Legislator Carol Chock will not be seeking re-election in 2017, and said she thinks it’s time for people with fresh energy and perspectives to step up and run for local government.

“People are coming out of the woodwork interested in the decisions of local government,” Chock said. “There are great threats to our populace right now, but this is also a real teachable moment and we really need thoughtful people who care and who won’t be afraid to stick their necks out.”

On Monday, Chock announced that she would not seek a fourth term. She said she is stepping down for personal and medical reasons, but mostly thinks it’s “time for people with renewed energy and ideas to come forward, and I think it’s time for some of us old timers to think about getting out of the way for new energy.”

Chock said she is not going anywhere but said she is looking forward to taking an extended winter vacation to see her grandchildren after her terms expires at the end of 2017.

Chock has served on Tompkins County Legislature for nearly a decade representing District 3, which has changed somewhat over the years, but currently covers Belle Sherman, Bryant Park, South Hill and portions of upper Collegetown and East Hill.

Prior to being a legislator, Chock served as associate director of foundation relations at Cornell University. During her time as legislator, Chock has worked on a wide range of issues, including public-private partnerships, affordable housing, protection of natural resources against hydrofracking, economic equity, voting rights, tourism, arts and culture.

Tompkins County Legislature unanimously votes to oppose repeal of Affordable Care Act on Feb. 7. KELSEY O’CONNOR/Ithaca Voice
Tompkins County Legislature unanimously votes to oppose repeal of Affordable Care Act on Feb. 7. KELSEY O’CONNOR/Ithaca Voice

District 3 is interesting to represent, Chock said, because it contains permanent and temporary residents being close to the colleges. Residents of Chock’s district are impacted by the cost of housing and imbalance between rentals and owner-occupied housing in the City of Ithaca.

But as a county legislator, Chock said she represents both the residents of her district as well as the residents of the county as a whole.

“Counties handle aspects of people’s lives that start at birth and go all the way through death,” Chock said.

She said her own aims coming into the position were to “move the needle forward” across the county toward greater equity and social justice.

“I had experience applying the questions: ‘Who benefits?’ and ‘Who pays?’ to each decision, and I think I was able to make something of a difference doing that,” Chock said.

Hydrofracking emerged as an issue about a year into Chock’s first term. In October 2011, Chock was mentioned in a New York Times article about how natural gas drilling created conflicts with mortgages. Chock had asked Greg May, then vice president of residential mortgage lending at Tompkins Trust Company, to look into the issue. Learning and responding about fracking shaped the rest of her time as legislator, she said.

“I ended up working on an agenda that involved protecting the environment and our infrastructure, doing more to encourage renewable energy choices as we learned about some of the implications of some of the former energy choices, but also didn’t let go of my aims to preserve our special sense of the fine place we live … not only through protecting the environment but through arts and tourism and education and support for community organizations,” Chock said.

Chock said the ways in which local governments are squeezed financially will only get worse. “So we need thoughtful people who care about other people, but who won’t be afraid to stick their necks out. I think we need people who are willing to put the time into, not only into developing ideas and programs, but also communicating with all stakeholders.”

Chock said she is happy to speak with anyone who is interested in running for Tompkins County Legislature. She can be reached at 607-277-0066. Citizens from District 3 who would like to discuss running for this office on the Democratic line can also contact Tompkins County Democratic Chair Irene Stein at (607) 266-7579. The election will be November 7.

Featured image provided by Carol Chock.

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at koconnor@ithacavoice.com and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.