For a political stargazer, the June 5 Democratic caucus of the City of Kingston’s Common Council resembled nothing so much as what astronomers refer to as precession, the change in the rotational axis of an orbiting body. The event was fraught with implications.
At the beginning of the meeting, Ward 4 alder and majority leader Rita Worthington, citing personal matters to which she needed to devote more time, stepped down from her duties as majority leader.
“Majority leader, people may not know,” said Worthington, “but it’s a lot of work.”
Having served in the same capacity previously, alder for Ward 3 Rennie Scott-Childress was unanimously voted back into the familiar role in this season of electoral transit.
Worthington characterized her decision as bittersweet, but expressed comfort at the knowledge the role would be in good hands. “We’ve seen in the past that Rennie has been able to handle all of that,” said Worthington, “so why not give it back to him?”
Council president Andrea Shaut noted that Scott-Childress was majority leader when she joined the council in 2018.
Currently endorsed by the Democratic Party, the three-term councilmember did not anticipate any complications to her campaign to retain her seat.
The June caucus marks the last for Ward 5 alderman Tony Davis who retires at the end of the month.
Anointed by members of the Democratic Committee, Robert Dennison steps in to complete the remaining four months of Davis’ Ward 6 term starting in July.
Outgoing alderman Davis himself gained the seat in much the same fashion. When the previous alder for Ward 6, Elisa Ball, resigned in August 2015, Davis was appointed to fill out the rest of her term. When he steps down, Davis will have been the longest-serving member of the council.
Scott-Childress referred to Davis as a dogged questioner and a man of courage willing to follow his own path and vote against the majority if necessary. “Tony’s been an amazing member of the council,” said Scott-Childress. “who had tremendous empathy for city workers, because he used the environment himself.”
While the caucus entered into executive session, Dennison answered questions about his candidacy in the hallway. “I’m running for all the right reasons,” he said, likening his career-long dedication to public service to an illness. “I want to get back to the city. I want to participate in our local government, I think it’s meaningful work.”
Dennison was Hudson Valley regional director for the New York State Department of Transportation for nine years and DOT chief engineer for four years.
Dennison has also kept involved as a member of various local committees. “But they’re not political,” he explained. “The Complete Streets Advisory Council … I was a commissioner of public works, which is not really a commissioner job, and I was a board member of the land bank.”
Four of the nine alders (Barbara Hill of Ward 1, Carl Frankel of Ward 2, Naimah Muhammad of Ward 5 and Davis) have decided to seek purpose elsewhere. Michelle Hirsch, Michael Olivieri, Steve Schabot, Scott-Childress and Worthington remain. Alder-at-large, council president Andrea Shaut also forges on.
With Davis’ exit, Schabot will be the most senior remaining alder, having been first elected to his seat in 2015.