White Plains, Scarsdale, Harrison
Bill Ryan, a White Plains Democrat, is an eight term member and immediate past Chairman of the Westchester County Board of Legislators, the legislative branch of county government. A former New York State Assemblyman and past President of the New York State Association of Counties, Legislator Ryan is a Director of the National Association of Counties in Washington, D.C. Prior to public service, Ryan worked as a banker in Westchester, Orange and Rockland Counties.
Bill Ryan is best known for his work as President of the New York State Association of Counties (2010-2011) leading the state-wide effort for county property tax relief by eliminating unfunded state mandates. Ryan’s #1priority was a state takeover of the local share of Medicaid costs; a burden funded by local property taxpayers. Ryan was unwavering in his message to state officials in Albany: “take the unfunded mandates off our backs and give us property tax relief.”
Bill Ryan’s political career was launched in 1974 on the floor of the Peekskill Democratic City Committee. In a clash between so-called “regular Democrats” and the NDC, Ryan won, by a vote of 16 to 15, a district leader post in the city’s 8th E.D. In 1975 he was elected Democratic Chairman and on to unite a divided local party. Ryan directed the Democratic campaigns in 1975, 1977 and 1979 resulting in three straight city election victories for the Democrats. In 1976, he helped bring presidential primary candidate Jimmy Carter to Peekskill for a key northern Westchester campaign stop. Later that year, Ryan was considered by party leaders as a candidate for state Assembly. He chose not to run but became a candidate six years later.
Elected to the New York State Assembly in 1982, Bill Ryan was named to the Education, Transportation, Consumer Affairs, Banks, Election Law and Veterans Affairs Committees. With an expertise in state aid to elementary and secondary education, Assemblyman Ryan delivered record amounts of aid to area schools including special aid to small city school districts. Ryan sponsored the state’s New Car Lemon Law and the law authorizing transit systems to use the cost-effective, two-unit articulated bus. From 1985-2003, Ryan served on the Assembly Speaker’s staff supporting the Legislative Commission on State-Local Relations handling intergovernmental financial relations, aid to localities and education finance.
Assemblyman Ryan ran for re-election in 1984; the backdrop for the race was the national presidential election where incumbent Republican Ronald Reagan trounced Democratic challenger Walter Mondale. Ryan lost a close contest to Republican-Conservative candidate George Pataki, the mayor of Peekskill, who went on to become Governor of New York.
From 1985 to 2003, Bill Ryan worked for the State Assembly Speaker assigned to the New York State Legislative Commission on State-Local Relations. Ryan handled policy matters involving intergovernmental financial relations, education finance, and aid to localities.
Elected to the County Board in 1997, Bill Ryan was appointed chair of the Committee on Public Safety and Criminal Justice. Ryan was the driving force for the creation of the Department of Emergency Services, the nerve center for Westchester’s rapid response to fire, medical emergencies, hazardous materials spills, natural disasters, and acts of terrorism. Legislator Ryan received national attention on “NBC’s extra” for his landmark law banning the sale of dangerous laser pointers to minors. His other public safety lawmaking efforts: the “safe storage” of guns in the home to protect kids, and "graduated drivers licensing” to help teenagers be safe drivers.
In 2004, Bill Ryan was unanimously elected Chairman of the Board of Legislators.
As Board Chairman, and its longest serving presiding officer (2004-2009), Bill Ryan successfully took on Westchester’s most difficult challenges: saving the Westchester Medical Center from financial collapse; creating more affordable housing for working families and seniors; extending Human Rights Commission authority into the urban centers; shielding taxpayers from massive federal housing lawsuit damages and penalties; and holding down property tax increases to a low 2.63% annual average for the six county budgets passed by the Ryan-led legislature.
Chairman Ryan restored the legislature as an independent, co-equal branch of government. He emphasized its responsibilities to oversee government functions, provide for an annual audit of operations, and to fully engage the executive branch on the budget, finance and public policy.
Chairman Ryan expanded the legislature’s use of technology to improve day-to-day operations and communications with constituents. For greater transparency, to improve public access to information and bring legislative proceedings right into your home, he began the live streaming of County Board meetings over the internet. To save money, Ryan began the process of converting the Board to a paperless electronic operation.
As Board Chairman, Ryan made foreign missions to Ireland, China, and Israel focusing on economic development, higher education exchange and social service delivery.
Running for Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic Primary Election, Bill Ryan was voted a member of New York State’s delegation to the Democratic National Committee’s Presidential Nominating Convention in Denver, Colorado.
Bill Ryan’s legislation created a citizen-run Westchester County Charter Revision Commission in 2011 and that 23-member group is well into its second year of developing recommendations to improve the operation of government. More recently, Ryan directed the Committee on Legislation’s work resulting in laws and resolutions creating an animal abuse registry in Westchester, banning the sale, application and disposal of hydro-fracking waste in Westchester, and detailing for the U.S. Congress greater federal gun control measures needed immediately.
Today, Bill Ryan serves as a Director of the National Association of Counties in Washington, D.C., giving Westchester a strong presence in this powerful organization of the nation’s 3,000 counties. Ryan is a member of the national Large Urban County Caucus; 35 public officials from America's 100 largest counties who deal with our federal officials on laws, rules and regulations impacting large counties like Westchester. Ryan also serves on the Finance and Intergovernmental Relations Steering Committee, and the Immigration Task Force. He was a member of the Hospitals Task Force that completed its work several years ago.
Bill Ryan was born in Peekskill, NY in 1949, the son of Robert and Kathryn Ryan. His father was Superintendent of the Lakeland Central School District and his mother was active in the Peekskill community. Bill Ryan attended local public schools – Woodside and Drum Hill – and graduated from Peekskill High School, where he lettered in football as a quarterback and defensive back. Ryan graduated from the State University of New York, Plattsburgh, BA, Economics (’72). He worked as a banker in Westchester, Orange and Rockland Counties. Ryan was active in Peekskill serving as Chair of the Peekskill Democratic Committee, the Peekskill Housing Authority and the Peekskill Board of Assessment Review. He coached youth football, helped launch the Peekskill Area Health Center, and served on the boards of the Peekskill Volunteer Ambulance Corporation and the Jan Peek House/Caring for the Homeless of Peekskill.
Bill Ryan resides in White Plains with his wife JoAnn, a retired Senior Vice President of Wachovia Bank. They have five adult children, three sons and two daughters, and nine grandchildren.
Ryan is a member of the White Plains Historical Society, North Broadway Citizens Association, Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, Antonio Meucci Lodge, Rotary Club, and a patron of the Jewish War Veterans. For 6 years he served on the board of directors of Arts Westchester.
Click here to read Bill Ryan's District 5 Summer 2011 newsletter.