The Cayuga County Legislature last week appointed the inaugural members of the newly created county Veterans Advisory Board, meant to help ensure local veterans’ needs are met by offering guidance to the county Veterans Service Agency.
With the creation of the board itself approved in April, legislators unanimously voted on June 25 to approve the first appointees, including recently retired Cayuga County Sheriff David Gould, Auburn Mayor Michael Quill, county Legislator Charlie Ripley and more.
VSA Director Jessica Strassle first proposed the idea of an advisory board by noting that its members would be best equipped to bring issues of importance to themselves and their fellow veterans in the county to the agency’s attention. By doing this, Strassle said at the time, the agency could ensure it's best meeting those needs.
According to the appointment forms for the board, members are meant to work with the agency to “develop initiatives and program resources to improve the overall health and well-being of veterans and their families.”
The 12-member board is made up of members from each branch of the military, and also includes representation from the county’s northern, central and southern regions.
Here's a list of the board members, along with the background provided in their nomination forms:
- Jessica Strassle: In addition to leading the county’s VSA, Strassle is an Air Force veteran whose service from 2005 to 2009 included two tours in Iraq. Currently a commissioned member of the Air National Guard, Strassle also has a Masters in Public Health Education and Case Management, and is a member of the American Legion and is an accredited Veteran Services Officer.
- Charlie Ripley: Ripley, the legislator for District 9, is a Marine Corps veteran who served from 1971 to 1995, which took him to 13 different countries, including those in the Middle East and Southwest Asia.
- David Gould: Gould, who retired in 2018 after 12 years as sheriff, served in the Army from 1967 to 1969, and subsequently joined the New York State Police. Since then, Gould has commanded numerous American Legion posts in the county.
- Jim Orman: The Cayuga County treasurer, Orman completed multiple tours in Vietnam with the Air Force from 1966 to 1969. Orman is an active member of American Legion and Disabled American Veterans.
- Karen Macier: Macier, the executive director for United Way of Cayuga County, served in the Army in both active duty and in the reserves from 1974 to 1994, including in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, where she earned numerous medals including the Meritorious Service Medal and Army Commendation Medal.
- Todd Fisher: Commander of the American Legion Post No. 1107 in Union Springs, Fisher served as a Marine from 1977 to 2003, with two tours in Desert Storm and as part of Operation Restore Hope.
- Tom Minicucci: Currently the Chair of the Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce, Minicucci served as a Merchant Marine Engineering Officer after graduating from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, and also was a member of the Navy Reserve.
- Laurie Fisher: Serving in the Marine Corps from 1982 to 1992, Fisher deployed to numerous locations in the Middle East in support of Desert Storm, and was a member of the 8th Tank Battalion out of Syracuse and the 4th LAI Battalion out of California.
- Michael Quill: Auburn’s mayor, Quill served in the Marine Corps from 1968 to 1972, with a majority of his time enlisted spent in Japan and Vietnam. Quill also worked as a member and chief of the city fire department for 32 years.
- Terry Baxter: Currently the town of Moravia supervisor and formerly a county legislator, Baxter served was an active duty member of the Navy from 1972 to 1980, working as a general machinist, and enlisted as a Navy reservist in 1996 before retiring.
- Nick Valenti: The county’s VSA director from 1996 to 2008, Valenti served as a Marine from 1969 to 1970, and also commanded Auburn’s American Legion Post No. 1776 for 18 years and currently is the New York Central District Director for the Vietnam Veterans of America.
- Tom Crawford: A Navy Combat Engineer from 1968 to 1970, Crawford completed two tours in Vietnam, and has served on the board of Enduring Gratitude, which takes veterans of World War II, and the Vietnam and Korean Wars to Washington.
In other news:
The Veterans Service Agency is hosting a resource fair for veterans later this month in Auburn.
The event will help veterans and their families learn about resources and benefits available to them, and will include information on education, employment, business development, social services, health care, compensation, housing assistance, transportation services, nutrition resources and more.
Benefit advisors will also be available to help veterans enroll for benefits.
The event is scheduled for 8 a.m. to noon on Friday, July 19, at the Auburn YMCA, 27 William St. For more information, contact the agency at (315) 253-1281.