How fortunate it was for the Amsterdam, NY community that the Bigelow-Sanford Carpet Company needed a new plant physician in 1948 and hired Oswego, NY native Dr. Phil Cortese to fill that vacancy. Cortese, who had got his M.D. from Georgetown, then served as a medical officer in the Pacific during WWII. He and his wife Margaret, moved to the Rug City, purchased a home on Market Street and raised a family that would grow to seven children and include today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant, Phil Cortese, Jr. who came into this world on September 15, 1952.
When Bigelow-Sanford left the City in the mid fifties, Dr. Cortese and his family remained and he went into private practice. An amazingly progressive pair of parents, the Cortese’s made sure their children were exposed to and respected different cultures, thoughts and beliefs. On one family excursion in the 1960’s the entire Cortese clan went overseas and lived with families in Italy, France and Spain to find out for themselves how their lives compared to their own.
Phil Jr. became head of the student government at Bishop Scully High School in 1969, at a time US public opinion regarding our country’s military involvement in Vietnam was splitting by age. The older generations were still very much supporting US involvement in the conflict while younger Americans were turning against it in large numbers. Cortese helped organize a public forum to discuss the positions supporting both sides. He graduated from Scully in 1970 and then followed in his dad’s footsteps and went to Georgetown. But instead of medicine, he chose political science and went on to get his Masters in public administration from Syracuse and then his juris doctorate from the University of New Hampshire in 1981.
After passing the New York State Bar, he became an associate for the Amsterdam law firm, Horigan, Horigan, Pennock and Lombardo. In 1987, he moved to the law offices of Amsterdam attorney Paul Wollman, while also serving as a law clerk to Montgomery County Court Judge Howard Aison. Then in 1988, after Democrat Paul Parillo was elected Amsterdam Mayor, he asked Cortese to serve as his Corporation Counsel. He held that position until Parillo lost his reelection bid to Mario Villa in 1992. He was then appointed Corporation Counsel again in 1996 by then-newly elected Mayor John Duchessi. During the Duchessi administration his dad, Dr. Phil Cortese, Sr. was named Medical Officer for the City of Amsterdam making it the first time ever a father and son served in those positions simultaneously.
Cortese then ran successfully for Montgomery County Family Court in 2002 and was reelected to that position in 2012.
Judge Cortese shares his September 15th Birthday with this amazing musician and band leader who once called Amsterdam home.