Historian post is important

The “tempest in a coffeepot” involving suspended Fulton County Historian Peter Betz is drawing to a close.

While it’s a shame Betz plans to resign, the county should get started on filling the position.

Betz, 70, of Perth was charged by Johnstown police May 7 with misdemeanor petit larceny. Police said Betz stole a Keurig coffee maker from the Fulton County Office Building and replaced it with another one. Police say the theft of the $125 item occurred in the grand jury room in the building’s basement April 9. That room is down the hall from the historian’s office.

After his arrest, the county suspended Betz from his position. Betz, who was appointed to the post in January 2006, was budgeted to be paid $6,134 this year.

On Tuesday, City Court Judge Thomas Walsh approved a prosecution motion for an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal involving Betz. After the proceeding, defense attorney Michael Albanese of Gloversville said his understanding of the action by the judge was that “as long as nothing happens in the next six months, the charges will be dismissed.” Also on Tuesday, Betz said he plans to submit his written resignation to the county.

Betz did a lot of good in his time as historian. However, he is making his choice and the county will need to fill that position.

The description of the part-time historian position in the county budget document is as follows: “The county historian gathers and preserves historical information related to the history of the county, writes and publishes articles on local history, shares historic content through public speeches and presentations to civic and school groups, serves as a contact point and reference source for persons requesting historical information, serves as a networker between these clients and other historic authorities in the field who may also help them; interacts and supports the efforts of town historians; facilitates the interpretation and preservation of historic structures; is an ambassador to individuals and groups visiting our county on historic missions; maintains and augments the county archive-reference collection; and provides regular office hours.”

The position is not filled by someone who does it for the money. Being the historian is about loving to research history and share knowledge with anyone who comes calling.

The historian position is significant. Historians provide an important service to the community.

County officials will have to look hard to find someone who is as dedicated as Betz has been. They’d better start now. The county shouldn’t leave the position vacant for long.

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