Steering Town's Future
In Alex Hammond’s hometown of Waddington, N.Y., “our biggest export is our youth,” says the ILR Class of 2018 member.
Not so in Hammond’s case.
At 21, Hammond ran against incumbent town supervisor Sandra Wright and won, 489-427.
The Democrat took office Jan. 1 and kept a campaign promise -- his first board meeting made town history by being streamed live on Facebook.
Hammond takes classes Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, then drives 3.5 hours to his St. Lawrence River community. He returns to Ithaca on Sundays.
“I’m taking a mediation class right now” and applying it in real time, he said.
The town’s three highway employees are Teamsters who have been working without a contract for three years. Hammond cannot take part in negotiations because his father, Brian, is president of Local 687 of Potsdam. But, the supervisor promised townspeople he would do his best to get a fair contract.
Among the skills Hammond is learning at ILR is negotiation.
He put that collaborative approach into action Jan. 11, when he was part of about 40 U.S. and Canadian leaders who met in Prescott, Ontario, Canada, to discuss trade, tourism, jobs and international relations.
State Sen. Patty Ritchie, who invited Hammond to the meeting, said, “I have been impressed with Supervisor Hammond’s interest in the issues surrounding the town.”
“I’ve seen firsthand when he jumped right in to be part of an effort to build bridges across the international border that Waddington shares with Canada. I am looking forward to working with him to build stronger ties and better opportunity for everyone.”
At ILR, Hammond is exploring ways to make development equitable. At home, he hopes to apply it to a downtown revitalization.
“We’re moving away from being just a bedroom community,” he said. Many townspeople worked in a nearby General Motors plant until it closed. Now, leaders are trying to attract artisan galleries and increase tourism.
“I believe in Waddington,” Hammond said. “I loved growing up here.’’
As a high school senior, he expected to attend a nearby college. At a college fair, though, he learned about ILR, as well as Valley Forge Military College.
He graduated from Valley Forge, where he was part of the Army Early Commissioning Program, then came to ILR. He is a second lieutenant in the New York Army National Guard.
“I think Cornell and especially the ILR School is what gave me the ability to come back and give something back,” Hammond said. He encourages other students to do the same.
“You might be young, but don’t ever think because you’re young you can’t accomplish something.”