I remember Arthur “Jerry” Kremer when I was a little girl growing up in Long Beach in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Jerry Kremer was our legislator. I never met him. But my parents knew him.
My parents were in awe of him. He was the savior who would help the middle class families get what they deserved. And, he actually did a ton to help the citizens of New York State, including passing the Lemon Law in 1985, getting rid of many tolls (including the ones in Long Beach), instituting safety on the rail, boat safety, helping seniors and more!
He was a household name in my house and in many other homes on the south shore of Long Island. And it was a well-deserved honor. In the book, Winning Albany – Untold Stories about the Famous and Not So Famous, Jerry Kremer tells it like it was.
The book starts off with Kremer as a little boy. He and his brother, Dave, were born from an immigrant hard working couple that strived to give their children a better life. Their story is one that you hear of often and every time you learn of their hardship, you know that it was all worth it for the legacy they left behind in their children.
He talks about his love and passion for politics at an early age. He even shares that he was a journalist and Public Relations man in his day, which helped him win elections. His biggest proponent was Uncle Phil Kohurt who mentored him and taught him to have a thick skin.
Kremer shares antidotes of his life in political office, which captures the reader’s attention. For example, he went to an art exhibition at a prison. The artwork was for sale and the money helped the artists. He ended up buying a painting of John F. Kennedy. Later on, he received a call from Governor Nelson Rockefeller asking him to sell him the painting. Even though Rockefeller offered Kremer a handsome sum, Kremer refused. I read this and smiled. I loved that he stuck to what he wanted and money didn’t sway him!
From alcohol abuse to corruption, Jerry Kremer shares the experiences of his colleagues. He tried to be honest and true to himself and accordingly didn’t drink during the workday, like some of his fellow cohorts.
When he took the job as the Democratic Party leader in Long Beach, he got caught in a scandal. Newsday alleged that he forged court papers and harped on it for many months. Although it was never verified, it affected his family, especially his daughter. He left the position and regained his stature in the community.
To me, the most poignant part of the book is when he finds out his wife has a brain tumor that is incurable. One daughter was in college and the other was in High School at the time and he was in full swing in Albany as the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. He tried to do everything he could to save his wife’s life but he couldn’t make that happen. As I read the book on a plane to Los Angeles, I had tears streaming down my face. (And, I couldn’t put it down! It captured my attention from the beginning until the end.)
At the end of the book, Jerry Kremer talks about famous people he met while in office and how they impacted him. He also lists a few of the laws/bills he passed. Through his tenure, he passed more than 200 bills into law!
The last chapter, he looks back on Albany and talks about how things have changed and the “dirty” politics that take place today. The thing about Kremer is, I think these “dirty” politics were going on during his tenure, but because he stayed true to himself and his district, he didn’t let that impact him.
My 17-year-old son is passionate about politics and I keep telling him you don’t want to go there. He wants to change the world and after reading this book, I may tell him that he can. Jerry Kremer did.