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November 12, 2011

 

Mayor pledges smooth transition

Her last weeks in office will be spent continuing to work on key issues

MayorBob Ellis/staff photographer
Cortland Mayor Susan Feiszli stands in her office Friday afternoon. Her term ends in December after she lost the September primary and the November election. She said she is proud of her accomplishments, pointing to the hiring of a new city administrator and low taxes.

By MATTHEW NOJIRI
Staff Reporter
mnojiri@cortlandstandard.net

After a tough defeat in the primary and a last-minute write-in campaign, Mayor Susan Feiszli says she is beginning the transition to life away from the mayor’s office.
Feiszli said she congratulated Alderman Brian Tobin (D- 4th Ward) on Wednesday after his victory in Tuesday’s general election for mayor.
Feiszli said she offered to help Tobin with the transition into office, whether it be through setting up meetings with city employees, introducing him to county and state contacts or discussing scheduling routines.
Feiszli said losing the primary to Tobin was difficult but that she is getting ready for the next step. After the primary, Feiszli criticized Tobin through her Facebook page and social media but said she wants to ensure a smooth transition.
“I think about this as a sports game,” Feiszli said. “You play as hard as you can with the goal in mind of winning. At the end of the game, you still shake hands and congratulate the winner.”
Tobin agreed that any lingering tensions from the campaign should be put aside.
“I think outside observers would say the council and mayor work in the best interests of the city,” Tobin said.
Tobin defeated Feiszli in the primary with nearly 70 percent of the vote. He said he would talk with the mayor, city employees and others in the coming weeks but added that he is still serving as 4th Ward alderman until the end of the year.
Feiszli said she hoped Tobin would alert the city officials in appointed positions — the city attorney, clerk, the mayor’s assistant and the director of administration and finance — whether they would be reappointed so they can make plans.
Tobin said he would let current mayoral appointees know where they stood, although he said it was too early in the process to discuss any plans publicly.
Tobin won the general election Tuesday with 1,672 votes to Republican Erich DeMunn’s 1,103 votes. Conservative candidate Lorraine Karpowich received 99 votes.
Feiszli received 169 write-in votes. Before being elected mayor in 2009, Feiszli served as a three-term alderman in the 6th Ward.
Tobin’s term begins Jan. 1.
Feiszli said there are a few issues she would like to address before she leaves office.
She said the city is working on policies and procedures for city vehicles and discipline. The city is also handling some of the items listed in the city’s Corrective Action Plan for the state comptroller’s report, such as internal controls for city finances.
Feiszli said she is talking with officials at Marietta Corp. to determine the pretreatment equipment it will need so the city can again take the company’s wastewater at the city treatment plant on Port Watson Street.
She also said the city’s legal department continues to pursue its request for the city to be the lead agency for the environmental review of SUNY Cortland’s proposed student life center.
Feiszli said she “made some waves” during her time as mayor, pointing to the resignations of former Director of Administration Bryan Gazda and city attorney Ron Walsh. She said code issues and a lawsuit over the city’s rental permit program also made headlines during her tenure.
But she said she had few regrets and that she would leave with pride. A few accomplishments included two consecutive zero percent tax increases, working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to recalculate its flood map, and changing from a broker to a consultant for city health insurance, which gave the city more bargaining power and the ability to negotiate a lower payment plan.
She also listed increased cooperation between the city’s department heads as another accomplishment.
She said one issue that needs to be addressed is an earthen berm in the city Water Works. The berm would divert water to a detention pond and stem periodic flooding on the city’s West End. The city has set aside $60,000 for the berm in next year’s budget and bonded for another $60,000.
Tobin agreed the mayor and the Common Council had taken “a couple of steps forward” in the last few years, citing the Corrective Action Plan, the berm and other areas.
Feiszli also said she was confident that the new director of administration and finance, Mack Cook, would be an asset to help “steer the ship” in the next few years. Cook, 59, was appointed to the position in September after spending five months as interim director of finance for Northhampton County, Va., and serving three years as the comptroller and director of finance and operations for the city of Beaufort, S.C.
Feiszli said she would remain in Cortland after her mayoral tenure ends, devoting more time to her business, Valley Design, on North Church Street. She said she would need to rebuild her client base after spending her time in the mayor’s office during the last two years.
As her term winds down, Feiszli says she will be very busy. Next week, she plans to attend a public hearing in Binghamton regarding the state Department of Environmental Conservation regulations for hydrofracking.
“I will always be an advocate for what I believe in,” Feiszli said.

 

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