After almost two months of behind the scenes haggling and horse-trading, Democrats in the Ulster County Legislature will reportedly name Tracey Bartels of Gardiner as chairperson for 2019, replacing Ken Ronk Jr. of Wallkill.
Bartels is a non-enrolled five-term legislator and one of its leading progressives.
Democrats, who reversed a 12-11 Republican majority last summer when Joe Maloney of Saugerties left the Republican caucus to caucus with the then minority party, began meeting on a choice for chairman immediately after last year’s general elections.
Minority leader Hector Rodriguez of New Paltz emerged from that first meeting as the informal party choice, though not without dissension. In subsequent party meetings, former legislature chairman Dave Donaldson of Kingston and Bartels were considered. Democrats reached a consensus only the day before the annual Jan. 7 organizational meeting.
With Maloney’s departure, Ronk’s only hope was to convince a Democrat to switch sides. That, apparently, did not happened, though several Democrats were approached.
The elevation of Bartels is significant in two regards: She is the first non-enrolled legislator to chair the legislature and the first woman to be elected by Democrats. Terry Bernardo of Rochester was elected to two terms by Republicans, ending in 2015. The chairman appoints members to all standing committees of the legislature and special committees as necessary.
Legislative leaders are typically elected to one-year terms but are usually elected twice for their two years in office. Ronk is the first to be voted out in mid-term.
Democrats also voted to replace Rodriquez as party leader, deciding instead on Jonathan Heppner, serving his second term from Woodstock. Ken Ronk will return as Republican leader.
Legislature chair pays a salary of $23,500 a year; party leaders, $16,000, and rank and file legislators, $14,000.
We’ll be sure to post an update after the 6:30pm Organizational Meeting at the County Building.