ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – With Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul poised to take the state’s highest office in just over a week, local leaders are hopeful she’ll bring economic development and recovery to the Southern Tier, not just downstate New York.

“Certainly there’s a concern with that upstate downstate divide, and at times, especially in rural areas – [like] the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes, you feel like you’re left out a little bit,” Steuben County Manager Jack Wheeler said. “Having someone who’s from Western New York, who knows the challenges of upstate firsthand, I think is going to be a benefit to us.”

One thing local officials said they hope Hochul will invest in is economic development and recovery

“[We should be] focusing our attention on this economic recovery for our small business, our manufacturers and farmers who were crushed by these closures and shutdowns,” Assemblymember Philip Palmesano said.

Another must, Palmesano said, boosting the Southern Tier’s vaccination rate. He, along with Wheeler, said they would be open to working with Hochul to educate New Yorkers about the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The COVID pandemic is something that still needs to be addressed,” Palmesano said. “I know that’s gonna be a big undertaking for this administration, but I also believe we need to have that local input and local control [when it comes to the state] working with our local officials.”

Schuyler County Administrator Tim O’Hearn said additional guidance on navigating the COVID-19 Pandemic would be beneficial to the Southern Tier.

“There needs to be a balance between certainly having defined uniform leadership from the state level, but also allowing for local discretion is needed,” O’Hearn said. “Ultimately, common sense has to prevail and we need to balance the emotions versus what are legitimate public health needs.”