Armstrong Sworn In As Newest County Legislator
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO February 27, 2007 Had it not been for the usual February snowstorm, Frank Armstrong’s whole family would have witnessed his swearing-in ceremony yesterday.
As it was, however, Peter Armstrong, stuck in the winter weather in Virginia, will have to hear the tale from his dad or just as likely, from his mom Patty, sister Katie, brother-in-law Dan Sheldon, and longtime family friend Maria Rodriguez.
Gathered with dozens of county officials, Democratic Party leaders and well-wishers inside the Government Center in Monticello, the Armstrong family proudly watched as Frank laid his hand on a Bible held by Patty and repeated the oath offered by County Judge Frank LaBuda.
In less than two minutes, the North Branch Democrat became Sullivan County’s newest legislator.
The man he replaced, Republican and 12-year District 5 Legislator Rodney Gaebel, observed from the back of the legislative chambers, while up front awaited Armstrong’s new colleagues, representing the other eight legislative districts in the county.
“Each time I’ve taken an oath, I’ve been humbled at the responsibility,” he told the applauding crowd.
That’s about half a dozen times in all, from taking an oath as a Village of Monticello police officer 30 years ago to the more recent oath to act fairly and impartially as a Town of Fremont justice.
“I’ve been in service my whole life,” said the Army veteran of the Vietnam War. “Most of it wasn’t something to make me rich just something I felt I had to do.”
Still, politics did seep into Monday’s proceedings, with the County Legislature’s last remaining Republicans, Leni Binder and Jodi Goodman, voting against Armstrong’s appointment.
“In no way is it personal… I’ve found Frank to be nothing but a gentleman,” Binder said after the vote. “I’m happy to serve with him … but unfortunately, we’re in a political system.”
Binder complained that no one had consulted her about the appointment, but Legislature Chair Chris Cunningham countered that she had been told about it the week before.
“Your remarks are somewhat puzzling,” he proffered, adding that when the Republicans were in charge, they handled matters similarly.
Legislator Ron Hiatt, however, forced the conversation away from the politics and back on Armstrong.
“You’re a person of character and integrity, and I welcome you to the board,” he told Armstrong.
Shortly thereafter, Armstrong participated in his first vote as a county legislator a rather routine resolution to create and abolish Purchasing Department positions, but one that hearkened back to his days as trustee and mayor of the Village of Jeffersonville.
He’ll have to run for the position in public election this November, but by that time he hopes to have a good handle on the issues (and be a grandfather, as pregnant daughter Katie is due in June).
“There’s obviously a sense of excitement,” he said after the ceremony. “Sullivan County is a place I’m very fond of… The only thing I can do is promise to be open, accessible, thoughtful and make Sullivan County a better place.”
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Frank Armstrong, who represents the towns of Fremont and Callicoon and the western portions of Delaware and Liberty, can be reached at 794-3000, ext. 3300 (as can all the county legislators).