BY EVAN WECHMAN
The 2012 Rockland County Legislature convened Wednesday, January 4 for the annual Organizational Meeting with four new members to be sworn in. All legislators were given time to speak to the public and most reiterated a common theme, calling for collaboration and bipartisanship in 2012, rather than divisiveness. Legislators also have vowed to address the budget and tax crisis the county is facing.
Legislators Christopher Carey, R-Bardonia; Nancy Low-Hogan, D-South Nyack; Aney Paul, D-Nanuet; and Aron Wieder, D-Spring Valley were those newly sworn in for four-year terms. They will work with the remaining 13 incumbents, with 11 Democrats and 6 Republicans in all.
All 17 officials took an oath to abide by national, state, and local laws that govern the body. There were no seats available as a few hundred citizens packed the auditorium to witness the new faces being sworn in to office. Most in attendance were friends and family of the newly elected legislators.
Many residents came from the Hasidic community in Ramapo to see Aron Wieder officially take the seat of the 13th legislative district. Weider elaborated on the challenges facing his community and Rockland County as a whole. He said that “unemployment is high, the real estate market has depreciated,” and necessary government services are constantly being cut. According to Weider, however, the many “challenges” that the county faces are “opportunities” to excel. He also noted that “being elected is a very humbling experience,” and thanked his family for being able to “stand here tonight as the first Hasidic legislator.” He therefore pledged to serve not only the members of his community but all of the citizens of the county as well.
Aney Paul, now the highest ranking elected woman of Indian national heritage in New York, is representing the 14th legislative district. She had many supporters in attendance. She too, thanked her family members, especially her husband who helped her face the challenges of running for office on a daily basis. Paul was also grateful for her daughters who stood by her and mentioned her late mother “who would have been the happiest person in the world” to witness her being sworn in as a legislator. Like Wieder, Paul asserted that despite political differences, the legislative body “together can make a difference.”
Joining the minority group, Republican Christopher Carey thanked his family and Republican County Chairman Vinny Reda, among a long list of people for being elected to the ninth district. He noted that his election was “the result of hard work and dedication of many people.” He stated that since he was taking over Gerold Bierker’s seat, he would “have tough shoes to fill.” However, he pledged to “strive every day to live up to the responsibility” of his position.
Last to speak, representing legislative district 17, was Nancy Low-Hogan, who proudly asserted that she was “honored to be elected,” and was “looking forward to serving all of Rockland County.” She proclaimed that the fiscal challenges of the county “need to be addressed,” and will include “sacrifices by everyone.” Hogan also spoke of the need for collaboration between legislators on opposite sides of the aisle to bring about the progress that is possible in the county.
Congressman Eliot Engel also made an appearance at the meeting and referred to Rockland County as a “shining star” not only in New York State but nationally as well. He said that he looked forward to working with the legislature. Before the legislature adjourned, Harriet Cornell was elected to continue as chairwoman of the legislature, beginning her eighth term. Alden Wolfe was reappointed as vice chairperson of the governing body and echoed the sentiments of the incoming legislators by adding that they “have the unique ability to put politics aside and do what’s right for the county.”
In addition, Michael Grant will return as majority leader and Frank Sparaco will continue in his role as minority leader for his fellow Republicans. Sparaco said that “as long as we (Republicans) are here, Republican ideals will have a voice on this board.”