Ossenfort starts; Quackenbush chairman
FONDA – Montgomery County’s new government swore in County Executive Matthew Ossenfort and named Thomas Quackenbush as chairman of its legislature on Wednesday.
The meeting was the first for the county legislature, which replaces the county’s former Board of Supervisors. Ossenfort, who will earn $85,000 per year, was elected in November as the county’s new executive.
State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Sise administered Ossenfort’s oath, describing him as a “rising star” who shows confidence.
“Does anyone realize how confident this man is?” Sise said. “He got engaged and scheduled his wedding the weekend right after the general election.”
Sise also praised Ossenfort’s work ethic.
“Has anyone seen a candidate work as hard as Matt did? I watched him do it from the sideline. His enthusiasm, energy and experience, along with how hard he works, will help him be successful moving forward with Montgomery County,” Sise said.
After the ceremony, Ossenfort said the old, worn-out red Bible on which he had taken his oath had been his grandfather’s.
“He was a World War II veteran, a longtime member of the Amsterdam Fire Department, and he’s the man I try to emulate in my life every day,” he said. “Through him and my family, I learned that if you work hard and you treat people well, then good things will happen.”
Ossenfort stressed it’s not always “Republican and Democrat, rather than right and wrong.”
“I’m here to serve the people, not the other way around,” he said.
Two Democratic legislators were nominated for the legislature chairman position: Thomas Quackenbush of District 2 and Roy Dimond of District 3.
Quackenbush defeated Dimond 5-4, and the legislators then voted on a resolution to name Quackenbush the new chairman. Quackenbush will earn $15,000 per year, and the other legislators will earn $10,000.
Before votes were tallied on the resolution naming Quackenbush, some legislators made the reasons for their votes publicly known.
“I’m voting no [on the Quackenbush resolution], and the reason has nothing to do with [Quackenbush],” Dimond said. “The reason I’m voting no is there was a mandate the people voted on for a new form of government, and also to have new people representing that new form of government. That’s what my district wanted and that’s why I’m voting no.”
Ryan Weitz of District 4 disagreed with Dimond.
“I’m voting yes for [Quackenbush], and the reason I’m doing so is because I agree there was a mandate to change the way things are done in county government, not necessarily the names on the placards,” Weitz said. “Moving forward, I think we cannot dwell on the past but the present, and that being said, I think [Quackenbush] is our best candidate for chairman.”
Alexander Kuchis of District 9 agreed with Dimond that the new government should mean new leadership.
“As [Weitz] pointed out, the residents of this county voted for a new form of government, and by a majority, the districts voted for new people, so as a result, I’m voting no,” Kuchis said.
Quackenbush, the 12-year Board of Supervisors veteran, said the legislature needs to support the county executive and work together.
“This first vote is over, so now let’s leave the politics at the door; we’re through that, let’s work together for the rest of the year,” Quackenbush said. “We need to support our new county executive and make this new form of government work, so let’s get to work.”
Republican legislator Barbara Wheeler of District 7 was unanimously voted for deputy chairman.
“I think it’s important that we have a bipartisan group moving forward,” Martin Kelly of District 1 said after nominating Wheeler.
The legislature also unanimously appointed six positions at Wednesday’s meeting: Douglas Landon to continue as the county’s attorney, Brenda Rava to continue directing the Youth Bureau, Kenneth Rose to continue directing the department of economic development, Dale Furman to be the county’s fire service director; and Jeff Smith to become the county’s emergency management director and continue as coordinator of the Stop DWI program.