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Karl Graves: A Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda, Mighta Moment


I think we’ve all had those fateful “shoulda, coulda, woulda,  mighta” moments in our lives. I haven’t kept track of them all but I’ve had my fair share. 

The election is over and the 5 new members of the Allegany County Board of Legislature are known.  When I came on the board I was not only honored at the opportunity to serve but full of hope as well. Hopeful that I could contribute something that would be of benefit to present and future generations. As you I’m concerned about the loss of population, the loss of opportunity and the high cost of living here. Helping to eliminate or minimize the impact of future “shoulda, coulda, woulda, mighta” moments was my goal. 

With that hope in mind I’d like to give some unsolicited advice to the new members of the board.  I’m doing this because had I known eleven years ago what I’m about to share with you today I might have avoided a few “shoulda, coulda, woulda, mighta” moments of my own. 

One of the most important lessons I learned was that although you may be chomping at the bit to see your dreams and desires about County government -and life in New York as a whole – come to fruition – all will be for naught if you don’t have the 8 votes necessary to make them come true. 

There are several ways to overcome this obstacle but the best way I’ve found is through “one on one” interpersonal communications.  It helps immensely if you use one of the primary traits of leadership – Honesty. 

The major difference between a Legislator here and the ones in Albany and Washington is “staff”. People that are paid to do research, influence and coax people over to your way of thinking. Members of our State and Federal governments have it, you don’t. Yes, a spouse, a family member or a friend may help out. Yes, there are resources in county government that will do what they can to help you with advice – but the real heavy lifting is up to you. Time and energy are your real enemies. 

Conversely, the 26 Department Heads are not your enemy.  One of the best kept secrets in Belmont is that we have great leaders running the 26 departments that make up the crux of Allegany County Government. For me, all things considered, they actually run Allegany County.  The Board of Legislators “Governs”. The Department Heads “Manage”. 

I would recommend that you get to know each of them personally.  First name basis all the better.  Have it so that regardless of the issue or difficulty you can always go back and talk with them.  One help or hindrance is the committee process. Getting an agenda of what will be discussed before a meeting is very beneficial – but only if you read it. All of it. Including the MOE attached. If you have questions about a matter try to call/visit with the department head before the meeting.  Your “gotcha” question can backfire to the extent you look silly or inept.  

It doesn’t mean that you have to agree or disagree with what the Department Head is doing or supporting.  It doesn’t mean that you can’t speak out or oppose something.  Our Constitution guarantees that right.  My recommendation is to try and work with the department head first. It will save you a lot of time and energy. 

“Frustrations?” Sorry but prepare yourself. You’ll have a few if not more than your share. It depends on how hard you try. Normally, in life, when you make important decisions, if you made the wrong one it doesn’t take long before the Devil will have his due. Feedback on whether you made the right or wrong decision usually doesn’t take long. 

Unfortunately I found that not to be the case in every decision we made.  My years as a parent, homeowner, Mayor, Supervisor taught me to respect facts and figures. It always seems that facts and figures are plentiful when someone is trying to sell you something, a commodity, goods or services – but scant when it comes to proof that what you purchased works as promised. Having a finger shaken in your face by an angry Taxpayer is not the kind of feedback anyone should welcome. 

My suggestion is that every Legislator keep it in their minds to find out whether or not your decision was beneficial to the Taxpayer.  If it was – good for you – you did your job. If it wasn’t try your best to correct the mistake. 

As of December 31, 2021 my direct connection with Allegany County government will cease.  Over 45 years of learning and trying to understand the ins and outs of county government will end. Please know that through the ups and downs experienced it’s always been my pleasure to serve and try and pay back some of what He has given me. Please also know that I do not intend to “just fade away”. My intention is to stay active and with His help contribute where, when and how I can. So, if the Wellsville Sun is willing you may from time to time hear from me again. 

Karl Graves

Wellsville, New York

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