ALBANY — New York’s new governor is being hailed not only as a stark contrast to her successor, but also for ending one of the last male bastions of state government.
Kathy Hochul was sworn in as New York’s 57th governor early Tuesday, the first woman to hold the position in New York’s 244 years as a state.
“This is an exciting time in New York State history,” said Kathy Sheehan, who in 2014 ended an even longer male succession and became Albany’s first elected female mayor.
“I see significance through a number of different lenses,” said D-Round Lake MP Carrie Woerner. “First, for young women, you can’t aspire to something you can’t see. For me, that’s breaking those glass ceilings, setting a model for the next generation.
“It was time !” said MP Mary Beth Walsh, R-Ballston. “I think it’s great. Of course, I wish she was on the other party, but it’s great.
“I think this is a blessing for the people of New York State,” Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said. “It’s not just because she’s a woman, it’s also because she’s well equipped for the position. Her life experience prepared her.
“The importance of this milestone cannot be overstated – New York finally has its first female governor,” said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, DN.Y.
LACK OF ROLE MODELS
Mayor Sheehan recalled the lack of female role models as she grew up.
“For me, it was kind of a lack of seeing women that closed off certain possibilities in my mind. I never knew a female lawyer,” said Sheehan, who returned to school after several years in the communications and earned a law degree.
Seeing Geraldine Ferraro run for US Vice President in 1984 was a pivotal moment for her.
“It really opened my eyes: ‘Of course, women can fill these positions.’ Women who were leaders [had been] almost considered marginal, they were trying to break into the world of men,” Sheehan recalls.
Assemblyman Phil Steck, D-Colony, did not like the style of government and economic policies of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He hopes Hochul will follow in the path of another pioneering New York woman: Frances Perkins, an advocate for workplace safety and labor rights who was Franklin Roosevelt’s state industrial commissioner when he was governor and his secretary at work when he became president.
As the first woman to serve in the U.S. Cabinet, Perkins played an important role in the new social safety net and labor protections for the American worker. The governor of New York wields significant power, Steck said, and if Hochul can make changes on a similar scale, “that would be a tremendous achievement.”
Hochul’s demeanor and interpersonal style will be a step up from his predecessor, Steck predicted.
“I think Kathy Hochul, getting to know her, will be a welcome change from Andrew Cuomo’s personality,” he said.
State Sen. James Tedisco, R-Glenville, said he hoped Hochul passed for upstate New York. As he often noted, the state’s leadership for years leaned heavily downstate and toward the Democratic Party.
But the fact that she’s from Buffalo means nothing, he says: “A lot of my fellow Democratic progressives come from upstate.”
Moreover, he said, Hochul got off to an unpromising start, opting to meet privately with Democrats who control the House and Senate, but not Republican minority leaders in either house.
“It may not be three men in a room, but it looks like it’s three people in a room and that’s not good for the state,” Tedisco said.
“I’m glad we broke the glass ceiling,” he said. “I welcome the fact that we have a female governor.”
THIS IS THE ECONOMY
Mayor McCarthy said Hochul is very knowledgeable about a topic very important to Schenectady and the rest of upstate New York: economic development.
“I think she comes to the post with a unique level of expertise,” he said, noting that Hochul chaired the Regional Economic Development Council initiative, which involves hundreds of projects each year in 10 regions of the state.
“She could speak with a high level of knowledge and intricate detail about things that were happening in Schenectady, about things that were happening in the southern part, on Long Island,” McCarthy said. “I think that level of knowledge will serve him well as governor.”
MP Woerner said Hochul collaborates rather than dictates.
“I’m really looking forward to having this style in this office,” she said. “I can’t wait to see her.”
According to Woerner, there is a fundamental difference in the way women and men think, lead and solve problems, which is why it is good to have both men and women in charge.
Hochul has the added advantage of having started at the local level rather than being born into a political role and starting at a high level in state and national capitals, Woerner said.
“I think the experience she has in local government should help with that,” she said. “When you have a lot of experience in local government, you realize you don’t have the power to impose your will.”
Hochul has a diverse resume, serving for years as a city councilman and county clerk as well as a one-term U.S. congressman before being sworn in as lieutenant governor. She has also worked in corporate and government law, promoted economic development in Western New York, and co-founded a domestic violence shelter.
She said she plans to run for governor in 2022.
MP Walsh cited “her whole background, the fact that she’s not from any political dynasty…she’s to a large extent measures a self-taught person.
Also, for years, Hochul was the Cuomo administration’s traveling show, Walsh said, traveling extensively across the state and not just presenting Cuomo’s policies, but listening to what people were saying in responnse.
“I think she’s going to have a tremendous amount of goodwill coming up,” Walsh said. “I guess his style isn’t the same kind of bullying, dictatorial style of [Cuomo]. Women govern differently.
Mayor Sheehan made a similar point and said Hochul combines that personal style with a deep understanding of the state’s diverse economies, demographics and geography.
“Governor. Hochul has demonstrated that she’s a really good listener,” Sheehan said. “I think she’s going to be a really good defender.
“One of the things that has always struck me is that she is a civil servant, she was called to serve. That’s what motivates her. It’s something I’ve always admired about her.
State Senator Daphne Jordan, R-Halfmoon, said via email:
“Kathy Hochul will make history as New York State’s first female governor. I wish her nothing but the best and I want her to succeed because I want New York State to succeed. The new Governor Hochul has earned a reputation as someone who listens, works well with and respects others. She’s the anti-Andrew Cuomo. While we may not always agree on matters of public policy, I look forward to working with her to improve the Capital District and our entire state’s quality of life, bring our economy back from COVID, ensure the public safety, protect taxpayers, and make New York a much more affordable place to live, work, and raise a family.
Congressman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, said via email:
“Lieutenant. The swearing in of Governor Kathy Hochul as New York’s first female governor marks a new era for our state. I hope that with our shared upstate roots, we can work together to revive our economy, rebuild local businesses, and provide families with the support they need and deserve. The past year and a half has been a difficult and uncertain chapter in our state’s history, and sadly, we are not yet off the hook. With much work to do and many challenges ahead, I am optimistic that our new governor will bring us a fresh perspective and a collaborative relationship with the Legislative Assembly to move our state forward.
State Senator Michelle Hinchey, D-Saugerties, said via email:
“This is a historic moment, giving New York a new sense of possibility. True leadership is measured in the ability to bring people together and build a better, stronger future for all, and I have every confidence that Governor Hochul – an upstate woman and New York’s first female governor – will lead our state with humility, compassion and integrity Upstate now has a true advocate at the helm and I look forward to working with her to build a New York we can be proud of and solve the issues that matter most to our communities.
Assemblyman Patricia Fahy, D-Albany, said via email:
“I’m proud to see a smooth transition in our state government and I look forward to working with the highly accomplished new Governor, Kathy Hochul. We have no time to waste in reinvigorating economic recovery, reopening our schools, fighting gun violence, vaccinations, rent assistance, etc. We must do all we can to restore public trust in our government institutions, while continuing to address a host of challenges our great state is facing. confronted.
Senator Gillibrand said via email:
“Having worked closely with new Governor Hochul when we served together in Congress, I know she is a dedicated public servant and have extraordinary faith in her ability to build a new culture of leadership. I look forward to to work closely with her in the months ahead to serve the people of New York, strengthen our economy, and ensure our state has the resources it needs to rebuild and thrive.
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