By JOHN ANDERSON
As the Philip G. Stockin era began in Allegany County with the new legislative chairman, he made clear the board was inheriting a good financial situation and acknowledged there are issues within the elected Republican officials. He talked about attacking issues, not people and being civil.
During his statement to the county after he was sworn in as chairman by Allegany County Court Judge Terrence Parker, Stockin, R-Caneadea, touched on his remarkable and international career leading to this day.
All 15 legislators are Republicans and Legislator Steve Havey, R-Wellsville, was named majority leader on a recommendation from the Allegany County Republican Party.
However, he feels there is room to bring strained relationships back together and he started by appointing 13 of the other 14 legislators to the first choice committees they requested. He also made sure each legislator is either a chair vice chair and on four committees.
“Every District is represented on each committee, and 13 legislators are serving on the committee of first choice. We are in this together,” Stockin said.
During his speech, Stockin said, “Attack issues … not people. I don’t think much more needs to be said about this expectation. We will not always agree, but we can always be civil in our dialogue.”
He also talked about the need to trust and believe and how conflict can be averted. He also talked about confidentiality
“Confidentiality. This is a must,” Stockin said. “The Board has been very good in this regard during the term just completed, and that needs to continue and be raised to an even higher level.”
“The suggestions I have just recounted, listen and respect, attack issues, not people, trust and believe, maintain confidentiality … these are really common sense things for optimal success in any group,” Stockin continued. “I have great confidence in the 2022 Legislature. We have opportunities before us and I have no doubt we will see some significant strides forward while dealing at the same time with inevitable challenges.”
In his recognition of the work done by out-going and retired legislative chair Curtis Crandall, Stockin said, “I am fully aware of my predecessor’s very big shoes I am being asked to fill. Regardless, with reasonable expectations and with your support, I am confident the challenge will be met.”
Other resolutions that were passed included appointing Legislator Brooke Harris, R-Alfred, as vice chairman.
The rest of the resolutions were reappointments through resolutions. They included Carissa M. Knapp as county administrator, Brenda Rigby-Riehle as clerk of the board, Sarah M. Decker as journal clerk, Knapp as budget officer and county auditor, Keith M. Hooker as director of IT, Anita Mattison as director of the office for the aging, H. Kier Dirlam as director of planning, J.R. Santana Carter as public defender and Brian Perkins as youth bureau program director.
Legislators also approved changing the date of the regular board meetings to the second and fourth Wednesday of each month.
Here is the full transcript of Stockin’s speech:
Good afternoon. I stand here before you this afternoon as the newly elected Chairperson of the Allegany County Board of Legislators. I am fully aware of my predecessor’s very big shoes I am being asked to fill. Regardless, with reasonable expectations and with your support, I am confident the challenge will be met.
Even though I have worked with many of you for the last few years, I suspect there are a good number present here and joining us online who are wondering just who this old man is and what can be expected as we move through the months ahead. My hope in the next few minutes is to share a bit about myself, my leadership philosophy, and my desire for our collaboration as we address Allegany County’s needs and desires.
To make my biographical information a bit more interesting, I want you to consider the various random things I am going to mention and decide which are true and which are false. The true statements, of course, all contribute to shaping me into the person I am today. Let’s get started:
I was born…at an early age…in an Allegany County hospital north of I-86.
My parents were professors at Houghton College.
I graduated from Houghton with a degree in Business Administration.
In 1966, I spent about 15 hours with Cazzie Russell…the number 1 pick in the NBA draft that year.
After college, I went to Puerto Rico for 4 years to serve in a mission school — teaching, coaching, and as Business Manager
In 1971, I returned to Houghton and began 40 years of service at Houghton Academy with the last 28 years as Head of School.
I earned a Master’s degree in Christian School Administration.
In 1967, I shared a meal and the evening with Don Nelson who went on to become the winningest coach in NBA history.
I’ve had the privilege of visiting 17 foreign countries…4 as a tourist…13 in relation to responsibilities at Houghton Academy…and 8 of those 13 multiple times.
I rode a camel on an overnight adventure in Israel’s Negev desert.
I was written up in Sports Illustrated magazine.
I have served 38 years with the Caneadea Town board…31 as Supervisor.
In 2000, with the towns of Hume and Rushford, we formed the first code enforcement consortium in NYS. It now includes 11 towns and 3 villages.
For 21 years, I was a member of the NYS Education Commissioner’s Advisory Council for Non-Public Schools.
I played basketball in three cities in Russia.
I have served on a number of church and community boards.
I have driven a bus in 13 states and Canada.
I have a collection of over 200 neckties, and today I am wearing a chain-mail tie made for me by a former student. In my new role as Chair, I may find it comforting to wear this one more often as I do not own a Kevlar tie.
My wife, Donna, and I have been married 53 years….to each other….and we have 3 daughters and 13 grandchildren.
So what does all that tell you? Only that I have been around the block a few times — around a number of different blocks, all of which combined, have yielded many experiences and perspectives which should aid me in serving as Chairperson of the Legislature. I am, however, under no illusions as to the task ahead.
The question I have been asked most often in recent weeks is….Why did you want to be the Legislature’s Chair? The answer is the same as it has been for most every service position I have been privileged to hold. It has always been a three-step process: I was asked by others to serve, I discussed it with family and close friends, and I prayed about it. When those three meshed into the conviction to move forward, I allowed elections or appointments to take their course, and it has been the same with this position. I am honored to be your Chairperson, and I look forward to serving, but if circumstances took this away from me; even today, I would be just fine.
They tell me I now have power…authority. So, what is my understanding of positions of authority? Very simple….positions of authority are for service….not power. I repeat….positions of authority are for service, not power.
In recent weeks I have been asked numerous times…..what are you going to do about this or that? What are you going to do when you have the power? I find these questions a bit amusing as I just don’t think that way. The question for me is not what am I going to do. The question is — What are WE going to do?
I realize the Chair has to lead the body and guide the process. However, this is not at all about my agenda. It is what are we….Legislators, A-Team, Dept Heads, employees….what are WE going to do to move Allegany County forward?
Here are my expectations for how to best work together.
- Listen to and respect each other. There is an African proverb that translates roughly…”young folks run fast, but old folks know the road.” Now this primarily refers to age but I would suggest in the context of county government, consider this to refer to experience. We lost a huge amount of experience…of institutional knowledge…with the retirement of five legislators. However, we still have some veterans, particularly among our A-Team and Department Heads. In terms of county government, I do not consider myself a veteran…one of the “old folks.” I am still on the learning curve. And nothing in NYS is as easy to accomplish as it might be. So, voice your ideas, share your dreams, but listen carefully and respect the “old folks” among us who have been down the road.
- Attack issues….not people. I don’t think much more needs to be said about this expectation. We will not always agree, but we can always be civil in our dialogue.
- Trust and believe. I would encourage us to believe what others say until there is evidence to the contrary. There is a great story in the Good Book…..Joshua, Chapter 22. Israel was taking the land that had been promised to them. Some stayed on the east side of the Jordan River while most of them settled on the west side. The east-siders helped the west-siders conquer the land and then returned to the east side. By the river, they built a stone structure. Some member of the west-siders…for whatever reason….started the rumor among the west- siders that the east-siders had created their own altar for worship which was not perceived to be a positive initiative. The west-siders….emotions high….were going to go in mass and straighten out those east-siders….go to war if necessary. Then someone suggested they just send a few guys to check it out….find out what was really going on. They went, asked the east-siders, what’s the deal? They were told the structure was not an altar for worship but a memorial so they would not forget the victory and that they were all one nation. … Come check us out anytime. The guys went back to the west-siders and gave their report. And here is the part I really like….the rest of the west-siders… who had been stirred up….said…Ok…cool…we accept and believe the report. No mention of some grumbling about how you can’t really trust those east-siders, etc. Conflict was averted. Believe and trust until there is a legitimate reason not to.
- Confidentiality. This is a must. The Board has been very good in this regard during the term just completed, and that needs to continue and be raised to an even higher level.
The suggestions I have just recounted…listen and respect…attack issues, not people….trust and believe…maintain confidentiality…. these are really common sense things for optimal success in any group. I have great confidence in the 2022 Legislature. We have opportunities before us and I have no doubt we will see some significant strides forward while dealing at the same time with inevitable challenges.
COVID will continue to be a challenge as will NYS mandates. I am confident we will see further development at the Crossroads and in a number of our vacant commercial properties. We will continue to work on reducing the County tax rate. The ARPA funds will provide resources for a number of long-desired projects to be completed, and we will continue and enhance the many and varied services offered to County residents of all ages. Yes, there is a lot going for Allegany County right now. Those who went before us have brought the County to a truly strong position. To be part of this Legislature at this point in time is indeed a privilege.
In closing….just a word about committee appointments. The list will be distributed at the close of our session, but I will tell you that everyone has a Chair or Vice-Chair. Everyone is on four committees. Every District is represented on each committee, and 13 legislators are serving on committee of first choice. We are in this together.
One last request….you will notice that Legislator Harris has a number of new positions. Please help me in keeping an eye on him. If his ambitions grow, he could well have increasing interest in my demise.
Oh…almost forgot….those true or false statements with which I began….they are all True.
I am honored and humbled to serve as your Chairperson. May God grant us the wisdom that comes from above and guide us as….together….we serve the good folks of Allegany County.