Edward V. “Ned” Regan had a unique ability to capture votes from across the political spectrum. He first rose to prominence when he was elected to the Buffalo Common Council. He capped his political career in Albany, where he won four elections as state comptroller.
Regan died at the age of 84 in Greenwich, Conn., after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Whether in public service or later in academia, Regan well served the constituents whom he cherished and respected.
At a time when our politics is so divisive, it is good to remember a charismatic public servant who understood that politics wasn’t the end game, but the means to an end.
He made every moment count, and not just for himself. He was committed to Buffalo and Erie County, and was an early champion for regional economic development initiatives.
He faced long odds politically, and usually beat them. He first ran for Council in 1965, a Republican in a predominantly Democratic city. It didn’t matter. Regan was striking and could command an audience. People listened. State leaders put him up to challenge longtime State Comptroller Arthur Levitt when Regan was only 40, and he lost badly. But he didn’t stay down. He successfully ran against Buffalo Mayor Frank A. Sedita Sr. in 1971 to become county executive.
In that job Regan recorded important accomplishments, including devising effective management techniques to detect and prevent fraud and abuse and winning state recognition for the effort to improve community-based mental health and human services. When Regan left the county executive’s office in 1978, three years after winning a second term, it was for good reason. Levitt had announced his retirement and Regan took another shot at statewide office. He won the comptroller’s job, then won it again in 1982, 1986 and 1990.
Under his watch, the state pension fund grew from $10 billion to $56 billion, and he reformed government borrowing practices.
Regan deftly navigated the state’s Democratic waters, and he could get tough with his own party. In 1982, he declared his candidacy for governor, but later declined to pursue an office that he had a real chance of winning. Instead, he remained an Albany force.
He announced his retirement from politics in 1993 at age 62, and went on to academics, first at Bard College, then at Baruch College in Manhattan. But he never forgot about the place where he came of age politically. When called, he became the first chairman of the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority in 2005.
Regan was noted for his boundless energy and his commitment to family and community. He achieved many successes while doing what he loved – serving the public.