By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO June 18, 2002 For the first time since the Sullivan County Legislature was formed six and a half years ago, there is a new chair District 7 Legislady Leni Binder.
Binder replaces former Chair Raymond "Rusty" Pomeroy II, who resigned on May 31. Binder became chair on Thursday, June 13 and has several ideas shes ready to explore.
"I want to speak to all the legislators about some new initiatives," Binder commented shortly after her swearing-in. "I want to see what they want to put on the front burner, and then we will go forth.
"We need to have a long-term county plan," Binder continued. "We need to look ahead for the next five years. If we plan ahead, we won't face some of the problems Orange County is facing now."
Binder was reluctant to make any promises or predictions, save one.
"I promise that no law will be voted on without discussing it with that town supervisor," Binder promised. "I am not prone to making promises unless I'm willing to keep them. I will talk to all the supervisors and listen to viable suggestions."
Binder, too, will not issue a State of the County Address. Instead she plans to work with County Manager Dan Briggs to make an end-of-the-year statement.
"I am uncomfortable trying to make predictions," remarked Binder. The end-of-the-year statement will indicate where we are going."
Binder, already familiar with county issues as a six-year legislator, is making sure she knows as much about each of those issues as possible. For example, she stated she would search for more information on gambling and find out how it will affect each town. Shes also waiting to see the population numbers before she will comment on the county's redistricting. (The first redistricting informational meeting is today at 7 p.m. at the Liberty Senior Citizens Center).
Binder's ascension to chair created some hard feelings among the Democratic Party. New York State Assemblyman Jake Gunther was so angered that he vowed to see Binder "unelected" next year. While Binder did not respond publicly, she told friends she was "shocked and hurt" by Gunther's comments.
However, it appears that their brief feud is over. The two were sharing jokes and friendly barbs at the Sullivan County Conservative Party Brunch at Mr. Willy's on Saturday. The two shook hands and vowed to work together in the best interests of the county.
And there are more changes for the Legislature. Sullivan County Republican Chair Greg Goldstein was appointed to fill Pomeroy's District 3 seat. He will face Democrat Robert McLeod in a special election in November for the remainder of the term.
"This is going to be a real challenge," Goldstein said. "I think we will all get along fine. Everybody has been great and nice. I will learn the issues and do my best to represent my constituents."
Both Goldstein and Binder starting serving in their new posts on Thursday by participating in committee meetings and speaking with fellow lawmakers.
Binder has already redrawn the committees. As chair, she will only serve on the Executive and Public Works committees but is a de facto member of every committee.
Goldstein will be on the following committees: Executive, Health and Family Services (Chair), Financial Management, General Services, Public Works, Real Property, and Veterans.
The only other changes are that District 4 Legislator Jonathan Rouis will serve as Vice Chair of Financial Management and District 5 Legislator Rodney Gaebel is the new Vice Chair of Real Property.
As chair, Binder will no longer be Majority Leader. District 1 Legislator Chris Cunningham will assume that role and have his own office. Rouis and District 2 Legislator Kathleen LaBuda will share an office, while Goldstein will share his office with District 8 Legislator Bob Kunis.
The first full board meeting for the new Legislature takes place this Thursday at 2 p.m.