Paul van der Sommen
Born and raised in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Graduated from SUNY Oneonta in 1976. Has owned and operated the Oneonta Tennis Club for 39 years. Married to Sue King van der Sommen, parent of three great kids, one son and two daughters! He has resided in the first ward for 42 years.
Melissa Nicosia came to the area in 1992 from New York City and ended up marrying and raising her family here. She values living in the City of Oneonta where her children had many opportunities along with the benefit of living in a small community-driven city. Nicosia has worked at SUNY Oneonta since 1993 and is currently the Manager of Human Resources in the Office of Sponsored Programs and the College’s Employee Assistance Program Coordinator. She holds an Associate’s Degree in Business Administration from Queensborough Community College, a Bachelor’s degree from SUNY Oneonta in Child and Family Studies and is a Certified Professional in Human Resources. Nicosia lives in the Second Ward with her husband Charles and has two children, both graduates of Oneonta High School.
Dave Rissberger grew up in the suburbs of Rochester, NY before attending the University at Buffalo for his undergraduate degree and Touro College for graduate school. In 2002, he and his wife Rachel moved to Oneonta because of all the wonderful opportunities this region has to offer and to be closer to family. They have two children who attend the Oneonta City School District and enjoy attending their kids' many events such as band concerts and soccer games. Dave works in Special Education as a Physical Therapist for the Oneonta City School District.
Michelle Osterhoudt is an Oneonta native and alumna of Center Street School and OHS. She is an English teacher at Oneonta Middle School and an active member of the Oneonta Area NAACP. She is also the council member liaison to the Commission on Community Relations and Human Rights for the City of Oneonta. Michelle enjoys living in the 4th Ward with her husband Marty, and their children, Alex and Ella.
Dana Marie Levinson
Dana Levinson is proud to represent Oneonta’s 5th Ward. Born and raised in Bronx, NY, Dana has a love for the true community spirit that Oneonta has to offer. Drawn by Oneonta’s acceptance of diversity and openness, Dana and her husband, Richard, chose to settle and raise their family here - including their four children, twins Donald and Delilah, Dahlia and Dannah. A graduate of St. Catherine’s Academy in Bronx, Dana went on to attend Mercy College and is currently employed at Greater Plains Elementary school as a Licensed Teaching Assistant. Dana chose to run for City Council because she wanted to make an impact in her own community, and show her children by example that we all have the ability to better the world around us – starting at home.
Russell A Southard Jr
Russell Southard is in his second four year term as the 6th Ward Councilman of the City of Oneonta. During his first term Russ was Acting Mayor of Oneonta for a period of 12 months. Russ currently chairs the Finance / Human Resources Committee and serves on the Community Development Committee as well as being liaison to the Town of Oneonta and OH Fest. Mayor Herzig also appointed Russ to the Oneonta Charter Review Committee.
Russell Southard has lived in Oneonta’s 6th Ward for the past 30 years where he and his wife Tammy raised their three children.
Originally from Otego, Russ graduated from Unatego Jr. & Sr. High School. He went on to earn a degree in Business Administration from SUNY Morrisville. Over the past 15 years Russ has worked for Mirabito Energy Products as a natural gas and electricity retail sales executive. Prior to his time at Mirabito Russ worked 14 years for New York State Electric & Gas as a Commercial/Industrial Natural Gas Rep.
Russ is a past 7 year member of the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, serving as its Chair for a year. For many years he was the treasurer of the trustees at his church. Russ has a tremendous passion for sports and spent many years coaching youth sports in Oneonta including Oneonta Little League, Pony League Baseball, Oneonta Pee Wee Football and Pickett’s Basketball at the Boys & Girls Club.
John Rafter is a retired Human Resources/Personnel Professional with over 35 years of corporate experience, including 5 years serving as the Human Resources Director of Opportunities for Otsego. He was a member of the Zoning Board for 7 years before election to the City Council.
Joe Ficano, a Utica native, has lived with his family in the Eighth Ward since 1998. He is an academic advising administrator at Hartwick College, prior to which he held teaching posts at the Oneonta Job Corps Academy and ONC BOCES. In 2002, Joe founded Sego Café, a Main Street eatery and music venue, which he ran until 2006 in the space now occupied by Hill City Grill. He has served the City as a former Chair of the Planning Commission and as a Commissioner on the Zoning and Housing Board of Appeals, to which he is now Common Council liaison.
Common Council Support Staff
City Attorney David Merzig
David Merzig, a partner in the law firm of Kehoe & Merzig, PC, is an Oneonta-based attorney who concentrates his practice in sophisticated trusts and estates, elder, and municipal law. David has served as the City of Oneonta’s City Attorney since 1987, during which time he has acted as an advisor to the Mayor, Common Council and Department Heads, and is responsible for the supervision of all legal matters for the City.
An Oneonta native, David graduated from Oneonta High School and earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree, Cum Laude, from the State University of New York at Albany. He then attended Albany Law School of Union University and received a Juris Doctor Degree in 1977. In addition to his work for the City, David also serves as general counsel to the Oneonta Housing Authority, and is active in the operation of Opportunities for Otsego, Inc., a community not-for-profit agency which oversees and administers a variety of need-based programs, where he is the agency’s Finance Committee Chair, Corporate Treasurer, member of the Executive Committee, and has served as a Board Member since 1992. David currently resides in Oneonta with his wife, Margery Merzig.