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The Best Gifts from Schoharie County

Karekin Markarian Obituary

Written By Editor on 12/30/19 | 12/30/19

Karekin Carl Markarian passed away on December 21, 2019 from heart failure.  Carl was born on June 1, 1936 in New York City to Mirhan and Mairenie Markarian.  He graduated from WC Bryant High School, served two years in the US Army stationed in Germany and upon discharge, lived in Astoria, NY until 1972 when he moved to Tannersville, NY.  He was a long time employee at the Hunter Mountain Ski Slopes, a job he loved.

Carl was predeceased by his parents, his sisters Rose Simonian Howard and Elizabeth Jenkins, his brother, Markar Markarian, his niece, Irene Nahabedian and his great nephew, Alex Nahabedian.  He is survived by his nephew, Sarkis Simonian, his nieces Constance Simonian, Arlene Markarian, and Morgan Jenkins, and great nephews Sarkis Simonian III and Vahan Nahabedian.

Carl was a gentle and generous person who loved his family and friends.  He loved country music, especially Hank Williams, and would play his guitar at family gatherings, where he would sing his favorite songs in his soulful voice.

There will be a gathering of family and friends on Monday December 30, 2019 from 1:00 – 3:00 pm at Millspaugh Camerato Funeral Home, 139 Jefferson Hgts., Catskill.  Interment will follow in the spring.

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Schoharie County Board of Supervisors Organizational Meeting

Written By Editor on 12/28/19 | 12/28/19


NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN, that the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors will be
holding their organizational meeting on Thursday, January 2, 2020 at 5:00 pm at 284 Main
Street, 3 rd Floor, Schoharie County Office Building, Board of Supervisors Chambers, Schoharie,
New York 12157.

Sheryl Largeteau, Clerk of the Board
Schoharie County Board of Supervisors
284 Main Street, 3 rd Floor
Schoharie County Office Building
Schoharie, New York 12157
(518) 295-8347

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Town of Windham Reorganizational Meeting Notice

Written By Editor on 12/21/19 | 12/21/19

NOTICE is hereby given that the Windham Town Board has scheduled the
Organizational Meeting of the Town of Windham for Thursday, January 2, 2020 at 7:00 p.m.
at the Town Hall, 371 State Rt. 296, Hensonville, NY.

By Order of the Town Board
Bonnie Poehmel
Town Clerk
Dated: December 12, 2019

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Cherry to Leave Treasurer's Office After 24 Years

Written By Cicero on 12/19/19 | 12/19/19

An Era Draws to a Close in Schoharie County
By Timothy Knight 

Schoharie County Treasurer William “Bill” Cherry has held his title for almost as long as I have been alive. He came into countywide office on January 1st, 1996 and after twenty-four years of dedicated public service, he is set to leave elected office over the holiday season on December 31st

For many in Schoharie County, he is the only treasurer they have ever known. In a recent sit-down interview with the Mountain Eagle, Mr. Cherry discussed the past twenty-four years in a wide-ranging conversation that touched on everything from accomplishments to regrets. 

His story began many years before our final interview, nearly four decades in fact, when Mr. Cherry was a relatively new member of the Middleburgh community in the late 1970s. A member of the local Rotary Club, the young man printed community television guides out of his house. 

As Mr. Cherry recalls it, he was approached by the then-Mayor of Middleburgh – Charlie Slater – and asked to become a Village Trustee. The only problem is that the prospective trustee had no idea what the position actually entailed besides fleeting references in American cinema.

“But I only had heard the word ‘trustee’ in one context: it was the old George Raft prison movies where the trustee was the guy who had a stick with a nail in the end and he would pick up trash,” explained Mr. Cherry. Adding that Mayor Slater had said something about meeting in the park, the one-day treasurer came to the expectation of being handed one of those sticks and a canvas sack.

Luck would have Mr. Cherry being appointed to the Village Board instead of picking up errant trash, however. He would end up serving a few terms in Middleburgh before he moved his family and business to nearby Schoharie, where he was again approached to be Village Trustee and then later encouraged to run for Schoharie Town Supervisor.

Soon after becoming a supervisor, he was approached by then-Treasurer Lawrence “Larry” Tague to consider running for the countywide position due to Mr. Tague’s impending retirement. Mr. Cherry agreed to run for the position, and he was elected in November of 1995.

Early challenge

Upon taking office from his predecessor, Mr. Cherry found himself in the difficult position of uncovering a serious crime that was committed by Mr. Tague.

Alluding to a famous picture of a lighthouse off the coast of France that hangs in his office, Mr. Cherry said the lighthouse is never going to move, because it’s rock solid. It’s a picture he replaced after the original was destroyed in the flood, but it has hung there throughout his career as a reminder.

Commenting “Honestly, that event did shape the rest of my career,” Mr. Cherry explained that he was a political newcomer “who uncovered the thefts of money that was in the previous treasurer’s care and I brought it to life” by reporting the theft of three estates entrusted to Mr. Tague to court.

Ultimately, despite facing an immense amount of pressure from the political hierarchy, Mr. Cherry knew he was faced with a choice that gave him no choice. Further explaining that the press had tried to tie Mr. Tague’s crimes to the treasurer’s office, Mr. Cherry quipped “Government didn’t steal that money, Larry Tague did.”

Mr. Tague was arrested, convicted, and imprisoned for his crime.

Change in approach

In addition to the political changes that occurred when coming into office, so did the technological and regulatory components of the treasurer’s office dramatically change under Mr. Cherry’s leadership.

Explaining that all records were maintained by hand in ledgers when he first became treasurer, with all tax records being kept on index cards written in pencil, Mr. Cherry began the process of computerizing the treasurer’s office. Unfortunately, all of the hand-written records were destroyed in the flood, but they had electronic backups.

Another significant change in how the treasurer’s office operated was the implementation of monthly payment agreements for property owners in arrears on land taxes. Recalling an experience he had with an elderly lady from the Seward area who could not afford to pay her $600 in delinquent taxes, Mr. Cherry said that he realized “Some of the people I worked for were really struggling.”

This exchange spurred Mr. Cherry to authorize the elderly lady to make monthly payments on her taxes even though he did not have the legal ability to do so. Eventually, this practice was legally adopted, with Schoharie County being one of the few counties that does it. “The thing I’m most proud of is the number of people we’ve been able to help with payment agreements,” said Mr. Cherry.

Assemblyman Cherry?

Following the 2000 Census and subsequent legislative redistricting, Schoharie County found itself as the only county wholly part of the then 127th Assembly District and Mr. Cherry felt that the county should have a voice in Albany. Therefore, he disembarked on what he described in our interview as a “huge mistake” – he ran for Assembly in 2002.

Explaining that he thought there was a political ladder he was supposed to climb, Mr. Cherry tossed his hat into a three-way Republican primary for the Assembly seat and admitted that he was never so relieved then when it was over. In comparison to the tens of thousands of dollars his two opponents spent, Mr. Cherry expended only three thousand dollars and lost the primary by only 56 votes.

With his only foray into higher office ending in defeat, the treasurer remained focused on Schoharie County.

Debts and Floods

When Mr. Cherry took office as treasurer, Schoharie County was deeply in debt to the tune of $15 million with only a $31 million county budget to show for it. Explaining that he “made it my goal to get out of debt,” Schoharie County would become debt free by 2007. Unfortunately, mother nature would have other plans with the county’s financial fortunes.

Stating “the flood was a major challenge” might have been Mr. Cherry’s one understatement, as the floodwaters of Hurricane Irene caused sales revenues to decline, residential population to decline, and as the long serving treasurer put it, “county government was down on one knee.”

Functioning with no electronics and relocated from the Schoharie County office building, the treasurer’s office was tasked with paying payroll the Friday after the flood with no official checks.

“One of the hardest things was creating the confidence that government was going to continue to operate,” said Mr. Cherry before adding, “One of the important things was to pay county employees.” Thus, what was old became new again, as the treasurer’s office got their hand on starter checks from another branch of their bank outside of the flood and they hand wrote every employee’s check that week.

Mr. Cherry commented, “It was a huge challenge, but by the end of Friday, I think the people of the county knew we were going to get through this.”

With the flood came a new responsibility for Mr. Cherry: flood recovery coordinator. Tasked with overseeing the county’s response to Irene’s devastation, Mr. Cherry worked diligently to protect the county building by installing flood gates around the complex, to restore a sense of history by advocating for the Blenhein Bridge to be rebuilt, and to ensure a new county jail was constructed outside the flood plain.

“I’m really damn proud of these flood recovery projects,” stated Mr. Cherry, who further noted the total cost to local taxpayers is only $6 million in flood recovery debt. He is currently advocating for the county board to utilize a portion of the fund balance to pay off those debts.

Times are a-changin’

Despite the success Mr. Cherry had with flood recovery efforts after Irene, his relationship with the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors began to rapidly deteriorate during and as a result of the Ethington scandal, which was led by a Conservative Party insurgency both on the county board and in appointed governmental positions.

Explaining that there was a sense of the “16 being greater than the rest,” with Mr. Cherry namely blaming former Jefferson Town Supervisor Dan Singletary for such viewpoints, the treasurer said that the county board began to pull itself away from him.

This came at a time when Mr. Cherry became an outsized figure in county government, as he and a handful of allies on the county board began counter attacking the Ethington clan. He publicly supported his friend and Democratic Schoharie Town Supervisor Gene Milone while backing a successful Republican challenge against Mr. Singletary.

Ultimately, with the release of two reports that painted a sweeping picture of governmental wrongdoing by Personnel Director Cassandra Ethington and her cohorts, the political tide swept the conservatives out of office and a new crop of supervisors emerged. “Her dismissal was the right thing to do,” said Mr. Cherry about Ms. Ethington.

However, with this new crop of supervisors came an assumption that county government was dysfunctional, noted Mr. Cherry, and with it the rift between himself and the county board grew farther apart. “The Board of Supervisors has disconnected themselves in almost every way from the very people who put them there,” said Mr. Cherry.

Whether it be his frequent clashes with the county board over the stream bank project, employee and retiree’s health insurance, or budgetary decisions, Mr. Cherry was adamant that “I pick fights when I know I’m right.” After a recent proposal to settle the ongoing union negotiations by Mr. Cherry was all but ignored, he stopped attending county board meetings this summer.

When questioned on whether he had any regrets, Mr. Cherry said that he had wished there was a middle ground with the county board. Emphasizing that there was no changing him “speaking out when taxpayer money was at risk,” he regretted not being better at sticking to his guns whilst maintaining a working relationship with the board.

Looking back and beyond

There is little that Mr. Cherry has not been involved with over the past twenty-four years. For many years, he was the county board’s go-to elected official to assist with economic development, flood recovery, and even run the occasional department outside of his purview, but like all political eras there comes a dawn and a dusk when they are no longer nigh.

When asked how he would look back on his legacy, Mr. Cherry noted that implementing the monthly payment agreements “were the right thing to do” and that he maintained honesty and integrity as treasurer, with there being “never a question about my integrity.”

As a reporter, Mr. Cherry has been a source of many stories over the past six and a half years of my career in Schoharie County. We have shared information, broken bread over coffee or wine, and I have come to think of Mr. Cherry has a valued friend and trusted mentor.

His next step is similar to many folks who are entering retirement. His wife, Sherry, and he have eight grandchildren ranging from adulthood to infancy, and they intend to spend many days with them all. In addition to family life, Mr. Cherry intends to travel across the country with Sherry to see the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone in a used motor home they bought recently.

Mr. Cherry may still work part-time, but as he said to me with a warm smile, “I really want to spend time with family.”

Underneath the politics and public persona exists a man who is informed by his personal experiences. Mr. Cherry could empathize with struggling taxpayers because he grew up poor in a trailer and watched his mom struggle to survive, and while working to rebuild the county after Irene’s devastation, he too lost his home like many in the Schoharie Valley.

With our interview winding down, I asked Mr. Cherry if he wanted to say anything to the county’s taxpayers – the people who he repeatedly referred to as his employers – and he replied simply “Thank you,” before adding that, “Serving as Schoharie County Treasurer has been an unexpected honor.”

Coincidentally, as our interview came to its inevitable conclusion the county office building was being closed due to an issue on the second floor. Mr. Cherry told his staff to leave for the day and he hurried to get his belongings together before driving a friend home to Schenectady. Many years ago he might have been asked to assist with addressing the office building closure, but not anymore.

Someone else will rise to lead a new era in Schoharie County, but there may never be another like the community television guide publisher turned county treasurer. Debts and floods and politics have come and gone for Mr. Cherry, but the road ahead leads to grandchildren and the Grand Canyon.

Schoharie County Declares Snow Emergency

Written By Editor on 12/2/19 | 12/2/19


Schoharie County Board of Supervisors Chairman, Earl VanWormer has declared a State of Emergency in Schoharie County, effective 11:30 am today due to intense snowfall causing roadways to be
impassible. The State of Emergency shall remain in effect until 6:00 am tomorrow.

Due to the intensity of the storm, we recommend limited travel by the public. Please refrain from all unnecessary travel to allow for DPW plows and emergency vehicle safety. If you must travel, please allow extra time to reach your destination and drive with caution

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