The Cayuga County Legislature will be welcoming six new members on Jan. 1, and one of them is the frontrunner to lead the entire 15-member body next year.
Former Cayuga County Sheriff David Gould, R-Fleming, ran unopposed for the Legislature's District 5 seat last election, and he became part of a wave of Republican gains that gave his party majority status and the upper hand in choosing the person who will serve as chairperson in 2022.
Gould emerged as the person the GOP caucus plans to back, and they believe they have enough support from independent members of the Legislature to secure him the seat. The final decision will be made by the full body at its re-organizational meeting on New Year's Day.
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If Gould becomes the chairperson, he'll take over for Aileen McNabb-Coleman, D-Owasco, who has held that seat the past two years.
Gould is one of five Republicans who won in the eight Legislature races this year, and he believes his past experience leading a county government department for 12 years, his more than 40 years in law enforcement and extensive service on community organization boards all set him up well to lead the county.
"I went back and counted up all the county meetings I was at as sheriff, and it was well over 420 meetings," he said during an interview Friday.
"I've lived in the county my whole life, and think I know the county really well," he added. "I really feel like I can make a difference."
Chris Petrus, a Republican legislator who has served as vice chairman for the Legislature this year, said the GOP caucus has had multiple meetings to discuss the position.
"We talked about who has the experience, administrative experience, who has the intellectual capability, who has the best ability to represent the county as a whole," Petrus said. "I think he's an excellent choice."
Petrus said he would love to serve as chairperson but he still works full-time and can't give that job up, which he feels wold be necessary.
"It would be a disservice to the community if I took that on without being able to make a full-time commitment," he said of the chairperson's seat.
Gould was elected to the seat that been held by Legislator Paul Pinckney of Aurelius, who could not seek reelection because of the county's term limits. Gould successfully ran for sheriff three times, retiring in 2018 after 12 years in the seat. He's also a U.S. Army veteran.
"I give you my word that if elected in 2021, I will honor and respect the Legislature seat for which I seek and I will also honor, work with and respect all my fellow legislators, no matter which political party they are affiliated with," he wrote to in a letter to legislators and party leaders about a year ago when he announced his intention to run.
In discussing his approach to being a chairperson, Gould said the word "respect" would be his underlying theme, saying he'll insist that all legislators treat each other respectfully.
"I'll say that word 1,000 times if I get in that seat," he said on Friday. "We cannot be Washington; I don't want us to be Washington. We cannot be Albany; I don't want us to be Albany."
He offered praise for the work McNabb-Coleman has done.
"I think Aileen has done a great job," he said, noting the challenges the COVID-19 has created for county government. "She had to run the county during the worst time in our county's history."
Gould also said he has tremendous appreciation for the county government's department heads and their employees.
"We don't realize how lucky we are," he said of the workforce and day-to-day leadership.
Priorities for Gould if elected chairperson would include taking action on the crumbling Cayuga County Office Building downtown, drawing legislative district lines ahead of the 2023 election and facilitating the transition to a long-term leadership structure for county government, which has relied on the chairperson to be the chief executive officer since firing a county administrator in spring 2019.
The position of chairperson is set to be paid $45,000 in 2022, a reduction of $15,000 from the current salary. The decrease was approved by the Legislature in anticipation of hiring a county operations officer who will work with the chair to run the daily operations.
Jeremy Boyer can be reached at (315) 282-2231 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @CitizenBoyer