“It’s a joyous night tonight, I’m glad to see you all here,” Tioga County Legislative Chair Marte Sauerbrey said to a packed Hubbard Auditorium inside the county office building in downtown Owego, N.Y. Thus began a very special meeting of the Tioga County Legislature on Sept. 17, 2014.
The occasion was the building itself, and a Tioga County man with a reputation for leadership, vision, and integrity as large as the building itself. Ron Dougherty was honored with recognition from the Legislature, and the location of 56 Main St., the Tioga County Office Building, will now forever be known as the Ronald E. Dougherty County Office Building.
Joined by his wife of 64 years, Brenda, several of their children and their families, Dougherty sat uncomfortably through many speeches remembering his many accomplishments, contributions, and the legacy Dougherty forged over a career in county government that began in 1988.
Sauerbrey said she first met Dougherty when she was working for Senator Tom Libous, and was in awe of Dougherty’s energy and ideas. “All of us are a reflection of Ron’s life,” Sauerbrey told the crowd.
Dougherty’s list of accomplishments is indeed long. If there is a big project that has benefited Tioga County during the past 30 years, more than likely it was Dougherty guiding the project Best Buy.
Other accomplishments include the creation of a Department of Economic Development and Planning; the creation of the Council of Governments; MEGA, Municipal Electric and Gas Alliance – Dougherty was on the team; a founder of the Tompkins Courtland Community College Foundation; and was instrumental in the creation of the Lourdes Hospice Foundation.
For his part, Dougherty was humble in his acceptance.
“A lot of people in this room made me look good,” Dougherty began, “I realize when I look out at you how blurred and diluted my contribution becomes.”
Anndrea Starzak was in attendance, the Democratic Senate Candidate. Starzak taught in Owego for 18 years including while Dougherty was in office, and had praise for him.
“He’s a wonderful public servant,” Starzak said, “I’m excited to come here tonight and support a good public servant who put the community before himself.”
Starzak’s opponent, Senator Tom Libous, addressed the crowd and recalled that when he first ran for office in 1988 everyone told him he had to meet Ron Dougherty, and get to know the soil.
Dougherty remains active in the Tioga County Soil and Water Conservation District, so Libous employed a play on words, recognizing Dougherty’s knowledge of both the physical soil, and the people who are the living soil of Tioga County.
“He’s a special man, and a special friend,” Libous said, “I’m honored and blessed to have known him for twenty-seven years, and I continue to look forward to his energy and wisdom. Tioga County is very lucky to have him.”
The person recognized for her patient support during an ongoing journey of public service knows the man better than everyone. “I’m happy for him, I’m happy he got the honor he deserved,” Brenda Dougherty said, “he’s worked many long hours, and he loves what he does. I’m so pleased to have this honor for him.”
“I’m overwhelmed,” Dougherty said in between greetings and well wishes from the capacity crowd. “I appreciate all these people being here,” he added. Regarding his long career, which he’s still negotiating, Dougherty was thankful. “It’s been a wonderful journey. I’ve been blessed by working with a lot of great people.”
Sauerbrey has known Dougherty as long as anyone, and savored the moment as the crowd began to thin. “In the nine years I’ve been on the Legislature, tonight was the proudest moment,” Sauerbrey said, “we all honor Ron Dougherty for his invaluable contributions to Tioga County.”