Melinda Katz had a lot of people to thank for helping her get elected Queens district attorney last year.
She thanked her family, supporters, campaign staff, volunteers and fundraisers. But she saved a special shout-out for “my strategists who remembered to do the absentee votes.”
As the first female DA in Queens history, Katz grabbed the moment to stage a major celebration.
An estimated 1,400 people attended her official swearing at the Carnesecca Arena at St. John’s University — including a who’s who of New York law enforcement and three statewide officials.
Mayor de Blasio, Chief Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals Janet DiFiore, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Hochul, state Attorney General Letitia James and the head of the Democratic Party in Queens, Rep. Gregory Meeks (D- Queens, Nassau), shared the stage.
It was up to the former borough president to remind her well-wishers how close the election was that got her on that stage.
She overcame “an election night that lasted a month and a half,” a reference to the unprecedented, six-week primary recount that ended with her winning the Democratic nomination by 55 votes.
The evening’s campaign-rally vibe gave the Democratic establishment in Queens an opportunity to kick back and enjoy its still-functioning grasp on the handles of power.
The loudest applause of the night came when Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton), the party’s designee to replace Katz as borough president, was introduced.
Katz’s 32-minute inauguration speech laid out her agenda for reform and took on her critics who have questioned if she can do the job, after being elected on a platform that promised social justice rather than the traditional call for law and order.
“If someone breaks the law, they will be prosecuted and held accountable for their actions,” she promised.
She made it clear that she is a strong supporter of new state laws ending cash bail for a long list of criminal offenses — though a new system for making sure accused people show up in court is “still a work in progress,” she conceded.
“We will figure it out,” Katz said. “we will keep our community safe, which — by the way — was the reason I was elected.
“I was elected because of the trust that I will bring a steady hand in these times of uncertainty.
“This won’t surprise you but there are a lot of naysayers and critics,” she said.
“There are those who say we’re not going far enough, there are those who say we are going too far.
“I look forward to that challenge with the trust to do the right thing even though we know we can’t achieve it all in a single day.
“As I always tell my kids, it is always better and braver to work toward progress, to do something rather than standing on the sidelines criticizing.”
For those who have followed Katz’s political career, it was a familiar performance.
She spoke of losing her parents while still young, raising two children late in life and working her way up the ladder from city councilmember to assemblywoman, then borough president.
She did not mention that she is the only Queens politician in more than a century to run for and win a contested election — other than a judgeship — after being borough president. Until now, the job has been a career killer.