By HEATHER NELLIS
TOWN OF FLORIDA -- Former town Supervisor Ronald J. Mead passed away unexpectedly Saturday. He was 69.
Local officials who served with him in the political arena are shocked and saddened to lose a man they say was a dedicated public servant.
Mead served as supervisor from 1994 to 2001.
That's when Montgomery County Republican Committee Vice Chairwoman and town Republican Committee Chair-woman Rosemary Smith got to know him.
"I'm heartbroken," she said, noting she's known him and his family since the 1990s. "He really was a public servant in every sense of the word. He was a professional; very fair, level-headed, and he was a great supervisor for the town."
Both U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, and county Conservative Committee Chairman Robert Mead say Ronald Mead was in the political arena "for all the right reasons."
Though he was a Republican, Ronald Mead was supported by the Conservative Committee on multiple occasions, Robert Mead said.
"He was always a good representative for the town, and having worked for the county, he was very respectful for the county employees," Robert Mead said.
Tonko served with Ronald Mead's father, James M. Mead, on the defunct county Board of Supervisors. James Mead, 95, who survives, served from 1969 through 1977.
Ronald Mead was the father of current Supervisor Eric M. Mead, who was elected last November, marking the third generation to serve in the town's top post.
"It's been a fine bit of tradition here from the Mead family," Tonko said. "This is just a tragic loss for them, and the community. There is no more loving soul out there as it relates to his family and his community, than Ron Mead. He's a very kind and gentle spirit, and a tremendous public servant who guided him with the soundest of ethics and deepest devotion and dedication. My condolences go out to the family, the town, and the people of our area."
Tonko noted Saturday, the day Mead passed, was Flag Day.
"I just find it ironic,that here's a man who's been part of a family tradition, and who's given so much to community and country, that he would die on Flag Day is symbolic of his community building skills," Tonko said.
Amsterdam 3rd Ward Alderman Ronald J. Barone served with Mead on the board of supervisors.
"He was one of the finest gentlemen I've ever worked with in my whole lifetime. He was such a troubadour," Barone said. "He was the Mr. Compromise of everything. He would bring everything to the forefront through leadership. He's going to be very missed in this community, and especially in the town of Florida, for the endeavors he put forth for that town. I just can't speak enough about the gentleman."
Mead's last interview with The Recorder was in November, when he spoke about Eric Mead's election as supervisor, cementing the family tradition of leadership.
"It was never part of me to ever become involved with the town and county politics. I was a farmer at heart, and I still am," Ronald Mead said.
As a dairy farmer carrying on the family business, Ronald Mead was involved in multiple agricultural service groups.
"That's where my expertise lays," he said. "and I had no indication, and no incentive to become involved in politics. But the service agencies I was involved in heavily exposed me to it."
Upon the resignation of his predecessor Joseph LaPlant, Ronald Mead was approached to fill the vacancy. "I didn't have long to think about it, but I accepted the challenge, and it's history from there," he said.
"I don't really consider myself ever being a politician, but I consider myself more as an individual who serves the public. I'm someone who can communicate, and cooperate, and listen before actually speaking," Ronald Mead continued. "It was instilled in my childhood. I wasn't the greatest student, or the best participant, but I could get along with everyone. My mother and father instilled confidence and responsibility, and my father never heard me say I was bored. I raised Eric and his brother the same way."
Eric Mead couldn't be reached this morning, but said of his father in November:
"When I was a teenager, I would get home from high school, and while I was putting on my work clothes, my dad was putting on a tie to go to Fonda," he said. "When he left, I always said that was something I would never do, and I could never understand why he did it.
"But, when I started paying more attention to what was going on, then I understood why he did it, and why my grandfather did it," Eric Mead said.
Ronald Mead is also survived by his wife, Barbara, and a son, Brian.
Funeral arrangements have been entrusted to Betz, Rossi & Bellinger Family Funeral Home. Calling hours are Wednesday from 4 to 7 p.m. at the funeral home, 171 Guy Park Ave., Amsterdam.
A full obituary will appear in The Recorder Tuesday.