by Rachel Hunter
St. Lawrence County Republican Executive Chairman Thomas Jenison presented the 2017 Betsy Kaplan Award to Eldon Conklin of Gouverneur.
The award ceremony was held at the Silas Wainwright VFW Post 6338 in Gouverneur at the St. Lawrence County Republican Committee’s Annual Fall Meet and Greet on Oct. 18.
The St. Lawrence County Republican Committee presents the Betsy Kaplan Award to honor a Republican “who has served the people of the North Country in the Republican Party in an extraordinary way,” said Chloe Ann O’Neil of the St. Lawrence County Executive Committee as she spoke about Eldon Conklin’s life and service.
Eldon Conklin was born in his grandmother’s house near Bigelow. He went to school in DeKalb and Richville, and then he went on to serve as a Marine in the Korean War. He came back to Gouverneur, and became a businessman. He owned VanOrnum’s Furniture, the movie theater and the bowling alley. He also spent 18 years as a driver for a drum and bugle corps that traveled all over the United States.
Mr. Conklin has been a member and served as president of the Gouverneur Chamber of Commerce. He also served on the St. Lawrence County Planning Board. He also has been a village trustee, mayor. He has also been town councilman and wants to continue.
Mr. Conklin has received the following recognitions: Silas Wainwright VFW Post 6338 in Gouverneur’s Citizenship Award, the Gouverneur Area Chamber of Commerce’s Award of Merit, member and president of the Gouverneur Republican Committee, and member of the St. Lawrence County Republican Executive Committee.
“He has done what we do,” Chloe Ann O’Neil said, speaking from personal experience. “He carries petitions, organized events, and assists candidates.”
Eldon Conklin was then invited to the podium area where Executive Chairman Thomas Jenison presented Eldon Conklin with the 2017 Betsy Kaplan Award.
The crowd gathered gave Mr. Conklin a standing ovation as Chairman Jenison read the inscription on the plaque as follows: “The 2017 Betsy Kaplan Award presented to Eldon Conklin. This award was created by the St. Lawrence County Republican Executive Committee in recognition of long and faithful service to the St. Lawrence County Republican Committee.”
Chairman Jenison offered a congratulations and the room filled with applause as Eldon Conklin accepted the award in humble fashion. Mr. Conklin then was offered the microphone, and the award recipient – known to be a man of few words – gave a simple message of gratitude.
Chairman Jenison then reminded all in attendance that the Betsy Kaplan Award is not given every year, and that Eldon Conklin is “truly deserving” of the honor.
A track record of dedicated service as a committee member. That was the focus of several guest speakers as they honored Eldon Conklin in their comments throughout the evening.
Assemblyman Kenneth Blankenbush (R,C,I-Black River) believes committee members have one of the most important jobs in the Republican Party.
“People will come up to me all the time and ask: “How do you get started?” Well, you get started like Eldon did. When I first started, that’s what I did. I started as a committee person. I think that the party, the younger people, don’t understand how important that is – to build their party from the ground up.
“That’s how we win elections. That’s how we, as a Republican Party, strive in my area. The first year I ran, my opponent spent $430,000 against me. I know it was the party faithful that went door to door with me, took me out and introduced me to people in neighborhoods that I really didn’t know.
“Committee people are important to our party… It’s great to honor Eldon Conklin tonight. I just wanted to let everybody know that I think that to build our party we have to find more Eldon’s, and I am really honored to be here tonight. Congratulations!”
Congresswoman Elise Stefanik echoed Assemblyman Blankenbush’s sentiments as follows: “In the congressional race, we are the first petitions when there is snow on the ground, going door to door, making sure we qualify for the ballot,” Congresswoman Stefanik said. “I have carried petitions, and I know how challenging that is and I want to thank you for doing that. I know it is a challenge with the different deadlines for federal, state and local races so thank you for doing that. I will be back here early next year for the process leading up to petitions.”
Jim Reagan from New York State Senator Patty Ritchie’s office then commented as follows: “Senator Ritchie wanted me to come today to thank all of you for all the work you do on behalf of her and behalf of her party. Without the committee people who are out there in neighborhoods getting the message out, letting the people know about what our wonderful candidates are doing – no elected official would be in their position.”
Gary Pasqua, candidate for St. Lawrence County District Attorney, made the following comment: “I want to congratulate Eldon for the award he is getting tonight – all the work he has done here in Gouverneur – it is an amazing thing. He should truly be honored for all of that.”
Many local and county dignitaries along with candidates in the 2017 General Election also extended their congratulations, including the following: St. Lawrence County Legislator Henry Leader, Gouverneur Town Supervisor Bob Ritchie, Gouverneur Mayor Ron McDougall, Dede Scozzafava, Gouverneur Town Councilman Dave Spilman, Jr. (Gouverneur Town Supervisor candidate), St. Lawrence County Sherriff Kevin Wells, Former Gouverneur Mayor Curran Wade (Gouverneur Town Councilman candidate), Marion Bowhall (Gouverneur Town Clerk candidate) among others.
Eldon Conklin made a final announcement at the conclusion of the official ceremony and meeting, telling all gathered that Gouverneur has a new polling place: Gouverneur Community Center, 4673 State Highway 58, Gouverneur. It will be open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
“The Gouverneur Community Center is a great place, by the way,” said Chairman Jenison. “I am very familiar with it…” He then extended gratitude for all in attendance, and encouraged all to meet with 2017 political candidates, ask questions, etc.
by Rachel Hunter