NEW SULLIVAN COUNTY Democratic Chairman Steven Wilkinson with Governor David Patterson
Democrats name new chair
By Dan Hust
SULLIVAN COUNTY At a meeting last night, members of the Sullivan County Democratic Committee chose Steve Wilkinson to replace Chairman Jim Greier.
Wilkinson, a 47-year-old Liberty resident, is already a force within local and state politics, serving as Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther’s campaign manager and treasurer and her salaried legislative director in both her Monticello and Albany offices.
He’s long been well-regarded for his efforts in rejuvenating downtown Livingston Manor, where he and partner Gerard Ilaria still own commercial property. Wilkinson even served as president of the Manor Chamber of Commerce.
In recent years, the 29-year registered Democrat garnered a reputation for passionately campaigning for local, county, state and federal Democratic candidates, earning him the vice chairmanship of the county’s Democratic Committee in May.
Now he’s at its helm.
“I believe that Sullivan County has a long and prosperous future ahead of it, and I am honored to lead the Sullivan Democrats during this exciting time,” he said in a statement released prior to yesterday’s appointment. “I am fortunate to have so many committed Democrats who are willing to work hard to build our party and work to get strong Democratic candidates elected on local ballots.”
Associate Chair Darryl Kaplan actually had seniority over Wilkinson but chose not to pursue the chairmanship, making Wilkinson possibly the first openly gay county Democratic Committee chairman in all of New York State.
Wilkinson had words of praise for Greier, the Town of Fremont supervisor who took the county Democratic Committee’s reins after Chair Tim Hill’s death in April.
“Mr. Greier has served the Democratic Party of Sullivan County with distinction for many years,” said Wilkinson. “I can only offer him my sincere thanks. ... The committee understands his commitments to his family and the Town of Fremont must take precedence at this time.”
When contacted yesterday, Greier, 75, said he resigned for personal reasons.
“I never realized the amount of time and dedication this position entailed,” he said, quoting from his resignation letter last week.
“It’s a tough job to try to keep this party coordinated,” he added yesterday. “... I’m constantly on the go.”
Wilkinson is well-known for his constant travel, and Greier believes his successor is perfect for the role of chair, especially in a local party that Greier feels has “a lot of internal problems.”
“I think Steve is very capable,” he remarked. “He just might have the personality and charisma to pull this [committee] together.”
Greier is proud of his own contributions to the local Democratic Committee, including refilling the near-empty coffers.
“Now they have a good cushion to work with,” he said.
And he’s glad Wilkinson is ready and willing to continue building the party.
“He’s great to work with,” Greier said. “I really support him.”
Wilkinson appreciates that support and plans on building consensus.
“My background is in social work,” he explained, referencing his master’s in social work. “Yeah, there’s divergent opinions, but that is the Democratic Party, isn’t it?”
And he’s excited about the fact that the county added 845 registered Democrats this year, giving the party a more than 4,000-voter edge over local Republicans.
“I’m enthusiastic about it,” he affirmed. “We need to harness the energy that’s there now.”