Otsego County Rep. Clark Oliver has won the Arnold S. Harris Memorial Academic Achievement Award from the political science department at his alma mater, SUNY Oneonta.
“I was born and raised in Oneonta,” Oliver told The Daily Star in a phone interview Friday, June 12. “I lived in New York City for five years, but I always had one parent in Oneonta, so even then, I never really left it. ... I came back here and attended college. So to receive this is like a culmination of my investment in this community. I am really honored to receive this award.”
According to a media release from SUNY Oneonta: “This award is given annually in memory of Arnold S. Harris, an alumnus of the Political Science Department (1969) who manifested both an exemplary, unselfish commitment to public service and uncommon loyalty to his alma mater. The award is bestowed annually on a political science major who has not only attained an outstanding academic record but who also shows uncommon promise for a public service career.”
Oliver graduated from Oneonta High School in 2016 and would have been in the class of 2020 at SUNY, but he graduated a semester early, walking the stage in December. It was a month after his unopposed election to Otsego County’s Board of Representatives and a month before his swearing in. Before he ran for office, Oliver had already worked on other political campaigns in the region and joined the county and college Young Democrats groups, taking leadership positions in both.
Because county legislator is considered a part-time position, Oliver also works at Annutto’s Farm Stand in Oneonta. He said he is also beginning the process of exploring online programs for a master’s degree in public administration.
Oliver represents the county’s District 11, which is the First and Second Wards of Oneonta, the area where he grew up.
He and fellow Oneonta Democrat Jill Basile, along with Republican Rick Brockway of Laurens, are experiencing a first term no one could have predicted. The coronavirus pandemic and the state’s “On Pause” effort to stop the spread of the virus have combined to starve Otsego County of revenue, including sales and bed tax money, as well as state aid.
“We were expecting it to be difficult. But it was the process we expected to be difficult,” Oliver said. “We knew it would be a lot to learn. But now, everything that has happened has made it a lot more difficult than we could have ever expected.”
The county board has taken a variety of steps to cut a projected $12 million revenue gap, including laying off 59 full and part time employees at an emergency meeting Wednesday, May 20.
The layoffs passed, 12-4. Oliver was one of four Democrats voting against them. He said that day he had not been convinced the list was the best method for doing layoffs and didn’t think all other possible spending cuts had been exhausted.
The news has continued to be bleak for the county, and the cutting continues.
Oliver said listening to his constituents has been part of what has helped him through the first-term learning curve, pandemic version. The warmer weather and some outdoor time has helped him, too, he said.
And although the stressful times and high-pressure work will continue through his first term, Oliver said his college career now has an exclamation point, and that will give him another boost as he goes about the county’s crisis-management work.
“I am still very grateful to have been elected,” he said, “and very happy to represent my district.”