February 15, 2022 by Ben Gieco

CENTRAL SQUARE — Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (NY-21) made her inaugural visit to Oswego County Tuesday, stopping at the town of Hastings Municipal Building as part of her visits to different parts of the re-drawn congressional district.

Stefanik met with local town and county officials — Oswego County Legislator James Weatherup, Central Square Mayor Randy House, town of Hastings Supervisor Tony Bush, and Oswego County Republican Chair Fred Beardsley — to discuss concerns at the local level.

The newly drawn 21st Congressional District now represents a portion of Oswego County, including the town of Hastings and Central Square. Stefanik, who primarily represents the North Country, is having her district expanded to Oswego County.

The district will now include 18 counties — some full and some split, such as Oswego County — compared to 12.

“I am committed to representing each and every county in this district, and earning the support of the new voters in the newly drawn congressional district,” Stefanik said at a press conference. “I’m very optimistic that we will work hard to earn the support from the residents and voters in the newly drawn 21st Congressional District.”

Among the concerns and issues that local officials brought up to Stefanik was inflation. With nationwide spending on the rise, Bush brought up a recent Hastings project that was initially $17 million. But now there’s an additional $2 million added to the project that the town “didn’t plan on.”

Some of the officials raised worries about the stress of “everyday people” when it comes to inflation — such as grocery shopping, gas prices and heating homes during the winter.

“A lot of these people around here don’t have $70,000, $80,000 or $90,000 jobs. They have minimum wage jobs. They work at grocery stores or convenient areas,” Bush said. “This impact with the gas, I can hear a lot of crying.”

Mental health was also brought up in the roundtable discussion, especially with kids in schools having to sometimes deal with online schooling through Zoom.

“It’s a combination, I think, of both addiction issues and also the economic stresses, the mandates, the kids having to wear masks,” Stefanik said. “The challenges with tele-working and some of the Zoom classes for students, it’s just been one on top of the other.”

Oswego County will continue to be split into two districts. Most of the western half of the county, which includes the city of Oswego, will be in New York’s 24th Congressional District.

Currently, Rep. John Katko serves NY-24, but he announced he will not run for re-election after his current term is up.

Weatherup said he got along well with both representatives for Oswego County — which also included Rep. Claudia Tenney (NY-22).

“We’re used to this. It would’ve been nice and simpler to have the whole county in one district,” Weatherup told The Palladium-Times. “But I don’t see that as a major concern as long as we’ve got good representation.”

Stefanik’s current district has split counties already, such as Herkimer and Saratoga counties, adding she’s “worked well with local elected officials, for example, the county legislatures and the board of supervisors.”

“I’m familiar with representing areas that have multiple federal representatives,” she said.

Local officials at the press conference, after being “on the verge of (their) seat” to see how the districts would end up, seemed to be happy that Stefanik was going to be their new representative.

“I can tell you that I’m extremely happy that we were fortunate enough to have Congresswoman Stefanik, who is going to represent a portion of the county of Oswego,” Beardsley said. “(With) her record in the North Country and her record in Congress, we are ecstatic to have her down here.”

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