With unanimous support from Republican legislators, Democrat John Parete of Olive was elected the 13th chairman of the Ulster County Legislature Tuesday night. Parete defeated Hector Rodriguez of New Paltz by a 13-10 vote, with Democrats Richard Parete of Stone Ridge (his son) and David Donaldson of Kingston (and Parete) joining the 10-member Republican minority. Ten of 13 Democrats voted for Rodriguez.
While Parete called for civility and cooperation between the parties, rancor remained among some Democrats who backed the losing candidate.
Majority Leader Don Gregorius of Woodstock said that electing Parete had “disenfranchised thousands of voters and many thousands of people who want change in the leadership of the Ulster County Legislature. The same Republican caucus that has been responsible for leadership the last four years is now choosing the new leadership this session. It is clear the voters wanted real change not he same group with a new handpicked leader that’s disenchanted with his own majority party’s choice.”
Minority Leader Ken Ronk of Wallkill, after delivering 10 votes to seal Parete’s election, had no comment.
Democrat Jeanette Provenzano of Kingston, who nominated Rodriguez, accused Republicans of “selling their souls.”
“John Parete never sought the nomination. They found a renegade in our party [Parete]. That’s fine. Congratulations,” she said.
Rodriguez thanked those Democrats who twice supported him — Rodriguez won the support of his party’s caucus in a straw poll last month — and predicted the new Democratic majority would have “a lot of energy and a lot of ideas you haven’t seen in the last four years [of Republican rule].”
Richard Parete called his father his hero.
“It’s a great honor to nominate your hero,” he said.
Republican Mary Beth Maio of Milton seconded Parete’s nomination. Democrat Ken Wishnick of New Paltz seconded Rodriguez’s.
Chairmen serve one-year terms and are paid $19,500 a year.
In other action, Parete called the legislature into special session for Thursday at 7 p.m. to consider home-rule legislation to extend the 1 percent sales tax through 2015. Two bills are before them, one from Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, the other from state Sen. William Larkin. Deadline for passage is Monday in order to meet state legislature deadlines.