LThey say a new broom sweeps clean, but newly-minted legislature chairwoman Tracey Bartels of Gardiner is an old hand, bent on, of all of things, making the county’s “policy making body” relevant.
Bartels, only the second woman to be elected chair by her peers in the 40-year history of the legislature, albeit by strict party vote, is perhaps more importantly the first non-enrolled legislator to chair the body. A Democratic caucuser, her independence shows in the committee appointments announced over the weekend.
Some choices could be considered controversial, like replacing long-time ways and means committee chairman Rich Gerentine of Marlboro with second-term Democrat Lynn Archer of Accord. Before Bartles it was considered rote that no chairman could win election without currying the “solid south” as represented by Gerentine. No more. Archer, a retired banker and businesswoman, and smart in the ways of finance, will do just fine.
I have somewhat less confidence in Hector Rodriguez of New Paltz chairing the economic development committee. In New Paltz, one cannot construct an outhouse without controversy and Rodriquez is very much of that mindset. That said, giving the (almost chairman) a key committee chairmanship speaks to either payback or a comeback for a man considered a political footnote after Barthel’s election.
And speaking of payback – Barthels needed every Democratic vote in her 12-11 victory over former chairman Ken Ronk. So, how about Joe Maloney? She made the contentious Sawyer chairman of the seldom-heard-from auditing committee from whence much Maloney mischief will emanate, no doubt.
Here, Maloney shares a distinction with no one: He voted with Republicans to make Ronk chairman last year and this month with Democrats for Bartels. Just call him “12.”
Very much a woman of the house (meaning the legislature), Bartels borrowed an over-used adjective from outgoing executive Mike Hein in describing the “incredible wealth of talent” in the 23-member legislature she now leads. I differ, but hopefully she has selected the best of what is a thin bench.
There is also the opportunity in this time of executive transition, one might call it a vacuum without Hein’s heavy hand, to redefine the role of the legislature, to create a true working partnership with the executive and to exercise decisive leadership, attributes woefully lacking in legislatures, Democratic and Republican, during the executive era.