Karen Streck, November 26, 2021 (video)

Title

Karen Streck, November 26, 2021 (video)

Subject

Cooperstown, NY
Local Elections
Middlefield, NY
Political Parties

Description

Karen Toft Streck is a long-time Cooperstown resident. Born Karen Toft in St. Louis, Missouri in 1947, Karen received a Bachelor's Degree in Education from the University of Missouri, St. Louis. While at the university, Karen met her future husband, William Streck and married him shortly after college. Karen moved to New York State following her husband’s job appointments: first Rochester, then Cooperstown.

Karen was introduced to Cooperstown during a friend’s wedding, and fell in love with the small-town feel and sense of community she felt in Cooperstown. She raised four children in Cooperstown, and has been an active participant in a wide range of community activities, including the League of Women Voters, local elections, and Saint Mary’s Catholic education program.

Karen’s account includes a variety of reminiscences from her early life, as well as the move from her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri to Central New York. She discusses ways in which Cooperstown has changed and stayed the same since her arrival in 1978, and her thoughts on why that is. She discusses her work in local organizations and the school system, and her involvement with local arts and crafts. Karen also talks about her family life, and the traditions her family developed while living in Cooperstown.

I interviewed Karen on November 26th, 2021, the day after Thanksgiving. Karen’s recollections of family Thanksgiving celebrations were fresh in her mind, as were a number of other memories of her children and grandchildren, whom she hadn’t seen for over a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The holiday also necessitated the interview being moved to the CGP Media Lab, as family made a quiet, private interview difficult to manage at home.

Creator

Andrew Kendall

Publisher

Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York-College at Oneonta

Date

2021-11-26

Rights

Cooperstown Graduate Association, Cooperstown, NY

Format

movie/mpeg-4
1.88gB

Language

en-US

Type

Moving Image

Identifier

21-009b

Coverage

Upstate New York
Cooperstown, NY
1946-2021

Interviewer

Andrew Kendall

Interviewee

Karen Streck

Location

Cooperstown Graduate Program
5838 NY-80
Cooperstown, NY 13326

Transcription

KS = Karen Toft Streck

AK = Andrew Kendall

AK:
So, Karen, I was hoping you could talk about your work with local elections.

KS:
Probably because of being involved in the League of Women Voters, and believing in the importance of being politically knowledgeable, I began working as a local election inspector, or poll worker. I did that—I still do it. I made friends with other poll workers and, for the town of Middlefield, I became friends with people who had been doing this—mostly they were Republicans, I was the Democrat—for years and years. Dairy farmers from Westford, became good friends with a woman who had moved up here from Long Island with her husband. But mostly I love the political involvement of just helping people vote. I find it very important. I am no longer the youngest person doing it, that's for sure. So that there are people who are in their 50s doing it, but you kind of start this wonderful little job when you’re in your 60s and 70s. But even that was just another example of being involved in this community. I [k]now most of the people who come in to vote, and I really enjoy doing it.

AK:
Tell me a little about the connections that you’ve made doing this.

KS:
A woman that I became friendly with the very first time that I worked as an election inspector—she and her husband became friends of ours. They’ve both passed away now. They taught us how to play Mexican train dominoes [laughter] and it was just a fun additional group of people. I’ve worked with two gentlemen, because I work what’s called "The Machine", which is the actual ballot machine, and one of them has passed away, the other one is retired, and they’re both retired dairy farmers from over in the other side of Middlefield, off of [Route] 166, and I really loved that connection of getting to know them, getting to know what their life was like – when they had been growing up. Because they both grew up on the same farms that they were then farming as dairy farmers. I find all of these little connections interesting and valuable.

AK:
Tell me a little about being the one Democrat—

KS:
[Laughter] Well, actually the way it’s set up is you have to have equal numbers of each party. Which, it’s still sort of a two-party system when you do it that way. And the Democrats are a little harder to find in Middlefield, or they were, now there may be a few more, at least being election inspectors, than there used to be. But my dairy farmer gentlemen were both Republicans and I was their Democratic, you know, upstart, but it was delightful. And you don’t talk politics that day, at all, it’s just – learning about another person’s way of life and what it was like for them it was sort of like a little mini what you’re doing. I would ask them questions about their dairy farming experience from childhood on to adulthood and their kids now, participating or not, so.

AK:
What sort of changes have you seen in the political landscape around here?

KS:
Well, within Middlefield, which is the township we live in, it’s become a quite active Democratic group, and I would say that there’s a participatory need people feel, at this point, at least within local politics to be involved, to care about the things that are going to happen within your region and to just make the decision not take a stand, to be involved.

AK:
What sort of numbers do you see when it comes to community involvement here?

KS:
As far as voting, we don’t get 50 percent of even registered voters, let alone what the population might be, because not everyone even registers to vote. So, to get a 50 percent turnout of registered voters is a good turnout within our region, probably within the country.

AK:
How often have you seen a 50 percent turnout?

KS:
It would usually be the national elections, the presidential elections, those are the ones that bring people out to vote—although there was a pretty good turnout with our most recent election this past, early November, which was very much local, wasn’t even state-wide, so people are a little energized, I would say, right now.

AK:
Tell me a little about how that’s reflected in Cooperstown.

KS:
Well, I think again, people are interested in participating and, you know, it doesn’t really matter locally whether it’s Democratic or Republican, there are both parties now, officially, locally, within both the village and the towns. Which is a good thing, I mean it just means more people care. So, I would say that’s how it’s changed. When we first moved here, I think Cooperstown was kind of a one-party or no-party system, people ran, and it didn’t really matter what your affiliation was and now it’s gotten a little more partisan but not in a bad way.

AK:
Could you tell me a little bit more about what you mean by "partisan but not in a bad way?"

KS:
I would say that the Democratic involvement is the newer part within this region of Upstate New York, I think this is a fairly conservative – at least, politically conservative region. The Democrats, locally, have become more active and willing to run for office. Our mayor is a Democrat, and I think that, maybe because the labels of being Democrat versus Republican are not as important locally as just involvement is.

AK:
Could you tell me a little about how that contrasts with where you grew up?

KS:
When I grew up, Missouri was a Democratic state. [laughter] It is not anymore, it’s a very, very conservative reactionary state. It’s an embarrassment to me personally. And it was the whole state that was Democratic you know, and that’s changed. I don’t know how else to say it. It’s not a state that is forward-looking, or acting responsibly for all of its citizens. It just isn’t.

AK:
And how does that contrast with Cooperstown?

KS:
Oh, I think Cooperstown cares, a lot, for all of its citizens, and is working very hard to—not be proactive so much, but to be responsible for looking at the future and knowing that you have to maintain and improve both the physical and just the emotional environment that people live in.

AK:
Alright, thank you very much.

KS:
You’re welcome.

Duration

8:52

Bit Rate/Frequency

254 kbps

Files

KarenStreck_Photo_11-26-21.JPG

Citation

Andrew Kendall, “Karen Streck, November 26, 2021 (video),” CGP Community Stories, accessed August 14, 2022, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/514.