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Sen. Betty Litttle says 'it's time' to retire

December 6, 2019
By AARON CERBONE - For the News ( , Lake Placid News

State Sen. Betty Little announced Thursday, Dec. 5 that she will not seek re-election in 2020 saying her ninth term in the 45th District will be her last.

"Although it is very difficult for me to contemplate stepping away from the public service that I love so much, it's time," Little, R-Queensbury, said in a press release.

Little said she has "enjoyed every minute" of being a state representative since she was elected to the 109th Assembly District in 1995. She was 55 then and will turn 80 in September 2020. She was elected to the state Senate in 2002.

Article Photos

State Sen. Betty Little speaks Nov. 1 at the Saranac Lake village offices.
(News photo — Aaron Cerbone)

Little said she wants to spend more time with her family, which is spread out between Kentucky, Tennessee and California, and to volunteer more.

"Who knows what will follow when I retire at the end of next year, but I look forward to staying active, engaged and busy and being helpful wherever and whenever I can," Little said.

She also said she wants to be more involved in the World University Winter Games coming to Lake Placid in 2023.

"Being able to do this work for so many years has been the greatest honor. I've not taken one moment of it for granted," Little said in a press release.

"Actually, its the people," she told the Enterprise. "(Working with) hardworking people all trying to make their own lives better, but also trying to improve the communities they live in."

Little will serve in the state Senate until Dec. 31 2020. She said she hopes to add to the 322 new chapters of law she has sponsored over her 19-year career as a senator.

Broadband and cell coverage, as always, will be one of her major focuses in her last legislative session, Little said. She also said she wants to secure funding for Lyme disease research in the North Country. Little sat on the state Senate Task Force on Lyme and other Tick Borne Diseases until 2018, when the state Senate flipped to a Democratic majority and all task forces -- as well as their funding -- were reset.

Little said her greatest legislative achievement has been the approval of five state constitutional amendments addressing Adirondack Park matters -- the health and safety land bank, which authorizes public utility line and bike paths within the forest preserve; a land exchange between the state and NYCO Minerals, Inc.; the Township 40 resolution, which expanded the park's blue line; bringing a National Grid powerline into Tupper Lake and the Raquette Lake water well. Each of these required passage by two separately elected legislatures and then approval by voters on a statewide ballot.

"Amending the State Constitution isn't taken lightly and convincing my colleagues in Albany this was necessary required a lot of work," Little said.


Praise from politicians

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik called Little a "legislative partner and friend," as well as a "tremendous role model." Stefanik said that when she is asked about women in politics, she always proudly points to Little, saying she "quietly shattered glass ceilings before it was hailed by the media.

"Betty Little truly sets the bar for her tireless and effective public service to her constituents," Stefanik said in a press release. "Our community has watched in awe as Betty dedicated decades of her life to representing the hardworking families of Upstate New York. ... I wish Betty and her entire family all the best in this next chapter. She has earned it."

State Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Plattburgh, said Little will leave a "tremendous legacy" in her retirement.

"She has fought tirelessly for her constituents and has worked diligently to make the North Country a better place," Jones wrote in a press release. "I am proud to have worked with Betty on many legislative accomplishments over the past few years, and I am humbled to call her a friend."

Adirondack Council Executive Director William Janeway said he always enjoyed working with Little and found it productive "even when we didn't always agree.

"We worked together on major initiatives to protect clean water and the natural environment while fostering more vibrant communities," Janeway said in a press release. "Successes included invasive species controls and funding, clean water funding, the Community Health and Safety Land Bank Constitutional Amendment and the recent establishment of an Adirondack Diversity Initiative."

Former Essex County Board of Supervisors Chairman and town of Jay Supervisor Randy Douglas said that he worked with Little on many projects, including lobbying for state and federal funds to rehabilitate Olympic facilities and getting state and federal funds for the towns of Jay and Keene after hurricane Irene in 2011.

"Betty Little is a proven dedicated public servant that I am honored to call my friend," Douglas wrote in an email. "The North Country is losing a gem as our representative."

Tupper Lake village Mayor Paul Maroun said Little has always been close to Tupper Lake and many of the smaller communities in her district.

"In this business we all yell and scream ... but this lady's got heart," Maroun said. "The North Coutnry is going to miss Betty Little."

He said he will miss working as a council in her office.


The future election

While North Country politicians issue valedictions to the now-outgoing state Senator, Republicans and Democrats are preparing for a race to fill Little's seat in an election 11 months from now.

Democratic candidate Kimberly Davis, of Plattsburgh, said she started her campaign in May with two plans. Plan "A" was for if she was running against Little, whom she said "would have been a formidable opponent." She moved to plan "B" Thursday.

"I want to thank Betty Little for her many years of service to the North Country," Davis said in a press release. "I appreciate that she has served her constituents in the various elected positions she has held. Although we differ on political ideology, I respect her commitment to her constituents through her extended service in the New York State Senate and other public offices."

In a phone call Thursday Davis said she does not think it is likely she will see a primary contention in her bid for the Democratic line.

"There are only three upstate democrats in the state senate," Davis said. "We need to make sure that the democrats from New York City and Long Island are getting the perspective from someone within their own party of the very real issues we have here that they kind of take for granted."

One of those issues, Davis said, is cell service, which she said she does not have in her house. While she said some issues, like broadband, she is similar to Little on, others, she said her ideology differs on.

She said she supports stronger measures to combat climate change than Little has voted on, saying she would have voted for the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act which passed this summer. Little did not vote for that act.

Davis said she thinks she has an idea of who might throw their hat in the ring for the Republican party.

Maroun said there may even be a primary contest on the Republican line and that he is "looking at" running for Little's seat in 2020.

Maroun said he believes the district will be difficult for a Democrat to win.

"It's a conservative district," Maroun said. "A lot of the people in this district aren't in favor of a lot of the issues that the governor and the majority in both houses have passed so far."

He said Davis would have to follow the liberal line on issues like gun control, prison reform and marijuana legalization, which do not have support in the North Country like they do elsewhere.

The 45th district is the largest geographic state Senate district in New York and Maroun said that for whoever is running for Little's now-opening seat will need a lot of money and will need to travel a lot of miles.



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