca native, Taylor never earned a college degree but studied landscape architecture at Cornell, then pre-veterinary biology and English at Cornell, Ithaca College and TC3.
“I studied a lot and was master of nothing,” she said. “I thought about teaching, but my roommate was entering that field and she had horror stories. Then I studied science because I was interested in that. I learn quickly. But I never finished because I ran out of money.”
She said her science background helped her land her first job, inventorying drug bills for Medicaid.
“I had a knack for remembering numbers and people,” she said.
Taylor was hired in Cornell’s payroll staff and reached management level, retiring in 1991 due to medical reasons.
Hattery said she was recruited to run for village office because residents saw her energy in helping to organize Dryden’s bicentennial. She ran for mayor after less than a year as trustee.
“(Mayor) Bob Day was looking for a successor and the pool of people who run for office goes up and down,” Hattery said. “I was a village trustee but I was too busy to do it. Reba was a Democrat but Bob felt she worked hard and did her homework.”
Hattery called her an activist type of mayor, who looks for things to improve in a community and pursues them aggressively.
Former mayor and county Legislator Mike Lane said Taylor “has served the people of Dryden for quite a number of years and I, for one, am appreciative. There are a lot of little things people don’t know about being mayor, things that can be very frustrating.”
Lane said Taylor has every right to be proud of what she accomplished with the village’s streets and bridges.
“She deserves kudos for that,” he said.
To read this article and more, pick up today's Cortland Standard
Click here to subscribe