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Columns

December 31, 2012

1972 marked beginnings of 'civic center' and a political career

(Continued)

It was reported in July that the civic center idea was in doubt. Not much was heard of the idea again until December 1977, when a “community center” was hoped to be built in the proposed downtown Oneonta shopping mall project on the former Broad Street, part of the urban renewal plan for the city. The mall plan never materialized, finally abandoned in the early 1980s.

The 1972 civic center idea wasn’t new. Back in 1940, the Oneonta Chamber of Commerce sought suggestions from Oneonta Star readers on how to make Oneonta a better place. An obscure idea, published on March 25 was for a “large auditorium with facilities for conventions in Oneonta because of its central location.”

In September 2000, when Orpheus Theatre founder Peter Macris announced his idea for a performing arts center on Market Street, on the old West-Nesbitt feed mill, it was state Sen. James L. Seward who made another announcement on Wednesday, Sept. 27, that a $250,000 state grant would make a “down payment for the center’s future design and construction program.”

While Mayor Lettis was appointing his civic center committee in January 1972, news broke that state Assemblyman Donald Mitchell decided not to seek re-election that fall. Several names for Mitchell’s replacement surfaced. David W. Brenner, then a member of the Otsego County Board of Representatives, and Albert S. Nader, a former Oneonta mayor, were among the contenders.

A newcomer, James L. Seward, 20, a very active member of the Otsego County Republican Committee and a legislative assistant to Assemblyman Mitchell, announced his candidacy on Feb. 3. Seward received the nomination to face Harold C. Luther of Herkimer County in the June primary.

Seward lost, but was very pleased with the number of votes he got.

“Considering this very young stage of my political career,” Seward said, “I don’t think the voters have heard the last of Jim Seward.”

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