Sitting behind his desk in the county office building on Fair Street, Ulster County executive Pat Ryan bid adieu on to his job over a Facebook webcast.
The county flag with the muted Dutch colors and the reaping farmer in the center, stood to the side, furled. The spine of The Howitzer, a West Point yearbook, was visible in the bookshelf behind him.
Ryan’s time in the military and his connection to Ulster County government are now prologue, if not props. The political winds blow presently in the congressperson-elect’s favor. The national desire among Democrats for Ryan’s recent special-election triumph to be seen as bellwether in the upcoming midterms is naked.
Ryan stared directly into the camera and conjured back the Covid pandemic, quoted Abraham Lincoln, opined upon the polarized climate between Democrats and Republicans, enumerated his accomplishments, and advised a vision of optimism he referred to as an ethos.
The political theater of farewells allows all roles to the lead actor. Ryan played the part of a firebrand. He also took a turn as a fearmonger, building up the threat to our democracy.
“It’s a bittersweet moment to sit behind this desk for the last time,” he said. “As I go on my next role, I want to bring my ethos,” said Ryan, “Bring what I’ve learned here and seen here, that when you step up, and you deliver and you care about people, they recognize that, and it does improve that public trust.”
He touted his inflation relief plan, speaking the language of his stump speech.
He thanked his executive team for their blood, sweat and tears.
He took the scourge to Central Hudson’s back. “To stand up and fight against the absolute injustice and egregious behavior of Central Hudson,” said Ryan, his voice gaining severity and conviction. “Our utility that’s supposed to be a part of the public good and public trust, but instead has put profit and record-breaking profits ahead of people in our community, resulting in egregious billing errors and a fundamental breach of trust between them and our people.”He’s called for an investigation, “We’re continuing to push, and I will not give up on that fight,”
His most lyrical moment, as Ryan acknowledged, was cadged in part from Lincoln. “To remember that in these moments of darkness we have to look to each other, to find the shared humanity, the shared recognition that we are all in community, because it does lift us all up together, it does provide great public good for all,” he said. “It is incumbent on government at every level to be compassionate, to be caring, to be competent, and to be connected and understanding what the needs are.”
An elected leader is if nothing else a communicator. Oratory can be an asset or a liability for a United States congressperson.
Regaining the public trust is but a first step. “And I know that if we can do that at scale across our country, we can get back to who are our best selves,” he said. “Just as we did here in Ulster County, we can do that in our country.”