The newest member of the Tompkins County Legislature, Dan Klein dived head first into several committees and subcommittees as representative of the seventh district, which consists of the Towns of Danby and Caroline.
Klein has been a Tompkins County resident for 25 years and spent six of those years on the Danby Town Board. After growing up on Long Island, he came to Tompkins to attend Cornell University for a degree in Plant Sciences. He met his wife and Tompkins County resident, Diane Olden and settled down into what he calls the town “where everyone knows your name.”
Following his green thumb, Klein has managed the Community Beautification Program for nines years at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, CCETC. Driving around the county in a colorful van, he plants flowers in center traffic islands, parks and other locations. Before managing the beautification program, he held the position of program coordinator for the Rural Youth Services Program at CCETC.
While traveling from garden to garden over the years he noticed a shift towards a more democratic lifestyle in Danby and found the needs of his neighbors were going unnoticed. He watched as the funding for rural youth services programs was cut in half and the county wide broadband project cut out the Town of Caroline.
“This project was meant to be county wide,” said Klein. “Now they are stuck with gathering funds. I just want to make sure we continue pursuing this project and bring Caroline back into it.”
Recently he was appointed to the Government Operations, Health and Human Services, and Planning, Energy and Environmental Quality Committees. He was also appointed to the Charter Review Committee and the County Broadband subcommittee.
“When I checked in with the chair (Dave) McKenna about meetings for the broadband subcommittee he said there were no meetings scheduled currently. I was anxious to have something going with this issue and I keep hearing vague things about ‘Oh we got bogged down.’ I think this will take a legislative committee to get this done,” Klein said.
As a former coordinator of the Rural Youth Services, RYS, program at CCETC, he saw how this program affects the lives of youth in the county. He is determined to find the $100,000 cut from RYS a few years ago from the county budget.
“Youth Services is still alive but wounded,” Klein said. “I don’t know how to do that but I’m talking to everybody and I would like to try to find where to draw the money from our budget. I’m still trying to figure this all out and so I’m not sure where that money would come from but I will figure it out.”
During his time on the Danby Town Board, he played a major rôle in creating the first town moratorium on hydrofracking in the county.
“Fracking was a big issue on my radar. From early on we heard towns saying they can’t do anything. So we accepted that at first,” Klein said. “Then I went to a workshop and heard attorneys saying towns could do something about banning fracking. Suddenly it was like a switch and I thought ‘okay, great this is something we can do.’ It was amazing how quickly the series of events happened which included amending the comprehensive plan. That alone could take years but we did so in six months… I felt like I was the spark for this. I have never seen a topic that more people in the Town of Danby come together on than that.”
Other government entities, that he has served on include the Danby Community Council as president for six years and has been a member of the planning board, zoning board and conservation advisory council.