By RICK REMSNYDER
Ulster County legislator and county Republican chairman Ken Ronk Jr. is seriously considering running for the Town of Shawangunk Supervisor in the 2023 election.
Ronk joins current Town Board member Adrian “Binker” DeWitt who announced last month that he is also considering running for the office.
Longtime Supervisor John Valk’s two-year term is up at the end of 2023 and he has strongly hinted that he plans to retire following his last day in office on December 31, 2023.
Ronk, 37, was born and raised in the Town of Shawangunk and was first elected to a seat on the Ulster County Legislature in 2008. He was the Chairman of the County Legislature from 2016-18 and currently serves as the Minority Leader and represents the town in District 13 of the legislature.
DeWitt, who is the Deputy Supervisor and has served on the board for 21 years, aligned himself with Valk and indicated he felt the town was heading in the right direction under the current leadership when he announced he was considering running for Valk’s job.
While careful not to criticize Valk, Ronk made it clear he thought a change of course was needed to move the Town of Shawangunk forward.
“When I talk to my neighbors and friends around the hamlet and the town, I hear that they’re looking for a change of direction and some new leadership,” Ronk said. “As I’ve gone around town the last couple of times I ran for the legislature, it’s been suggested to me that folks around town think that I might be the person to bring that new leadership to the town.”
Ronk said he feels his experience as a county legislator would be extremely beneficial should he win the race for the supervisor’s position.
“I’ve spent the last 15 years fighting for the Town of Shawangunk and southern Ulster County in the county legislature,” Ronk said. “I think I’ve gained the tools and experience to really bring ideas from around the county. The way different towns do things. The way we do things at the county. I think I can bring those things to the Town of Shawangunk to help us be more efficient and to be on the cutting edge when it comes to attracting people to live and work in our town and open businesses in our town.”
Although Ronk has a full-time job working for New York State Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay as the regional director of the Mid-Hudson Office, he feels he could keep that job and still devote enough time to the supervisor’s post if he were elected.
“I’ve been able to balance my work in the Ulster County Legislature with my day job and I feel strongly I’d be able to do that with the town supervisor’s position as well,” he said.
In the past, the person who received the GOP nomination at the party’s town caucus has been a lock to capture the supervisor’s position in the heavily Republican Town of Shawangunk.
Ronk would like to see the party change to a primary system, though. He said the Town of Shawangunk Republican committee chaired by Legislator Craig Lopez, who represents part of the Town of Shawangunk in District 14, could vote to change to a primary system.
Ronk said he supports a change. “It’s a more democratic process and gives people more options to be able to come and have a say in who’s going to lead their town,” Ronk said. “A caucus is one night. If you’re on vacation, you’re out of luck.”
Ronk, who said he has lived in the Town of Shawagunk for all but “the first six months of my life,” is a graduate of the Chapel Field Christian School in Pine Bush. He earned an associate degree at SUNY Ulster and a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts and political science at SUNY New Paltz.
Ronk is a captain/EMT in the Wallkill Volunteer Ambulance Corps.
His parents Ken Ronk Sr. and Julie both live in the hamlet. They formerly operated Heavenly Creations ice cream shop where Ronk worked as a teen. Ronk has two brothers Bill and Tim.
“My parents taught us the value of the dollar and hard work,” Ronk said.