HAn appreciative breakfast crowd gave retiring county executive Mike Hein a standing ovation Thursday at the Best Western Plus in Kingston after he recounted the progress his administration had made during his ten years in office. Upon confirmation by the state senate Hein will be leaving county government after being nominated by Gov. Cuomo as commissioner of the state Office of Temporary Disability Assistance (OTDA).
By county charter, Hein’s chief of staff, Adele Reiter, will serve as interim executive until a special election, probably in April. The winner of that election will finish Hein’s term, which ends Dec. 31. A four-year term will be on the Nov. 5 ballot.
Hein, employing slides he had used at his 11th state of the county address at Ulster County Community College on Wednesday and speaking extemporaneously, waxed nostalgic about his decade in office before a less than full house of about 210 businesspersons. Applause was smattering as many of the regulars had heard him speak to the programs he had initiated over the years.
“I had no idea how bad it was.”
The overriding themes were about transition, transformation initiative, imagination and “challenging the status quo.” Referring to a “functionally bankrupt” government (under which he served for some 18 months before being elected the county’s first executive in 2008,” he said, “I had no idea how bad it was, and I was the county administrator,” adding, “The people didn’t believe that the people who were there were working for them.” Before charter adoption in 2007, the county was run by 33 part-time legislators, assisted by a county administrator hired by and serving at the pleasure of the legislature.
Hein pointed out to his audience that during the ten-year period prior to his taking office, when the new jail was built, county property taxes increased by 141 percent. Hein minimally reduced taxes every year during his tenure. The county workforce was cut by some 20 percent after the sale of the infirmary in 2013.
Hein did not speak to any singular achievement during a 29-minute address but rather to broad programs to include walking and biking trails, environmental initiatives, roads and bridges, and veterans’ services. He did not mention the recently opened county courthouse in the town of Ulster or the Restorative Justice Center on upper Broadway in Kingston.
“Mike Hein will always be Ulster County’s first executive,” chamber president Ward Todd, a former county legislator, said in introducing the guest speaker. His farewell appearance, Todd said, “was one of the very special moments for the chamber.”