ONE-ON-ONE – An interview with Brian Kolb, Minority Leader, NYS Assembly
What is your background in politics?
I have served in the State Legislature for 13 years. Prior to that I held a two year term in the Ontario County Board of Supervisor as the Supervisor for the Town of Richmond from 1986 to 987. In 1989, I filled an unexpired term on the Honeoye Central School board.
Why did you get involved in politics?
Well, I guess my first introduction to politics in a small way came when my parents’ restaurant (The Dutch Treat on the corner of Durand and North Street in Rochester) held a fundraiser for a City Councilman named Urban G. Kress. My next interest in politics came when, in grammar school, I was intrigued by the campaign of John Kennedy. I remember I was home sick from school when we learned that the President had been killed. My parents were Kennedy Democrats. So was I when I first entered politics. Democrats outnumbered in my district 2 to 1, and I ended up defeating my opponent who was an incumbent. I switched to the Republican party in the late 90s.
How long have you now been Minority Leader in the New York State Assembly?
For 4 years and one month. I was incredibly honored as a legislator to have earned this honor. It is a very prestigious position. I serve as one of only 200 (or fewer) such legislative leaders in the Country.
What are your impressions of Governor Cuomo?
Overall I think he is doing a good job. But I reserve that for the work he did in his first 2 years more so. He still has done some good things, but even some of his early successes, focusing on the key fiscal issues, have been ideas which originated with the Assembly Republican. Article 10, concerning Power Plants in New York State, and his Power for Jobs Incentive — all Republican ideas. Initially, Cuomo was very pragmatic, he had to be; the State needed help fiscally. Now he has turned a bit more liberal with his issues. We still all have to deal with update vs downstate agendas — tourism, manufacturing, farming engineering, technology – these are our upstate focus. Downstate deals with ferry tolls and some other types of transportation issues that have no relevance up here. I think the Governor needs to do more on Mandate relief – schools, counties, towns, he has done some, but not enough.
Your feelings on Fracking finally coming to a head in New York?
We are working on our 6th year of looking into it. We will have to finally make decisions. I think parts of the state really welcome it. The Southern Tier seems to be right for fracking and would do well with it. The Finger Lakes region — not so much. Whatever we end up doing with fracking, all I want to be sure that we do is strongly regulate it! It’s time to figure out what to do – and then just do it. We are so reliant on natural gas and the safety of that type of fuel. I find it difficult in discussions, when people work on “fears”.
What are your feelings on the New York SAFE Act?
I voted against it. It was one of the worst things we ever passed. The Act is awful, and the process was awful. There was just no input – none from the public, or law enforcement or mental health providers.
Assemblyman Kolb lives in Canandaigua, and serves in the 131st Assembly District incorporating all of Ontario County and the northern half of Seneca County. He worked for a number of years in Newark in Wayne County as the owner of North American Filter, and later as President of Refractron. Kolb was the guest speaker at the Republican Chairman’s Club dinner last Thursday at Docker’s Restaurant, at the bequest of his friend and colleague Assemblyman Bob Oaks.