News & Insights

Sen. Bonacic reflects on Walter Rhulen Award, long career in politics

Some of the greatest achievements in the world started with a simple thought and a small act of kindness. For this year’s Walter A. Rhulen Awardee – New York State Senator John Bonacic – kindness and helping people is something he always had in him.

“When you come out of law school you just think about getting a job and making money. But I always loved people and I always wanted to help people,” Sen. Bonacic stated. “I always had that in me.”

Sen. Bonacic will be honored this year at the Partnership’s Annual Meeting for his commitment to community and the districts he represents, along with his service to the betterment of the people he stands for. A graduate of Iona College and later Fordham University School of Law, Sen. Bonacic professed that he wasn’t really ever sure where life would take him, but he’s happy as to where he’s ended up.

In February of 1990, Bonacic was elected to the New York State Assembly and was re-elected four times, remaining in the Assembly until he was elected to the New York State Senate in 1998, being re-elected every two years ever since.

“If I had to do it all over again, I absolutely would. I have no regrets on anything, and I’ve been a very fortunate human being,” he expressed. “There are so many people that have touched me in my life, and I’ve touched them.”

During his time as Senator, Bonacic brought a lot of his focus to Sullivan County, as he felt it was a county that needed it the most, working to secure grants and monies to aid in the revitalization throughout many of its parts.

“One thing that I knew how to do, that maybe some of the Senators before me didn’t quite focus on, was following the money,” laughed Bonacic. “So I concentrated on Sullivan County because the people needed it the most.

“The people were really struggling and now, today, there is a strong economic heartbeat with job creation and more,” he said.

Just this year alone, Bonacic has secured $75,000 for the Town of Thompson and a $1 million grant for the Center for Discovery. He supported a Senate Resolution that invests $1 million to combat lyme and tick-borne diseases, something that has been a growing issue for the past few years, as well as supported a Senate Resolution that would add $5 million in additional funding for critical women’s health initiatives.

And although Bonacic has announced that he will be retiring at the end of this year, he plans to continue to help and serve the people, just in other ways.

“I think this is the premiere award in Sullivan County,” Bonacic said when asked about how he felt receiving the award. “You know, I looked at the 19 people that have received this award since 1990 and they are all Sullivan County people. So this award makes me feel like I’m a native, that I’m accepted as a part of the people, and that makes me feel good,” he said. “And if you ask me what my greatest achievement would be… it would be my family. They’re good people and they do good things. I’m looking forward to spending more time with them.”