I didn’t think it possible, but Ulster County executive Pat Ryan seems to be getting more publicity than Mike Hein ever did. And Hein really, really worked hard at it.
County exec only since June 7, Ryan gets front page coverage to die for. Hardly three days go by when I don’t see a group photo-op with young Ryan signing something or the other. Like Chuck Schumer, Ryan knows how to feed the beast.
Some of this stuff was left over from the Hein machine, like the fire training center in the town of Ulster, but hey, Hein’s history and Ryan’s the man. Like Jack Anderson, one of my early journalism models, I’m not much for staged events. But in a newsstarved media, it sure soaks up space.
I actually got some face time with the hardcharging exec, the product of a misunderstanding on my part. For some reason, I thought the Democratic nominating convention that selected March Gallagher over Lisa Cutten for county comptroller, was being held at the Rosendale Civic Center last Thursday night.
Imagine my surprise
On arrival, I found Ryan doing one of his town hall meetings with some Rosendale officials and a few residents. Five or six people sat around a table with town supervisor Jeanne Walsh peppering the new guy with questions and problems. I sat in, figuring to kill time before the delegates filed in. At about that time, delegates were entering city hall in Kingston. Who knew?
Usually, these are P&M sessions (piss and moan), mostly smoke, but this one was different. Ryan struck me as attentive and focused, a good listener. At the same time, he seemed to have a handle on most of the issues presented. Affordable health care, Walsh told him, was a serious issue in blue collar Rosendale where a family plan could cost town government $32,000 a year, plus deductibles. They discussed the county forming a pool to produce lower rates for all the towns. Ryan didn’t commit, but mentioned that Tompkins County had created such a system recently and it seemed beneficial.
With Ryan running on a tight schedule, the one-hour meeting broke up around 7:15. Still no Democrat delegates. Uh, oh.
“Where’s the convention?” I asked Ryan, who seemed to have an answer for almost everything.
“Convention?” he said. “I think it’s in Kingston, but I don’t plan to attend.” One of his aides Googled it and I was off and running. Didn’t miss much. Insiders had Gallagher pegged at 60-40 going in, maybe 2-1. She almost hit 70. A few hours later an Albany radio station breathlessly announced that Ulster Democrats had “nominated a CPA” for county comptroller. They had it half-right: Lisa Cutten had the credentials (she’s the CPA), Gallagher had the clout (almost twice as many votes).
Here and there
Party business is of little interest outside the political class, even if changes in party leadership can impact future elections. Democratic deputy commissioner Ernest Klepeis, a town of Rosendale councilman, has left for a job with Rep. Patrick Mahoney. Klepeis, a whiz with data, was in the job for only about 18 months when opportunity knocked. Commissioner Ashley Dittus has hired Jen Fuentes, the self-proclaimed “mayor maker” (she managed Dave Clegg’s congressional campaign last year) as her new deputy.
Across the aisle, longtime GOP worker bee Patty Jacobson will be leaving next month for a welldeserved retirement. GOP commissioner Tom Turco’s new deputy will be John Quigley, 27, son of town of Ulster supervisor Jim Quigley. A Republican youth movement? Who would have thought?
And speaking of youth, Michelle Hinchey, 31, daughter of the late congressman, has been testing the waters for a run for state senate against Automatic Amedore (three-term Republican George Amedore) next year. Maurice Hinchey made his first (unsuccessful) run for office at 34. What followed was 19 straight election wins. Michelle should be half as lucky.