In what was a tough race, many diverse voices of the community came out to support me, the One Kingston slate, and the working people and families of Kingston. Although I am disappointed that I no longer have the privilege to serve as your representative, I accept the results for Mr. Woltman.
I am deeply grateful for the outpouring of support during this campaign. As a lifelong community builder, it has been an honor be Kingston’s legislator in District 7 of the Ulster County Legislature. My deepest gratitude goes to my family, many friends and volunteers, and especially Citizen Action of New York, the Working Families Party, the Hudson Valley Area Labor Federation (AFL-CIO), Ulster People for Justice and Democracy, and the Kingston and Ulster County Democrats, all of whom endorsed me and stood by me throughout this entire campaign.
At this time of great tension in our country, we need to move toward reconciliation. This week we celebrated a milestone here in the State of New York, where one century ago, Susan B. Anthony and her supporters succeeded in getting the vote for women. More than a half a century ago, the Voting Rights Act was signed into law aiming to overcome barriers for African Americans to vote at the state and local levels. In the past year since the presidential election, many of us have become even more engaged in the political process. We are proof that, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” We all may not have won tonight; there are still many wounds to heal in our community and in our nation.
As we start the next century, the next 50 years, and 2018, I hope that more women and people who truly reflect the diversity of our community will continue to strive for public office and positions of leadership. Let’s carry on for equal access and equal rights across the board.
The high turnout in this local election is a sign of the great strides we can make in 2018. For those who do not agree with us today, in the spirit of what our country’s frequent and fair elections are all about, it is my sincere hope that we can have real dialogue about what is best for all of us, for the public good.
Among the many initiatives and milestones I have worked on with my colleagues in the Ulster County Legislature, including our efforts to continue promoting sustainable, equitable development, environmental protection, and supporting small, innovative local businesses, I am most proud of standing up for members of this community who have felt voiceless. My work has engaged them in the political process, and brought forward initiatives to protect the human rights of people who suffer from discrimination. In my continued capacity as a community builder, I pledge to be a champion for “restorative justice,” so that our county and city can be the most welcoming and thriving they can be: a model for what’s next for all in our country.
All who know me know that I have shared myself with this community wholeheartedly. I shall never regret stepping into the arena. As Brené Brown has so eloquently described this, “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy — the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
I wish, for all who feel voiceless and for all who are vulnerable, that you will continue to share yourselves wholeheartedly, too, by participating in our democratic process. Never give up on love and belonging.
It has been an honor to represent you.
Jennifer Schwartz Berky