Apr 10, 2012 Erin Wisneski Uncategorized
Derek Shepard was elected to the position of Onondaga County Legislator for the 13th district, covering the towns of Van Buren, Camillus and Elbridge, last November. Sworn into office Jan. 1, 2012, April 9 marked his 100th day on the job.
The Baldwinsville Messenger recently caught up with Shepard to learn about his experience in the legislator thus far and what residents of his district should be keeping an ear open to.
Having been in office for 100 days, what has been your most important lesson? Most difficult challenge?
The most important lesson I’ve learned in my first 100 days is the importance of talking right away with as many people as possible about the issues facing the legislature. Almost immediately after I took office, the legislature took up the new lease and purchase option on Alliance Bank Stadium. At my very first committee meeting I learned that the county has been subsidizing the facility at a tremendous yearly cost and that realistically there is one potential buyer for the special purpose facility, the Syracuse Chiefs.
When the story was published in the Post Standard, I was surprised to read some of cynical theories some people were posting as to the legislators’ motives for voting for the new lease. I learned quickly that when we take up something as important as the sale of the stadium, it is critical to make sure the residents of my district know the reasons for my votes on their behalf. In the end, if the Chiefs exercise their option to buy the stadium, the taxpayers will be relieved of a $500,000 annual liability for the upkeep of the facility and professional baseball will continue to thrive in our community.
After 100 days, has your focus on certain topics shifted or become more concentrated?
Since taking office, the legislature has focused a lot on getting the county out of businesses it is not equipped to manage. County government cannot run a baseball stadium, convention center, or a nursing home as well as experts in each of those fields.
Some of the ground being laid in the first half of this year will help transition these activities away from county management and into the hands of experts who will run them most efficiently. In addition to the possibility that the Chiefs will take full responsibility for the stadium, the planning committee is working with a private convention promoter to manage events at the OnCenter and cap our costs while the negotiations for the transfer of Van Duyn to Upstate University Hospital are coming close to eliminating perhaps the most significant long-term liability to the taxpayers. Having these changes in motion will set the stage for our budget work later this year.
What has been your greatest accomplishment to date?
I think it is too early for me to claim a greatest individual accomplishment, but I am proud of the Republican majority for taking the bold step of electing fellow freshman Ryan McMahon as our new chairman. Ryan has shown tremendous leadership and a deep knowledge about the workings of county government since he took the gavel. I become more certain as each month passes that he is the right person to lead us and I am excited for all of the great work we will do together in the next two years.
What should District 13 residents stay tuned into?
District 13 residents should continue to follow the developments taking place with Van Duyn. Our estimates indicate that the skilled nursing facility will become a liability to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars in the years to come and the successful transfer of the facility to Upstate Hospital will serve every property owner in Camillus, Elbridge and Van Buren as well as all of the wonderful people living and working at Van Duyn.
Anything you would like to share with your constituents?
I would like to thank the voters once more for giving me this incredible experience at the legislature. It has been reminiscent of my first months as a Town Councilman as I learn the ropes and adjust to all of the new departments and issues that are part of this job and I look forward to serving the district the best I can. I would also like to thank all of the residents who have taken the time to call me with questions and concerns about county issues and to encourage everyone to reach out to me if they would like to discuss an important issue. I am available at home by calling 638-2422.