Young Mayor: A Fresh Vision for a City In Need

By Ethan Magram

A quick Google search of “America’s youngest mayors” yields a Wikipedia article as the top result. List of the youngest mayors in the United States – that’s the title of said article. Follow that link, scroll down about half a page, and the first name one can see in the list of America’s youngest appointed mayors is Mayor Billy Barlow of Oswego, New York.

Barlow was 25 years of age when he was elected to be mayor of Oswego in 2016. His political career began at the age of 22, the year after he graduated from college, when he was elected to serve on Oswego’s city council.

The most significant talking point when it comes to Billy Barlow always tends to be his age. But if you look past that, you can see that Barlow has been at the forefront of substantial positive change for the city of Oswego, and considering the city’s dark history, Barlow’s youthful energy and optimistic vision seems to already be making an important impact.

This energy and attitude can be attributed to Barlow’s upbringing, which includes a surprising lack of politics and surplus of hard work.

Growing Up Behind a Concessions Stand

William J. “Billy” Barlow Jr, was born in 1989 and grew up in Oswego. William Barlow Sr. was, and still is, the owner of a mobile food concessions stand, aptly named Barlow’s Concessions. At a young age, Billy would start to work with his family at the concessions business, often traveling around the state and the country on a weekly basis to help operate the stand at events such as fairs and concerts.

When Thursday night rolled around, it was time to go away for the weekend and work with them, wherever we were,” Billy said.

Billy was never allowed to play video games, and was only occasionally allowed to play with his friends. A majority of his time growing up since the age of 13 was spent working the concessions stand for his parents – his employers.

By the time Billy was old enough to drive, the idea of working the stand was ingrained within him; he was working by himself, and because he wanted to.

“I made myself work and wanted to work…” said Barlow. “I would rather work than go out and have fun with my friends. I just didn’t think I was missing much and I could go out and make money.”

Barlow had spent his entire time in high school working, and when he had graduated and began attending Arizona State University, he didn’t stop.

While Barlow was at Arizona State, he had his father send equipment from the concessions company so he could work the stand at events in Arizona to help pay for his education. He also held a part-time job with the school.

After graduating with bachelor’s degrees in Environmental Technology and Emergency Management, Billy bought a house in Arizona and continued to run the concessions business in the area. Soon after, he realized that most of his friends from school were moving back home, so Billy considered doing the same.

Being away from Oswego for five years and only returning in the summers and winters left him acutely aware of the city’s general decline in the time he was gone.

“The dive was so deep that I couldn’t believe it…” said Barlow.

Witnessing this dive encouraged Barlow to taking action, and after moving back home and the fortunate circumstance of a vacant city council seat, Billy Barlow made the decision to run for the position of the 5th ward of Oswego’s city council at 22 years old. This marked the beginning of Barlow’s political career in Oswego.

“It’s amazing to me that back then, when I was 22 years old, I made the decision to run,” exclaimed Barlow. “Because I sit here now…[and think] kudos to that kid!”

Listen to Billy Barlow speak on Oswego’s decline in his time away.

Confronting the City’s Dark Past

Barlow during his city council campaign (courtesy WRVO Public Media)

Barlow was elected to the 5th ward seat of the city council. But from the very beginning, he knew that, in order to accomplish what he wanted to accomplish, he had to run for mayor.

“It starts at the top,” said Barlow. “The leadership wasn’t there, there were no decisions being made good or bad.”

The mayor in office prior to Barlow was Tom Gillen, a Democrat who, in 2013, shut down the city’s code enforcement department, redirecting their responsibilities to the fire department. Code enforcement, as well as conflicts with the fire department, would later be issues taken on by Barlow in his time as mayor, a testament to his thoughts on the prior administration.

Even before Gillen was elected to office, Oswego has had a dark history with regard to the mayoral position. In 2006, the mayor at the time, John Gosek, was arrested for arranging to pay $250 for a sexual encounter with two teenage girls, according to Syracuse.com. This arrangement turned out to be a sting operation performed by the FBI, and Gosek was taken into custody and served 33 months in federal prison.

Between the scandals, a dismal economy, and consistent tax hikes, there was plenty of reason to be hopeless when it came to improving the city. Barlow, though, remained optimistic, and made the next step in what he believed was the answer to fixing Oswego: he ran for mayor.

Barlow’s First Term: A Fast Impact

Billy Barlow ran for mayor in 2015 against incumbent Tom Gillen (not endorsed by his party, but instead as a write-in candidate) and democrat Amy Tresidder. Barlow won by a landslide with 54 percent of the vote, beating runner-up Tresidder by 12 percentage points.

Barlow, at the time, became the youngest mayor to be elected in Oswego history, and continues to be the youngest mayor in New York state.

Since his inauguration in January of 2016, Barlow has already made great strides in trying to improve the decline he once saw as a college student just four years prior. Since he took office, Barlow helped the city in its successful application for New York State’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative, or DRI, which grants $10 million to the city of Oswego to improve its downtown infrastructure. Barlow considers this one of his most important accomplishments.

Barlow talks about the DRI.

Barlow has also found success in establishing an effective building code enforcement program and even in lowering taxes, which is an issue that has plagued the city for decades.

Current Oswego City Councilmen Ronald Tesoriero, Robert Corradino, and Robert Wilmott (pictured left to right at the table) have high praises for Mayor Barlow’s work thus far, especially with the aforementioned tax deductions.

“[We’ve had] the first tax deduction without using general funds in over 20 years,” said Councilman Corradino.

“He listened to everybody in this building, and everybody that worked for him,” added Councilman Tesoriero. “So I’ve got to give him credit for that.”

The councilmen continued with nothing but great things to say about the mayor’s code enforcement initiatives, as well as the way he handled the conflict with the fire department.

“He was decisive, he did a very good job in proving is point…that we have too many firefighters, and there was some abuse with how they ran the overtime situation,” said Councilman Corradino. “For him to take on an institution like the fire department…that, to me, spoke volumes.”

Councilman Corradino on Mayor Barlow’s success with the Fire Department.

Speaking Volumes for Everybody

Billy Barlow has accomplished a great amount for the city of Oswego in his six years of political experience. Barlow’s decisions in office have had a great influence on the Oswego community, and he makes sure that everyone benefits from his actions as mayor.

“I wouldn’t be sitting here today if it wasn’t for Mayor Barlow,” said Councilman Tesoriero with regard to his city council position. “…I saw a vision that he had, the energy, the wanting to make a difference for the city of Oswego and knowing that we can go much forward.”

Mayor Barlow does not do much besides work, a quality he has carried with him since his childhood. But Barlow’s work is the most important thing to him of anything he could be doing.

“This office, and working for my neighbors, trying to help my community, is what I live for right now,”said Barlow. “I have to force myself to go home and shut the computer, because I do enjoy doing it.”

Barlow plans on running for reelection next year. Even though Barlow has only served one term thus far, the city council members are very confident that Mayor Barlow has already put the city in a good position for when he moves on, whenever that may be.

“When he finally goes to move on to whatever career he’s going to continue with,” said Councilman Wilmott, “he’s going to leave this city in a much better spot, and he’s going to leave it a lot easier for the next mayor to step in…no doubt.

“No doubt,” repeats Councilman Tesoriero.

“No doubt,” says Councilman Corradino.

No doubt.

The Student Relationship with LinkedIn

By Ethan Magram

Image result for linkedin

Just about every college student has gotten the LinkedIn lecture. We’ve all been told to make ourselves a LinkedIn account, construct our profile a certain way, have a professional headshot, and use specific key words that will stand out to employers in searches. I’m sure many students have asked themselves if putting so much time into a LinkedIn profile is even worth it if it may not be as effective as they’ve been led to believe.

At first, I thought the answer to this question was ‘no.’ I thought the platform was so saturated with student profiles, just like mine, that it would be impossible to stand out to employers. After all, 25% of all American adults have a LinkedIn account, according to Pew Research, and there are over 46 million students and recent college graduates on LinkedIn, according to Brandwatch. It appears as if there will always other students that have stronger profiles and stronger resumes.

I say all this, and remain this cynical, after having found success on the platform. I was offered an internship opportunity through LinkedIn over the summer. It was totally unprompted and would have been a truly legitimate and beneficial experience (had I accepted it). Yet, somehow, I remained skeptical about whether it could help other students like me find these kinds of opportunities.

I asked Kimberly Hirsch, a senior cognitive science and computer science major at SUNY Oswego, if she felt that LinkedIn is a beneficial tool for other students to use. She responded with an emphatic ‘yes.’

“I have never been offered any opportunities over LinkedIn,” Hirsch said, “but my sister has.”

Hirsch continued to explain that her sister had graduated college and was offered her full-time, salaried job over LinkedIn. She has remained at that company for over 6 years.

I was beginning to change my mind and realize that LinkedIn had the potential to be an incredibly useful tool for students to seek internship and job opportunities, given the right circumstances.

Brenna MacIsaac, the graduate assistant for the Navigator program in the Compass at SUNY Oswego, says that one of her own friends has found opportunities through LinkedIn.

“She is a human resource major and she has had a ton of [related] positions, so people have reached out to her for human resources,” she said.

So, students are indeed finding opportunities over LinkedIn. At this point, my frame of reference has changed entirely. But one thing did stick out to me when I had my conversation with Brenna MacIsaac.

“I think a lot of people on LinkedIn, on the employer side, look for people [whose] experiences match up…,” she said. “I think there is an equal relationship there.”

I found this point about the relationship between recruiters and job seekers fascinating. After doing some research, I found that recruiters have just as much of a methodology for finding people to hire as students do trying to get hired.

According to The Balanced Careers, over 100,000 recruiters are using LinkedIn as a recruitment tool, meaning over 100,000 companies are looking for good employees just as there are over 450 million LinkedIn users looking for jobs.

LinkedIn itself boasts that over 75% of people who have recently switched jobs have used LinkedIn to inform their decision, and that social professional networks like LinkedIn are the #1 source of quality hires. LinkedIn has a plethora of statistics and blog posts for recruiters to improve their recruitment processes just like students might receive tips about how to construct their profiles for a higher likelihood that theirs will be looked at by recruiters.

This relationship between recruiter and potential hire appears to be one that lacks any kind of understanding from one side to the other. The language in these blog posts for recruiters carry a tone that lacks regard for the people these recruiters would intend to hire, but instead, carries a somewhat corporate-insider tone. It’s almost as if finding good recruits isn’t the issue to recruiters, but comparing recruitment processes is.

For example, a post on the LinkedIn Talent Blog by Ed Nathanson: “No matter how good you are, how many great placements you have made or how great a sourcer you may be, most of our customers think that they can do our job (or at the very least, have opinions on how they would do it better).”

Ultimately, I found that, for students, LinkedIn has the potential to be a very valuable resource for finding jobs and internships. As long as you tailor your profile correctly, it may be clicked on by recruiters. But I believe that recruiters on LinkedIn have very little of a concern for the humans behind the profiles. It seems to me as if they utilize LinkedIn as a tool to sift through candidates to find the ones that are most qualified, but have little concern for anything other than the items on their hiring checklist that are checked off by certain LinkedIn profiles. In that sense, I think that colleges and their students should rethink the way they treat LinkedIn and try to use it with this relationship between potential hires and recruiters in mind and to their advantage.

Ethan Magram

Name: Ethan Magram
Year: Junior
Major: Broadcasting/Mass Communications
Hometown: Plattsburgh, NY

Ethan Magram is a third-year student at SUNY Oswego with a passion for public media. Magram’s interest sparked at the age of 16, when he helped to produce two documentary films with his AP Environmental Science class at Beekmantown High School, including a feature length doc that aired on Mountain Lake PBS in Plattsburgh.  He has since been a volunteer at Mountain Lake PBS and, most recently, a Production Intern at WRVO Public Media, an NPR affiliate in Oswego. Outside of his studies, Magram is the Vice President of Membership for SUNY Oswego’s chapter of Alpha Phi Omega, a national co-ed community service fraternity.