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Byrne, 37, a Republican who has represented the 94th Assembly District for the last six years, is running unopposed Nov. 8 for Putnam’s top seat, which he admitted was unexpected.
“I was absolutely stunned, but I’m not complaining,” Byrne remarked. “Putnam County is thirsty for a new era of leadership. I can push the needle and bring bold change.”
With no Democrat in the race, Byrne punched his ticket to leading the county when he won a Republican primary against Putnam Legislator Carl Albano. After the defeat, Albano moved squarely in Byrne’s corner, but Odell, who backed Albano, has not publicly or privately supported Byrne.
“New ideas are not criticism of people that were there before you,” Byrne said. “There’s a lot of very good, talented people in county government. I’m doing everything in my power that we can to be prepared so we can hit the ground running from day one.”
A graduate of Carmel High School who lives in Mahopac with is wife, Briana, a physician assistant, and son, Braeden, Byrne was a college student at the University of Scranton when he got his first taste of government life when he interned for former Congresswoman Sue Kelly.
Byrne had aspired to join the military but two spinal surgeries in high school from wrestling ended that dream.
After college, Byrne served on the Putnam Valley Planning Board and as a volunteer firefighter and EMT for the Kent Volunteer Fire Department, where he served three terms as department president. His commitment to service was later recognized by Congresswoman Nan Hayworth, who appointed him deputy district director.
Byrne left the public sector to serve as a regional director for the American Heart Association to help people suffering from cardiovascular diseases and stroke. He then worked in healthcare administration assisting the Sr. Director of Operations at CareMount Medical.
While in Albany, Byrne said he has authored 25 bills that passed to support various local needs. During his first term, he was named a “rising star” by the New York Republican State Committee and received the highest conservative rating from the New York State Conservative Party. During his second term, he was similarly honored by the Westchester-Putnam Right to Life Committee with its ‘Defender of Life’ Award for his strong pro-life record.
“It’s a unique situation,” Byrne said. “It will be a significant shift and I’m excited about it. As county executive, you’re steering the ship. You’re setting policy. It’s county government and local government where the rubber meets the road. You touch voters in a meaningful way at the county level.”
Byrne said one of his main responsibilities as county executive will be crafting a responsible budget to ensure all services can be adequately provided.
“I think there are opportunities to perhaps consolidate certain departments and functions to enhance services and right-size government,” he said. “Sometimes you need a catalyst for change.”
Some of his top priorities include passing a taxpayers’ bill of rights, reviewing Putnam’s use of federal funds it received to make sure it’s being designated to capital projects as required, and holding at least two Town Hall-type public forums annually.
“You need to make yourself accessible to answer questions from the public,” Byrne said. “I don’t take the job for accolades. I enjoy the work.”
Rick has more than 40 years’ experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, running the gamut from politics and crime to sports and human interest. He has been an editor at Examiner Media since 2012. Read more from Rick’s editor-author bio here. Read Rick’s work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/pezzullo_rick-writer/