“I never imagined I would run for office, but it seems that everything I have done in life has led me to this point,” said Big Pine Key resident Thomas “Tommy” Ryan, who has filed to run for District 2’s opening county commission seat. The seat is being vacated by longtime commissioner George Neugent.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y. to Irish immigrants, he joined the Army when there was no money for him to attend college. He served three years as an MP at West Point.
“I was present when the first women graduated from West Point, and that has always stayed with me,” he said. While also in active service, he was part of the protection of the hostages from Iran upon their release and return to the United States.
After being honorably discharged, he continued his service by becoming a New York City Firefighter for 21 years, including during 9/11/2001. He received the World Trade Center Metal of Freedom among many other awards. Ryan has spoken around the country regarding his time as a firefighter during that time period and can be seen in a number of documentaries about 9/11.
“After I retired, I became active in beach cleanups and was appointed to the Tree Commission and the Zoning Board of Adjustment in New Jersey,” he said, and was also elected to be the Democratic Representative of the First District in Bradley Beach.
Moving to the Keys in 2011, Ryan resides with his husband Jon and has three adult children.
His community outreach efforts include being a part of The Smart Ride and raising more than $100,000 in eight weeks during Fantasy Fest in 2016. He is a board member of The Fire Museum in Key West, and spearheads the annual fundraiser. He is also an active member of The American Legion Post 168.
Lenore Baker, who organizes Lower Keys cleanups post Irma, says Ryan has been an important part of getting the islands back in order. “He has been at every cleanup, every weekend, for months,” she said. “His community involvement is tremendous.”
Ryan has been living in a trailer beside his home since the hurricane caused significant damage to his home. “Our district was under-represented after the hurricane; we had nothing and no one, leaving our voices unheard,” he said. “I look forward to serving and representing not only my district, but all of Monroe County. I am your neighbor.”