The Ulster County Legislature held its annual reorganizational meeting last week, re-electing its leaders from 2022, including Tracey Bartels as chairwoman by near-unanimous vote. It will be Bartels’ third time leading the Legislature, and she is just the second woman to hold the position in the body’s 55-year history.
Bartels, a non-enrolled voter who represents the towns of Gardiner and Shawangunk, held the leadership role by a vote of 21-1, with Minority Leader Ken Ronk (R-Town of Shawangunk) the lone dissenter.
Ronk said that while he and Bartels have had a “great working relationship over the years,” he was unsure that she would work across the aisle when she ordinarily aligns with Democrats.
“I listened to (R-Towns of Lloyd and Marlborough) Legislator (Gina) Hansut’s (nomination) speech, and I heard a lot about bipartisanship that will happen,” Ronk said. “I haven’t seen a lot of that in action over the past 12 months, particularly in committee seats and committee chairs. Bipartisanship isn’t for when it’s easy, or for only when the numbers make sense; bipartisanship is for always, and working across the aisle is an action, not a word.”
Bartels disagreed with the perception that she lacks a spirit of bipartisanship.
“I appreciate both sides of the aisle and the ability for us to disagree, but always agree to work together,” she said. “That’s something that I live by.”
Also during the meeting held on Wednesday, January 4, Democrats re-elected Jonathan Heppner (Towns of Woodstock and Hurley) as majority leader and Abe Uchitelle (City of Kingston) as deputy majority leader. Bartels reappointed Eve Walter (D–Town and Village of New Paltz) as vice chair of the Legislature.
On the Republican side of the aisle, Ronk was re-elected as minority leader, and Craig Lopez (Towns of Shawangunk and Wawarsing) was re-elected deputy minority leader.
In a press release, new Ulster County Executive Jen Metzger said she looked forward to working with the Legislature in the coming year.
“I want to congratulate all the Legislative leaders who were re-elected to their positions,” Metzger said. “All are thoughtful and committed public servants who I have had the pleasure of working with in my previous role in the State Senate, and I look forward to working with them as Ulster County Executive. We have all the building blocks right here in Ulster County to create a sustainable, resilient, thriving local community and economy that leaves no one behind, and I’m excited to get to work with my legislative partners on both sides of the aisle. There’s no end to what we can accomplish when we work together.”
Bartels was nominated by Uchitelle and Hansut, both of whom shared their support in a press release by the Legislature following the meeting.
“The projects we have embarked upon in the prior year are critical, and through Chair Bartels’ commitment to measured progress, I know that under her leadership, we will see many of them across the finish line in the year ahead,” Uchitelle said.
“As a member of the Republican Caucus, I am proud to support Tracey Bartels as Chair of the Legislature,” said Hansut. “Chair Bartels has always been willing to listen to all sides of a discussion. I come from a family deeply dedicated to public service, so I understand that when you make a difference, bipartisanship isn’t an option; it is a requirement.”
Heppner also expressed support for Bartels in the press release.
“Chair Tracey Bartels has been an incredibly impactful leader for all of Ulster County,” he said. “She has continued to ensure that the Legislature is moving forward and getting the work done on behalf of our shared constituents. I look forward to our body’s continued progress under her leadership.”
Bartels said she was honored to be re-elected as chairwoman.
“Ulster County faces incredible challenges,” said Bartels. “The Legislature is excited to partner with our new County Executive, Jen Metzger, and her team to confront the mental health and opioid crisis, address the County’s affordable housing crisis, and do everything in our power to be a part of a climate solution that will save our earth…Our body is deeply committed to working together to deliver on our shared goals and to build a strong local economy that leaves no one behind.”