Legislator Patrick Russell is seeking reelection to his seventh term as northern Herkimer County’s representative in the County Legislature.
He will appear on the Republican, Conservative and Independence ballot lines in November.
Russell said he’s attuned to the needs of his fellow residents and, as a legislator, has worked hard to advance and protect their interests.
“I share their concerns. My entire life has been spent in this community and I have many friends and family here. I am aware of the struggles people face in our part of the world. I understand the burden that government spending puts on our local taxpayers.
“My family operates a local business, and I have been an employee locally and started my own business here. I speak regularly to people who are trying to run businesses and earn livings in these times that have become increasingly uncertain.
“So I do understand the need to have a vibrant, growing economy, and the income opportunities that come with it.
“And I understand that all these people in this district—Webb, Ohio and Russia—are relying on me to keep watch for them and deliver their message to Herkimer. They are relying on me to study issues fully and make good legislative decisions on their behalf.
“Ultimately my job is to protect their money and make sure government works for them,” Russell said.
Russell and his wife Karen live in Old Forge. Their daughters Caitlin and Alison are students at the Town of Webb School.
“I initially ran for the legislature because the Town of Webb is unique as compared to the rest of the county, with our visitor-dependent economy, our high percentage of seasonal residents, the high percentage of taxes we pay in funding county operations.
“I felt we needed to have a stronger voice in discussions and ultimately the decisions that have a huge and potentially costly effect on us,” he said.
The voters agreed and elected Russell to his first term 12 years ago.
And that mission hasn’t changed, Russell said.
“It’s still about giving a voice to District 15, of which the Town of Webb is a part,” he said.
It’s about understanding the needs of all residents, whether they are business people, wage earners, children, senior citizens or families, Russell said.
“We can be helped or we can be hurt by decisions made in Herkimer. We need to have a solid place and the table, and we need to speak with a voice that’s taken seriously,” he said.
Which is why, once elected, Russell immediately sought appointment to the finance committee, he said.
Russell eventually became chairman of that committee, a post he has held for the past four years.
“Every bit of money that’s spent goes through that committee, so the chairmanship is a good position for our district to have,” he said.
But there is a downside too. Russell’s visibility has made him a frequent target of group from the southern county that calls itself “Concerned Citizens.”
They object to Russell’s being among the supporters of a new jail project.
“They don’t want the jail in their backyard, and I don’t fault them for voicing that and resisting—I would probably do the same if it were in my district. But their claim that the jail will harm taxpayers is just not accurate. Neither are some of the dollar claims they throw around.
“The legislators don’t always agree on the best course for lowering taxes, but I think we all know that easing the property-tax burden is our number one job. We are trying to ease the burden that the current jail situation is causing to all of us in the county.
“Those that think we are out to hurt the taxpayer are simply misguided,” Russell said.
And yet the county must provide services—housing of jail inmates being one, services for the elderly another—but also county road repairs, Russell said.
“We have a South Shore Road project scheduled for next spring. The work will start at the health center and run north nearly a mile. The cost will be about $800,000,” he said.
Russell said he is pleased with the working relationship he enjoys with his legislative colleagues, and their ability to function well for the taxpayers.
“After having served as a legislator for four years, my peers chose me to act as majority leader, which shows a healthy respect for our district,” he said.
Russell is being challenged this election by independent candidate Jon Hansen of Thendara.