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Oneida County executive candidates offer different visions for progress

Michael Hennessy, Payne Horning
Michael Hennessy, a financial consultant and former member of the Oneida County Board of Legislators, is challenging incumbent Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, right.

Anthony Picente, Oneida County's longest-serving county executive, is once again up for reelection. He hopes to remain in office to continue building on the progress he says the region is achieving. But his opponent says it's time for a change both in leadership and in the role government plays in Oneida County's future.

Wthin the next year, officials hope to break ground on two major projects in downtown Utica: a new hospital and the Nexus Center, a sports complex for tournaments and recreational events. And nearby in Marcy, officials recently announced that a $1 billion silicon carbide wafer fabrication plant will be built at the Marcy Nanotech Center. Picente's administration has helped spearhead several of these projects, which he hangs his hat on as he makes his case for another term.

"I would just say look around at what we have accomplished and what we are doing and why I'd like to continue," Picente said. "I want to see these projects through and continue the rebuilding of this community and really the overall emergence of what these various projects will lead to."

While supportive of the Nexus Center, Picente's Democrat opponent Michael Hennessy says county spending on these projects and overall is out of control under the current administration. He notes that Oneida County will spend millions to help build a parking garage adjacent to the new downtown hospital.

Hennessy, a financial consultant and former member of the Oneida County Board of Legislators, says the way to achieve progress in Oneida County is to make it competitive with surrounding counties.

"First and foremost, I’m going to cut spending and lower taxes so that we become a more attractive place to come," Hennessy said. "We have the highest sales tax - 8.75 percent - [in upstate New York]. I was the leader that helped get it down from 9.75 percent to 8.75 percent about eight years ago and he hasn't done anything since. He's never cut a dime."

Hennessy says Oneida County would benefit more from investment in infrastructure than on these large projects. Picente defends his fiscal record, noting he has proposed seven county budgets in a row without a property tax increase.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.