Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro wasn't on the ballot this year, so the week of the general election wasn't spent campaigning or stressing over vote tallies.
Molinaro, a Republican, traveled to Israel for five days with a Dutchess County delegation. He visited holy sites, met Israeli officials and learned more about the Middle Eastern nation's economic and governmental structure.
The trip was organized by the Jewish Federation of Dutchess County. The group viewed the visit as a way to educate local leaders about how Israel has supported technology startup companies. It also served as an opportunity to connect with tourist assets in Israel.
It was the first Dutchess County delegation to visit Israel, according to Molinaro.
"I think that the connection communities and the people of Israel have with those of us at the local level (in New York) is very strong," he said. "It is one of education, it's one of inclusion, it's one of tolerance but it is also about exchanging innovations, exchanging ideas and growing the economic and business relationship and that's something that we've enjoyed for a number of years."
Most of the delegation spent a week in Israel. Because of scheduling constraints, Molinaro joined for five days of the trip.
During his visit, Molinaro met with Ambassador David Roet, Israel's former deputy permanent representative to the United Nations. The group toured holy sites, including the Western Wall in Jerusalem. They had a Shabbat dinner adjacent to the Western Wall.
"Being able to take in that very spiritual moment of faith at the Western Wall, at the holiest of sites for the Jewish people, was just very special and, in many ways, spiritually overwhelming," Molinaro said.
The delegation's tour included a visit to a Bedouin settlement. Bedouins are nomadic Arabs that live throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa.
At the settlement, Molinaro and the group visited a school built by Israel specifically for special education students in the Bedouin community. That was of personal significance to the county executive, who has a daughter on the autism spectrum. Inspired by his daughter, he launched the "ThinkDIFFERENTLY" initiative in Dutchess County, which encourages local governments to prioritize those with special needs.
The "ThinkDIFFERENTLY" initiative was a topic during Molinaro's discussion with Roet.
"We concluded with a conversation about how the acknowledgment of those living with special needs across the world is growing and it is one of the areas that in the United Nations and, from his perspective, in the Arab world has transcended some of their other political difficulties and some of the other controversial topics that obviously and rightfully consume their attention," Molinaro said.
The trip to Israel comes as Molinaro is exploring a run for governor in 2018. He is one of four Republicans considering whether to challenge Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, next year.
Molinaro plans to make a final decision by the end of the year.
One new factor in his decision-making process is the recent election results across the state. While Republicans had some victories, Democrats scored major wins in races throughout New York. One high-profile contest was won by state Sen. George Latimer, a Democrat, over incumbent Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, a Republican who ran for governor in 2014.
Molinaro said he isn't fazed by the November election results, but he is "digesting and trying to appreciate what occurred."
"Frankly, voters spoke. They spoke in many different ways for many different reasons and that has to be sort of assimilated in one's decision making," he said.
He added that Republicans must nominate candidates who can connect with voters.
"I mean connect in a very sincere and very personal way because I do think that the one thing that New Yorkers absolutely want and appreciate is elected officials who are just going to be honest and help them to solve the problems that confront their families, their communities and the state as a whole," he said.