January 27, 2022

Fitch sworn in as chair

Cortland County Legislature’s new leader urges teamwork

Photo provided by the Cortland County Legislature

Cortland County Clerk Elizabeth Larkin, left, administers the oath of office Wednesday to Cortland County Legislature Chairman Kevin Fitch (R-Homer, Preble, Scott).

After being sworn in Wednesday as the new chairman of the Cortland County Legislature, Kevin Fitch said the legislature needs to come together as a team, rather than 17 individuals.

Fitch served as the Scott town supervisor for 10 years before running uncontested for the 8th Legislative District race in November 2019. He has served as the chairman of the Agriculture, Planning and Environmental Committee since 2020.

He succeeds Paul Heider (RCuyler, Solon, Truxton), who did not seek re-appointment.

The Republican caucus nominated Fitch (R-Homer, Preble, Scott) against the Democratic caucus’ nominee, Sandra Price (D-Harford, Virgil) for the position. The legislature voted 10-7 to appoint Fitch to the post. The vote was split down party lines, except for Legislator Richard Stock (D-Cortland), who voted in favor of Fitch.

“Being the one Democrat to vote for the Republican candidate, I want to say that I vote for the county. I work for all the people in the county, and I believe that everybody should support the majority,” Stock said after the vote. “I feel that it’s important to the county to go by the leadership.”

Legislator Kelly Preston (RHomer) said her vote was not in opposition to Price, rather in support of Fitch and the future of the legislature.

Fitch’s goals include building better relationships with county department heads and employees, spending taxpayers’ money wisely and encouraging local workforce development to attract more business.

“It’s really hard to reduce taxes, so you have to look at the other end — bringing in good jobs and increase sales tax. Those are the only ways that we can actually operate at the county level to give relief for the taxpayers,” Fitch said. “I’m going to be asking all the legislators to give us ideas of what goals to set for the next year.”

Additionally, Fitch wants to gather more feedback from the community.

“I think counties get used to, and comfortable with, saying ‘this is the way we’ve always done it,’ but we should always be looking for ways to save money without reducing benefits,” Fitch said. “I really want to bring in businesses and stuff to really pitch ideas to us — show us what we could be doing better.”

During the reorganizational meeting, legislators re-elected Legislators George Wagner (RLapeer, Marathon) and Beau Harbin (D-Cortland) as the majority and minority leaders, respectively.

“We’ve got a lot of challenges ahead of us for the next couple of years,” Harbin said.

Naming the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as a major challenge, Harbin said other issues legislators must address include the county employees’ pay scales, renovating the courthouse and mental health building and continuing to allocate the county’s $9 million in federal American Rescue Plan funding.

“There’s a lot to continue to move through, and I look forward to working with Chairman Fitch and Majority Leader Wagner to make progress,” Harbin said. “We’re all going to roll up our sleeves and get work done to make improvements for everybody in the county.”

Leaders named
Here are the chairmen and chairwomen of the major Cortland County Legislature committees:

  • Agriculture, Planning and Environmental: Beau Harbin (D-Cortland).
  • Buildings and Grounds: Paul Heider (R-Cuyler, Solon, Truxton).
  • Finance and Administration: George Wagner (RLapeer, Marathon).
  • Health and Human Services: Sandra Price (D-Harford, Virgil).
  • Highway: Chris Newell (RCortlandville).
  • Judiciary and Public Safety: Kelly Preston (R-Homer).
  • Government Operations: Richard Stock (D-Cortland).