I had known 4th Ward Alderman Elect Diane Hatzenbuhler peripherally for the past few years, mostly through the Neighborhood Watch meetings and the Book Hound, but I didn’t have a chance to sit with her and actually hear her story until the second week in December, when she consented to this interview. We met in the seating area at the Old Peddler’s Wagon on Church Street over cookies and fudge.
Compass. Sometimes in Amsterdam, there seems to be a focus on whether or not you grew up here. So let’s begin at the beginning. Are you originally from Amsterdam?
DH. No. I moved here in January, 2001 from Charlotte, North Carolina. I’d lived down there almost 20 years. I raised my daughter down there. Then she went off to college, and it was time for mom to move on. I took the opportunity to fall in love with a beautiful house on Guy Park, and that’s why I moved here. My family is originally from Johnstown and Gloversville, so I had family ties to the area and that is why I was familiar with Amsterdam. In fact several of my grandmother’s dresses for special occasions were from the New Paris Shop so I was familiar… My great-aunt, Dulcie Hatzenbuhler, taught at the Guy Park School for many years. She lived in Broadalbin, but she taught at the Guy Park School.
Most of her students, I would say, are starting to pass on. And one of those students was…umm… (whispers) died a couple of years ago. Many of them had told me when I was campaigning that they had her as a teacher, and they always liked her. She was always sweet. That’s how I ended up here.
I was raised in Connecticut, went to college in Virginia and fell in love with the South. I always wanted to go back. After I took a job in retailing, after I got my Associates in retailing, I took a job as a buyer for a department store in Connecticut. I bought in Menswear and I also bought in Bridal Gowns. I was there two and a half years until I moved to Wisconsin to live with my parents. While I was there I interviewed with Northwest, North Central and Delta, was offered a job with all three and took the job with Delta, whereby I wound up in Houston, July 1st, 1969, right at the height of NASA and all the moon walks. A couple of weeks later, they walked on the moon.
Compass. What lessons did you learn in your job with the airline industry that would apply to your new position of Alderwoman?
DH. Customer service. Being polite. Responding to your constituents. Giving them the information that they need as a resident. And working with the residents. I think that will probably pay off the most.
Compass. What are some of the needs of the 4th Ward that you will be mindful of as an alderwoman?
DH. (We need a lot!) We already have the first phase of the one grant that’s doing the upper part of Hibbard Street. The other grant [for the other half of Hibbard] has been applied for, and we will know about that in May. Then I would like to see an additional grant, next year or the following year, that would include Milton, VanDerveer and Grand Streets. And then, when that part is done, we could do Pulaski, Vrooman and that area over there, along with–there’s a couple of side streets, Slater for instance. We need our off street parking lot over here paved.
Compass. And accessible.
DH. And accessible. Right now I think they have material stored there from when they were working on the natural gas lines that National Grid has been replacing. I’d like to see a park over at the old school on Grand and Milton. I would like to get the neighbors involved along with city workers and develop it so there is off street parking at both ends, but in the center there would be this nice playground. That’s why I would like to see that housing grant go over there to that area–because it needs a lot of work.
I am involved in Neighborhood Watch; I believe it has been very successful in the neighborhood. I think people have wanted to get involved in it, and they are involved, and as we keep eyes on it we will be okay.
Compass. Do you anticipate working well with the mayor the next two years, or not?
DH. I think we are going to work well together. The new incoming members of the Council and current Alderman Leggiero, we all sat down and met with the Mayor, and basically it was for her to give us a heads-up on things they are working on and things we need to know about, that we will have to work on right away, like MOSA. From that standpoint we had a very cordial meeting. We’ve had a second meeting to discuss issues [pertaining to] the city, that are going to require our immediate attention.
Compass. There is no secret agenda the recently elected council members have towards the mayor?
Compass. What if you came to believe that your party was taking the wrong position on a particular issue, would you vote your conscience or party line?
DH. I’d have to vote my conscience. I’ve already made it clear. If the landfill were brought up again in the same location, I would not support it, because I wouldn’t do that to the residents of the 4th ward. And I have made that statement every time I’ve run for Alderwoman, and I won’t change my position on that.
(Part two of this conversation will be posted tomorrow).