By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Following what should be the last meeting of the current County Legislature this past Thursday, Chairman Jonathan Rouis handed out a statement saying he will not seek to be reappointed chair in January.
He explained in the statement that there’s a “renewed focus on our local community college and other educational outlets” to “educate and train our young people for quality jobs right here in our communities.”
“At this time,” he concluded, “I have made the decision to focus my efforts on this goal of promoting and enhancing the educational offerings available here in Sullivan County and will not seek the chairmanship position in January.”
But according to Majority Leader Kathy LaBuda, Rouis already knew he wouldn’t be returned to that post, which he’s held as part of the majority Democratic Party since 2008, following four years as vice chairman.
LaBuda who has spent weeks meeting with the six new legislators (five of them Democrats) who will join her, Rouis and Alan Sorensen in leading the county reacted angrily to Rouis’ statement.
“The new legislators have met, and they want to move in a new direction,” she said. “Mr. Rouis was not even being considered.”
Instead, incoming District 1 Legislator Scott Samuelson is expected to be elected chairman by his colleagues at the reorganizational meeting on January 11.
“He has the votes, he has the leadership experience,” LaBuda said, lauding Samuelson’s past efforts in creating cohesion within disparate groups. “He’s dynamite polished, well-spoken.”
When contacted afterwards, Rouis denied having had formal discussions with current and future legislators about his chairmanship ambitions for the new year.
He continued to say it was his choice.
“It really was extremely time-consuming,” he ex-plained, though he added he will continue to work with his colleagues
Samuelson cautioned that nothing is set until the January 11 vote but acknowledged that he shared LaBuda’s prediction that he’ll be named chair.
“I’d be happy to oblige and be honored to do so,” he remarked on Thursday.
Rouis’ Full Statement
I have spent the last eight years working side by side with business and community leaders and our exceptional county staff to help stabilize the county during the recession and prepare us for growth and prosperity when the economy turns around.
I have spent four years serving Sullivan County as vice chairman and four years serving as chairman, and in that time I have witnessed some incredible things that illustrate how special Sullivan County truly is.
From the way our communities banded together during several flooding disasters, to renewed efforts to collaborate from our nonprofit and agricultural communities, Sullivan County residents continue to take care of one another.
And with the opening of businesses like the Kohl’s Distribution Center and Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, and the expansion of the Center for Discovery, Sullivan County is poised to continue to grow and expand as the state and national economies improve.
With the renewed focus on our local community college and other educational outlets, I believe we can educate and train our young people for quality jobs right here in our communities.
At this time, I have made the decision to focus my efforts on this goal of promoting and enhancing the educational offerings available here in Sullivan County and will not seek the chairmanship position in January. I will remain an active part of the new Legislature, and I look forward to another productive term serving Sullivan County.