By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO May 28, 2002 Six and a half years ago, nine people boldly went where no one had gone before, creating the first Sullivan County Legislature. The Legislature replaced the old Board of Supervisors.
The first, and only chair to date has been District 3 (representing the towns of Fremont, Rockland, and Neversink) Legislator Raymond "Rusty" Pomeroy II of Livingston Manor. Pomeroy's resignation is effective Friday, May 31, so that he can take a job with Beveridge and Diamond, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental law firm. Pomeroy will work out of the New York City office.
"I wanted to come in and make a difference with a new form of government," Pomeroy reflected as he packed up his office. "This form of government was not done before. There was a lot of uncertainty."
When the Legislature first started in January 1995, Pomeroy was the youngest of the all the legislators. After seeing that no one else was really campaigning to be chair, Pomeroy decided to go for it. He has been chair his entire tenure.
"I looked around and thought, Why not?" Pomeroy commented. "I respected everybody, but I thought no one could do a better job than I could. So I gave it a try."
During Pomeroy's tenure, the county has changed a great deal. Sullivan County is no longer in debt. The bond rating has vastly improved. Such projects as casinos, the Concord, and the Bethel performing arts center are looming on the horizon. Other businesses, like the Kohl's Distribution Center, have come into the area. Unemployment is down.
But thats not the best one, said the outgoing chair.
"The single most important change has been a general change in the attitude of the people of Sullivan County," Pomeroy remarked. "Six and a half years ago, there was an overwhelming negative attitude. Now, some still remain, but a lot of people have turned around. You go out now and hear a lot of positive things about the county. People feel good about where the county is and where we are headed."
Pomeroy is quick to add that he is not taking credit for any of it. He points out that it was a group effort.
The Legislature came in with an uphill battle ahead of them. People were skeptical that the new form of government would work. They were afraid there may be a double-digit tax increase. There was a budget deficit, high unemployment, and many long time businesses like the Concord, Sullivan's, and Jamesway were going out of business.
But much has changed.
"We have been fortunate," Pomeroy stated. "We have had good people here. We have had no tax increase. We have been moving in the right direction."
As the end nears, Pomeroy has been reflecting on his tenure.
"It has been the single greatest learning experience I have had to date," Pomeroy said. "When I came in, I had ideas on the way to do things. I learned quickly that was not the way to get things done.
"The first year, I made some bad decisions," Pomeroy continued. "I was young, foolish, and too strong-headed.
I picked up the program quickly. I learned how to get things done. You do not need to make someone else look bad to look good. You can never convince someone your position is the best position unless you learn what their position is."
A few years go, Pomeroy went back to school Pace University to get his law degree. He has gotten many job offers, but the one he took was evidently just too good to pass up.
"Ultimately, I had to see where I want to be five, ten years down the road," Pomeroy remarked. "I made a personal commitment to get my law degree. This is time I spent away from my family. I was fortunate to have done well. I have received a lot of good offers. This offer I just couldn't pass up on."
While the majority of his time will be spent in New York City, Pomeroy will still live with his wife, Dawn, and their children, Raymond III and Emily, in Roscoe. Pomeroy will remain chair of the Democratic Party in the Town of Rockland. He has also pledged to assist the Legislature, if he can, when called upon.
"I will lend advice and support," commented Pomeroy. "While I have good relationships with everyone here, I am sure some people are not disappointed to see me go.
"I made plenty of mistakes I won't say what they are," Pomeroy concluded with a smile. "If I had the knowledge I have today, I would go back and do things differently. I can't go back and relive my life. I am happy. I got more out of this than I expected."
To date, there is no clear successor as chair. Also, no decision has been made as to who will take Pomeroy's District 3 seat. Only Sullivan County Republican Party Chair Greg Goldstein has expressed interest in the seat. With a Democratic majority, it is doubtful he will be appointed. An election for the seat will take place in November.