In his day job, John Ryan — tagged to take over North Hempstead’s Democratic committee — offers coffee and tea to new widows as he helps plan their finances.
His next client is the North Hempstead Democratic Committee, which also is facing an uncertain future.
The committee on Tuesday night endorsed Ryan, 63, of Great Neck, to lead the group after chairman Gerard Terry resigned Feb. 1. Newsday has reported that Terry collected nearly $1.4 million in federal and state tax debts while making hundreds of thousands of dollars in public jobs. Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas last week announced an investigation into Terry’s public contracts.
Ryan said Wednesday he had been fielding calls of congratulations.
“I am not a political operative,” Ryan said. “I have to learn the ropes.” And he’s mindful that “not every day works out,” he said.
Ryan is described by Democrats as a “grass roots” organizer — a contrast to Terry, a longtime Democratic operative who consulted on candidates for town office, for Congress, and district court judge. Terry, 61, a private practice lawyer working from the basement of his Roslyn Heights home, was paid more than $217,000 collectively from six public jobs last year.
Ryan works as a financial adviser at Janney Montgomery Scott LLC, a Garden City firm, and holds a master’s degree in gerontology. He already works for the town under a $30,000 annual contract to serve as its consultant to senior programs. On Fridays, he talks about financial issues facing the elderly in a two-hour town radio program, and throughout the year, he lectures about financial scams.
“While John does not have the political experience that Gerard brought, he brings strength of character and integrity that is something we really need to demonstrate now,” said Steven Markowitz, vice chairman of the North Hempstead Democratic Committee, and president of the Great Neck Democratic Club.
Ryan has held fundraisers for North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth, a second-term Democrat, dating to her time as a Nassau County legislator. Ryan became a legislative district leader for the party after Bosworth was elected to the legislature in 2007.
Markowitz added that Ryan is “someone who has not spent his life dealing with politics, someone who has not made a living working with government.”
Terry has been described by Democratic officials as the operator of a “one-man show.”
“We relied on one person to do a lot of things to help us all,” Town Clerk Wayne Wink said in an interview Wednesday.
Ryan would be expected to be more collaborative, officials said.
“I think that success has a way of making us all feel like there is nothing wrong,” Wink said. “We have been a successful party, and I think that if there is a problem, maybe too many people in the party let it get to their heads.”
North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth called Ryan “a man of great integrity,” who “will learn” on the job. “He has a group of very talented people around him that have pledged their support to working with him.”
Bosworth, when asked if the party needed new procedures, said “we all need to take a deep breath, assess what worked, what didn’t work.”
Councilwoman Lee Seeman, a Great Neck Estates resident who has been involved with the party since 1955, said Ryan “has to show people that we all work together for the betterment of the party and to be helpful to candidates.”
The full town committee must vote on Ryan’s endorsement at a convention to be called by Nassau Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs. Ryan said he wants to meet with all of the town’s leaders to see “what makes them tick.”
“I am definitely not a one-man show,” Ryan said. “I don’t know what the show is yet.”