Pat Ryan’s inaugural address on Friday launching what he wryly noted would be a “short first term,” was long on “bold goals” but short on details. Delivered some 15 minutes past the announced starting time to an overflow crowd of mostly Democrats, likewise, it wasn’t who was there for the speech in the cramped, humid confines of the Ulster County Courthouse, but who wasn’t.
Only five of 23 county legislators attended, just a handful of the counties’ 20 town supervisors. Mike Hein, the county’s first executive who served a decade in office, was conspicuously absent and was not mentioned. Adele Reiter, his chief of staff and interim successor, on her last day in that office, was given a loud round of applause by the more than 250 in attendance. There was a sense of new beginnings, rather than succession.
Newly-minted sheriff Juan Figueroa served as master of ceremonies and did a commendable job in working through a long list of introductions. In a show of solidarity, two prominent state officials, lt. governor Kathy Hochal and comptroller Tom DiNapoli, hit all the talking points but hogged the podium far too long. At one point, as the comptroller waxed on about the challenges the new executive would face, I wondered if he would leave anything for Ryan to say.
For Ryan, the moment was more about looking back, on family, his career in the military and in politics, the improbable paths he took to become the county’s second elected executive. “Who would have thought this a year ago” was his opening remark. Shades of “Baby, I’m amazed?”
He paid homage to his parents, for whom he is named, father Kevin, mother Patricia, his wife Rebecca who is expecting their first child. The sixth Ulster County Ryan (a yet as unnamed son) is due in about seven weeks.
Speaking extemporaneously after undoubtedly having had delivered parts of this speech many times on the campaign trail, Ryan referenced the “short, but intense” special election in April that won him what will be a short and no doubt an intense term that ends on Dec. 31. He will run for a full term in November.
The man’s enthusiasm was contagious. “Now is the time for the really fun part,” he said, a broad smile on his face. “We get to take action. We can make this county the best in the state, in the nation.” It was one of several occasions for loud applause by a partisan crowd.
“Fun part.” Why not? Why not some joy in politics for a change?
Ryan promised to deliver a high level of ethics and integrity to his administration. He did not mention transparency, something all too rare in this government and most others. But that’s what some thought he meant.
He vowed to visit every municipality in the county for direct input from residents. Apparently, town halls are not just a congressional prerogative.
He pledged to work hard, even, with a nod to his pregnant wife, with a new baby in the house.
It was all in all a joyous, hopeful occasion, as all inaugurals and new babies portent.
“He brought me around,” said a Democrat who had campaigned against Ryan in his unsuccessful congressional primary election last year.
Details to follow.