Long before she was elevated to New York's highest office, or became a member of Congress, Kathy Hochul was a locally elected official on a town board in western New York.
It's that experience -- later serving as a county clerk -- that has informed Hochul's early days of being governor and her response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Her approach in the last week to the public health crisis and pledging to work with local governments has drawn praise from officials.
"Her perspective on the roles of state and local government is refreshing and most welcome," said Dr. Indu Gupta, the president of the County Health Officials of New York.
Hochul on Tuesday announced local governments would receive $65 million in funding to help with COVID response, including an effort to promote booster shots as the state works to build infrastructure for distribution once federal regulators approve the move beyond immune compromised people.
"Funding for public health has diminished for more than a decade. This initial infusion provides hope that state and local governments, and all of our partners, can work collaboratively to properly and effectively resource local public health infrastructure in the coming state budget," Gupta said.
There are hundreds of local governments across New York, municipalities that can tax and pass laws. But those governments remain creatures of the state government, and often need approval from state lawmakers hundreds of miles away to pass basic functions, like a sales tax increase.
The top-down relationship with the state has often led to more than a little grumbling at the local level in New York. Hochul's predecessor, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, had sought to freeze local government aid and force local governments to consolidate their functions as a way of saving money and reducing taxes, all with little effect on the taxpayer.
Hochul has pledged to take a different approach with the pandemic, telling officials in Buffalo on Tuesday there are clear roles for the state and municipalities.
"One of the takeaways I had from being in the trenches with you is that I understand there is a role for state government and there's a role for local governments, and I'm prepared to transition quickly as we are now fighting this new wave, this delta variant, which is brutal, and people who are not vaccinated will absolutely succumb to this because it is raging," she said.
Ultimately, it's the state government that will step in with resources and even more expertise. When issues cut across county lines, the state will have to step in, such as vaccination or mask mandates.
But Hochul indicated Tuesday, a week into her governorship, that she wants to listen.
"You tell us where there's gaps, tell us where something needs to be enhanced by the state, and we'll be there without stepping on the local public health agencies," she said. "How does that sound? We game for that?"