She was the second woman mayor in Sullivan County history and one of the longest serving. Outspoken and energetic, she was a natural leader, yet always seemed to remember she was also a member of the …
She was the second woman mayor in Sullivan County history and one of the longest serving. Outspoken and energetic, she was a natural leader, yet always seemed to remember she was also a member of the community, and even at the height of her power she insisted that reporters call her “Skippy.”
She was Ida “Skippy” Frankel, who was elected Mayor of the village of Liberty in 1975.
Ida “Skippy” Frankel was born in Waterbury, Connecticut on April 20, 1919 to Morris and Molly Levowitz Bergman. She married Sidney Frankel, and together they ran Frankel's Hardware Store in the village of Liberty. With a partner, she also owned and operated the Hat Fair in the village in the early 1960s. Sidney was active in local politics, serving as village trustee and as deputy mayor in the mid-1960s.
Ms. Frankel was a top flight bowler, winning a number of championships and serving as the president of the Women's Bowling League. She was also active in Hadassah and the P.T.A. and on the Liberty Volunteer Ambulance Corps. She found time for local politics, as well, and made history in March of 1956 when she became the first woman to ever run for village trustee in Liberty.
Actually, Vivian Cooke had been nominated by the Democratic caucus to run in Liberty several years before, but had declined the nomination and never ran. Ms. Frankel enthusiastically accepted her nomination and promised to make a race of it.
She campaigned vigorously, and many pundits expected her to ride a wave of women voters to victory. When the votes were tallied, however, she found herself finishing third out of the four candidates, as the two Republican incumbents won re-election.
“Some surprise was expressed that Mrs. Frankel, first woman to seek the trustee office in Liberty, did not poll a larger vote,” the Liberty Register newspaper reported after the election. “But post-mortem debaters were inclined to agree that the women must have voted party rather than sex.”
Despite the defeat, Ms. Frankel remained engaged in local politics, and served as the associate chair of the Sullivan County Democratic Party for several years before resigning in protest.
She was elected as a trustee in the village in 1971, the third time a woman ever ran for village office—Dorothy Silverman had run unsuccessfully for Trustee in 1962-- becoming the first to win a seat. She was the top vote getter in the election.
“It was the fact that the residents wanted a change,” she told the Times Herald-Record newspaper on election night. “The people wanted new and younger people, new enthusiasm.”
She was an outspoken member of the Board, leading to a bumpy first term, and it was heavily rumored that she was positioning herself to run against incumbent mayor Marvin Magid, the only Republican on the Village Board. She denied the rumors, and ran for re-election as a trustee in 1973, winning again.
In 1975, she decided to challenge the then incumbent mayor, Republican Robert Klugman, and won by nearly 200 votes. She was the lone Democrat to win in Liberty that year, and was the only one from the party on the Village Board.
Ms. Frankel said she had decided to run for mayor simply because “leadership should be of sufficient quality to pull the village together and the present leader is just not doing that.” She also told a reporter that “1975 was a good year for a woman to run,” and hoped that it would be an advantage for her.
She served as Liberty Mayor for ten years, and during her time in office became the first female president of the New York State Conference of Mayors. She advocated for hiring a full-time Village Manager, proclaiming that “politics has no place in the running of a village. You can't run a village part-time.”
Mrs. Frankel died on March 26, 2006. She was remembered as “a strong and motivated woman who had many talents.”
John Conway is the Sullivan County Historian. Email him at email@example.com.