Bartels elected Ulster County Legislature chair

Tracey Bartels (photo by Phyllis McCabe)

By a one-vote margin Monday night, Gardiner resident Tracey Bartels defeated Republican Ken Ronk to become chairperson of the Ulster County Legislature. Bartels, a political progressive widely respected for her independence, is the second woman and first person not registered with a political party to assume the top leadership role in the chamber.

The chair’s seat is decided every year at the reorganizational meeting. Saugerties legislator Joe Maloney, an independent who had caucused with the Republicans, enrolled as a Democrat last year, opening the way to a potential Ronk ouster. The vote was strictly along party lines.

In addition to running legislative meetings, the chair appoints members to standing and ad-hoc committees.


Ronk smiled through the reorganization process. He noted afterward that he believed what occurred had been the seizure of an opportunity to take power. He did not believe the vote was a good example of working together, but he was heard telling Bartels later in the evening that he would “make this [transition] as painless as possible.” Ronk will now become minority leader. 

In the wake of county executive Mike Hein being tapped for a state job, Ronk has made noises about running for that county position. Several prominent Democrats are also expected to throw their hats into that ring.

The vote on the selection of the chair was greeted with a warm round of applause and a standing ovation from the gallery. Several people moved to hug Bartels during the meeting and afterward.

Having the chairmanship go to a member of the Democratic caucus was not a surprise. New Paltz legislator and minority leader Hector Rodriguez was unable to secure the support of twelve legislators. A split in the Democratic caucus might have allowed Ronk to remain chair. All members of the Democratic caucus thought it important to get behind one person, even a person not enrolled in their party. Bartels was the consensus candidate.

Rodriguez will no longer have a leadership role. He was minority leader, but Jonathan Heppner of Woodstock has been named leader of the new Democratic majority. Asked why he didn’t seek that job, Rodriguez said, “I wouldn’t do that to Jonathan.” Rodriguez said he’d mentored Heppner during the latter’s first three years on the job.

There are 8 comments

  1. ITR

    Here is hoping she can take the legislature in a different direction away from the executive branch. the right person at the right time. Best of luck to her.

  2. Bronyaur Stamp

    The legislature used to matter before Hein came along. Now it’s pretty much irrelevant, passing symbolic resolutions and otherwise doing whatever Hein wanted. Probably won’t change with whoever the new executive is, since that person will no doubt be a more savvy politician with much more resources than anyone in the legislature.

  3. David Brownstein, New Paltz Town Councilman

    While I am quite excited to see Tracey Bartels filling this position, I would have assumed that this would be Hector’s position. I am curious if anyone tell me the reason why Hector was not elevated to the chair from his position as minority leader???

    1. Porky

      I can answer that- He has vowed to never show up at meetings, be part of a committee and never take a seat in the legislative hall!
      No, wait, that’s the Town’s county representative.
      Your town tax bill includes county taxes, so you ought to know that?

  4. ITR

    Hector needed as Bartels got, had to have a unanimous vote to beat Ronk. He obviously didn’t have it. (Maloney?) Thus Next up was Bartels. Hopefully it’s a decision made to distance themselves from an Executive branch Rubber stamp. That would make for an exciting year ahead for Ulster county government.

  5. TMF

    Very excited for Ms. Bartels to assume this position.

    She’s her own person and not a rubber stamp. Ulster County needs more people like her.

  6. JamaicaonHudson

    Very pleased with the choice: a smart, sane, woman without political baggage. Being unaffiliated myself, I’m partial to that as well…

    Good luck to her.

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