CATSKILL — Members of the 2019 Greene County Legislature took the oath of office on Wednesday night for three-year terms — some familiar faces, others new.
One big change takes place at the top, where Legislator Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, takes over chairmanship of the legislature, replacing Kevin Lewis, R-Greenville. Lewis did not run for a new term.
Republicans expanded their control over the legislature on Nov. 6 by picking up four seats — going from 8-6 to a 12-2 majority. Five of the legislators are new to the board.
Legislator Jack Keller, R-Catskill, replaces Kevin Lennon, D-Catskill, who did not seek re-election.
“I’m very excited,” Keller said, referring to his new position. “I’m new and have a lot to learn. I’m extremely excited and enthusiastic.”
Keller has been regularly attending committee meetings, he said.
“I want to do the right thing for the constituents,” Keller said. “I plan on attending committee meetings so I can be informed about the big picture and make wise and educated decisions.”
Lennon could not be reached for comment by press time.
Legislator Ed Bloomer, R-Athens, replaces Lee Palmateer, D-Athens, who did not seek re-election.
“We have a good series of legislators,” Bloomer said. “All 14 of us, we can work with. I’m very optimistic.”
Bloomer plans to focus on economic development and keeping the county’s budget low.
“We’re in excellent financial condition,” he said. “It’s a high priority to maintain that.”
Palmateer hopes Bloomer will use his best judgment.
“To Mr. Bloomer, my advice is to do what he thinks is in the best interest of the people of Athens and Greene County,” he said. “And to exercise independent judgment of matters, which I know he will do.”
The former legislator also had parting words for his constituents.
“To the people of Athens and Greene County, it was an honor to represent you for the past year and I did my best,” he said. “It feels good to have participated in the legislature for one year. It was great to get to know the legislature and the professional staff. I have complete faith and confidence that the county is in good hands going forward.”
Palmateer also commended Linger on his appointment as the new legislature chairman.
“I wish Pat Linger the best as chairman of the legislature,” Palmateer said. “It’s a big responsibility.”
Linger was nominated by Legislator William Lawrence, R-Cairo. The nomination was seconded by Legislator Charles Martinez, R-Coxsackie. All legislators supported the resolution. Linger recused himself from the vote.
Linger possesses many good qualities that the county wants in a leader, Lawrence said, citing Linger’s steadiness, calm demeanor and integrity as examples.
Legislator Gregory Davis, R-Greenville, replaces Lewis, who was elected as Greenville town justice in November.
“I’m looking forward to serving the citizens of Greenville,” Davis said. “We have a jail to build and a lot on the plate.”
Lewis could not be reached for comment by press time.
James Thorington, R-Windham, replaces Lori Torgersen, D-Windham, who withdrew from the race in October.
Thorginton is feeling good about starting his term, he said.
“I’m excited to be here and represent the mountaintop,” he said.
Thorington plans to take a thoughtful approach to the office.
“I’m going to feel my way in and see how things go,” he said.
Torgersen wished Thorington the best.
“I encourage him to be an independent thinker and offer his best judgment and best outlook for Greene County,” she said. “He should approach the position with the utmost integrity and he will do a great job.”
Torgersen wants her constituents to know that she will continue to pursue their best interests.
“I promise I’m going to be involved in Greene County and have a positive impact,” she said. “I have a passion for this community and my home and ideas about how to brighten our future. I will continue to do that — just from a different seat.”
Torgersen will continue to attend meetings.
“I’ve dedicated an inordinate amount of time as a legislator,” she said, “I’m figuring out a new path.”
Although she will miss serving her community, Torgersen believes she made the right decision.
“It was the right decision for me not to run again,” she said. “I loved the opportunity to get to know the constituency in the district. I will miss the opportunity to problem-solve on their behalf.”
Legislator Patricia Handel, R-Durham, replaces Aidan O’Connor Jr., D-Durham, who ran for assemblyman in the 102nd District and lost to Republican Chris Tague of Schoharie.
Handel has served on the legislature before. She completed an unexpired term in 2011 and was elected in her own right in 2012 to a three-year term.
“I’m definitely excited about starting my new term,” Handel said. “I’m looking forward to working with the legislators.”
Handel expects she will focus on the jail and chairing the Health Services Committee.
O’Connor wished Handel well.
“I wish all the best for Ms. Handel and this legislative body,” he said. “I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to serve Durham and Greene County. I’m looking forward to catching up on life and spending time with loved ones.”
O’Connor is especially proud of the work the legislature put into emergency services during his term.
“We have 30-plus automatic defibrillators in the field and our paramedic funding is the highest it’s ever been at $1.2 million.”
O’Connor will continue to make himself available as a resource to the legislature and to the public.
“I think this group of legislators has its work cut out for them,” O’Connor said. “There are projects and decisions that will alter the future of the county, for good or for bad.”
Lawrence, who was sworn in for his 13th term, offered words of advice for the newcomers.
“I commend the new legislators for winning the confidence of the constituents,” he said. “Since my first swearing-in, I’ve been sworn at a lot. I offer this advice: Don’t take it personally.”
In addition to appointing the chairman, the legislature also designated Lawrence as the majority leader, Legislator Harry Lennon, D-Cairo, as the minority leader, Legislator Charles Martinez, R-Coxsackie, as the budget officer and Larry Gardner, D-Hunter, the parliamentarian.
Legislative committees were also appointed.
The County Resources Committee will be chaired by Legislator Michael Bulich, R-Catskill, and includes Legislator Linda Overbaugh, R-Catskill, Davis and Thorington; County Services will be chaired by Bloomer and including Overbaugh, Legislator Matthew Luvera, R-Catskill, Keller, Handel and Gardner; Economic Development and Tourism will be chaired by Overbaugh and includes Bulich, Gardner, Handel, Bloomer and Thorington; Finance will be chaired by Martinez and includes Hobart, Gardner, Overbaugh, Bulich and Davis; Government Operations will be chaired by Luvera and includes Martinez, Overbaugh, Legislator Thomas Hobart, R-Coxsackie, Davis and Keller; Health Services will be chaired by Handel and includes Davis, Luvera, Hobart, Bloomer and Keller; Public Safety will be chaired by Lawrence and includes Martinez, Bloomer, Handel, Gardner, and Thorington; Public Works will be chaired by Thorington and includes Martinez, Hobart, Bulich, Handel and Keller.