BUFFALO, N.Y. — Governor Hochul is the first governor, of the modern political era of New York, to have local government experience prior to taking the oath as the state's chief executive. Hochul got her start in politics when she was elected to the Hamburg Town Board.
"I think that local government experience will lend itself towards her success in sitting in that Governor's chair," said Stephen Acquario, executive director of the NYS Association of Counties.
The county governments, Acquario says, are the front-line of any issue the state is facing, whether it that be budget issues, infrastructure, and now the pandemic.
"We're at a fragile point right now, where are we with our revenues? Where are we with job creation? I think that those are going to be the priorities of the state," Acquario said. "But first and foremost has got to be how do we defeat COVID-19?
During an address to the state on Tuesday, Hochul outlined that trying to get a handle on the increase of Delta variant COVID-19 cases was one of her priorities. Hochul announced she was instructing the state health department to require universal masking at all schools, public and private, in the state.
"We need to require vaccinations for all school personnel with an option to test out weekly, at least for now," Hochul said during her address. "To accomplish this in New York, we need partnerships with all levels of government, and I'm working now on getting this done."
Acquario says one immediate action Governor Hochul can do is keep county governments in the loop.
"I think the people of New York expect cooperation," Acquario said. "They expect our governor to work with elected officials at the national level...but so too, with local government officials, who are really the workhorses of this state."
COVID-19 aside, New York is likely going to receive significant federal funding if the infrastructure bill is passed and Acquario says the state needs to work with local governments to properly deploy those funds.
"We're a very important component of society, involved in protecting the public safety, educational programs running our schools, a lot of cooperation is needed from the state and from our governor with local elected officials. So that's job one, as we see it."