On the November night in 2018 when Jack Keller was elected to one of four Catskill seats on the Greene County Legislature, he said he was pleased by the large turnout.
“That’s what it’s all about, and whatever happens, happens,” he said of the result. “It’s a government for the people, by the people.”
Keller added that he planned to diligently attend meetings and make the right decisions for constituents.
“I want to continue to put to bed the jail issue,” he said. “It’s also important to make sure there aren’t overexpenditures or corruption within the budget.”
Keller, who died Dec. 30 of heart failure at the age of 64, was the quintessential team player. The Legislature, raked over by the Greene County Jail project and then bombarded by the COVID-19 pandemic, needed his presence. He was a calming influence on the other lawmakers, who respected his willingness to step forward when nobody else wanted to. He was a consensus-builder, speaking to all the legislators before making his decisions.
Keller worked for the New York State Park Service as a member of the grounds crew that served the Olana State Historic Site. Just as he embodied political rationality in elected office, he was a gentleman and a friendly presence at work.
He was a good-will ambassador for Greene County and the Olana State Historic Site. Through his relationship with Olana, he championed the cultural richness of Greene and Columbia counties. He served as an emissary between the two counties. His political work ethic was peerless. He didn’t miss a Legislature meeting in his first and only term and he didn’t take a vacation or call in sick.
At a meeting in early December 2019 when the Legislature was debating waiving the Greene County residency requirement for the sheriff’s office, Keller said he wanted to put Greene County residents at the head of the line.
And then he asked a simple but sharp question.
“Can we legally have Greene County residents be given a priority?” he said.
Keller was to take the oath of office for his second legislative term Monday, but the ceremony took place in his absence. He wanted to work with all his fellow lawmakers to do the best they could for the entire county. Jack Keller cared deeply. He will be missed.