ITHACA, N.Y. — District 5 candidate for Tompkins County Legislature Anne Koreman says she plans to fight for the average citizen of Tompkins County and make sure working-class families have a voice.

Koreman is a longtime resident of Tompkins County and progressive Democrat. She has no background in politics, but said she is ready to step up and get involved. Some issues she says are important to her are the environment, renewable energy and passing a living wage in Tompkins County.

“I’m a fighter. I’m a social justice activist and currently there’s a major assault on working families and the environment from Washington conservatives. I’m running for county legislature because I am passionate about doing everything that we can in Tompkins County to combat this assault,” Koreman said at a recent “Meet the Candidates” event. “I’m passionate about supporting working-class families and making sure that they have a voice. I will work to pass a living wage because I believe that people who are working full-time in this county should not have to live in poverty.”

Koreman works as a home inspector and owns Every Square Inch Home Inspections. She has resided in Tompkins County for 29 years and lives with her wife Carolyn Kreisel on Swamp College Road in the Town of Ulysses.

District 5 includes the Town of Ulysses and portions of the towns of Enfield and Ithaca.

Koreman is one of three candidates vying for the District 5 seat. She is challenging incumbent Jim Dennis who has a long career in local politics and has served on Tompkins County Legislature for 12 years. She will also be going up against Keith Hannon, an Ithaca College alumnus who is also new to the political scene.

► Election 2017: Who’s running for Tompkins County Legislature?

Koreman said she grew up in a working-class family. Her parents did not graduate from high school, but she said they were fortunate enough to have union jobs. She comes from a family of seven and was the first person in her family to go to college. Koreman initially started out studying engineering, and was one of two women in her program, but eventually switched her focus of study to occupational therapy.

Koreman worked as an occupational therapy assistant for 22 years in different settings, like psychiatric as well as drug and alcohol rehabilitation and nursing homes. She switched into home inspection before she got burned out in health care.

For many years, Koreman said she worked two or three jobs to make ends meet. She is a strong advocate of passing a living wage. In everything she does, Koreman says she’s a “fighter.”

From 1984 to 1990, Koreman worked at the Willard Psychiatric Center. When the facility was closing, she said she risked her job whistle-blowing about the harmful effects of transferring long-term elderly patients into nursing homes without notice. She said the facility implemented a new and more humane transfer program as a result of her advocacy.

Koreman has held leadership roles with the Finger Lakes Sierra Club and Fight Back of Central New York, a former women’s self-defense course. She also serves on the board of directors for Black Oak Wind Farm, the long-debated wind farm project in Enfield.

Having volunteered for different organizations over the years, Koreman said there were many times she and her organizations would approach politicians for help or ask them to vote a certain way. She said she often thought “I wish those people sitting behind those desks just saw what it was like out here or knew the type of things that I know.”

Being a politician is not something she ever aspired to, she said, but she sees it as a real opportunity to effect change. Though winning the district seat will be a challenge, Koreman said she thinks people are ready for someone on Tompkins County Legislature who is speaking for the average person.

“I am the average person,” Koreman said. “I think people are wanting more people that are actually out there seeing what the struggles are for the average person.”

Koreman said she also wants to bring more diversity to the Legislature as a woman and lesbian. Koreman is a co-founder of a new organization, Finger Lakes PULSE, which will advocate and create a safe community for LGBTQ individuals.

Renewable energy and the environment are also important issues for Koreman. She lives sustainably by example. Her business and home are heated and cooled with geothermal energy, and solar panels provide their electricity and power their electric tractor. To keep her business green, she also drives a Prius and stuffs four ladders, including a 19-foot ladder, into her car as part of her home inspection business.

She wants to help tackle affordability issues that affect people of all ages in Tompkins County and come up with creative solutions. One idea would be to work to bring tiny houses and create tiny house communities in Tompkins County, which would add jobs, and could help add affordable housing to the area, she said.

As a worker with a variety of life experiences behind her, Koreman said she is a well-rounded leader who listens and creates realistic solutions.

“I will bring a much-needed fresh perspective to the Legislature, representing workers, people like myself, who have long been under-represented in our county government,” Koreman said.

Democrats will vote in a primary Sept. 12.

Featured image: From left, Jim Dennis and Anne Koreman speak at a “Meet the Candidates” event at Ithaca Town Hall on May 9. Both are candidates for District 5. Kelsey O’Connor/Ithaca Voice

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at koconnor@ithacavoice.com and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.