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Teresa Sayward is a tough act to follow

March 3, 2012
Editorial by the Adirondack Daily Enterprise: Publisher Catherine Moore, Managing Editor Peter Crowley

Teresa Sayward has been an excellent representative for her district in the state Assembly. Garry Douglas, head of the North Country Chamber of Commerce in Plattsburgh, nailed it: "There's an old saying that when you go, you should leave them wanting more. That is certainly the case with Teresa Sayward."

It's a strange job in many ways, being an Assembly member in the minority party. One is incredibly limited legislatively, so one has to find other ways to serve and make a difference. Betty Little, now our state senator, did a great job in that post before Ms. Sayward, showing how important it was to travel the district constantly, showing up as many places and listening to as many people as possible. Ms. Little also had to learn that one could be involved in governing as long as one reached across the aisle and worked collaboratively.

Ms. Sayward has kept the bar high, doing those things but very much putting her own stamp on the job.

Article Photos

Teresa Sayward poses in September 2006 at the Department of Motor Vehicles office in Elizabethtown.
(Enterprise file photo)

We always like a lawmaker who doesn't let party bosses tell his or her what to do, and Ms. Sayward has been impressively independent - as exemplified by her major stand for gay marriage.

We think it was the right thing to do in a society that supposedly cherishes liberty, but we respect that many, including her Republican colleagues, disagree. Nevertheless, few lawmakers can claim to have had as much impact as Ms. Sayward did in bringing about such a historic change. She got a statewide spotlight in June 2007 when she spoke passionately on the floor of the Assembly in an early effort to pass the bill. (It died in the Senate.) After that, she was able to convince many of her fellow Republicans, including North Country friend and Assembly district neighbor Janet Duprey, to switch and finally vote it into law last year.

In doing so, Ms. Sayward frequently told the story of her son, how he grew up desperate to be "normal" and how she and her husband painfully came to accept his homosexuality. It was personal, but was much more than that: It mirrored a national turning of the tide.

But that was a small part of Ms. Sayward's good work. As a former Willsboro shopkeeper, she was forthright in advocating for economic opportunities in Adirondack communities, sometimes confronting environmentalists in the process. But she also shared the average Adirondackers' care for the environment, as evidenced by her advocacy for seemingly mundane things like local sewer projects, which protect water quality. She pushed a small-town pragmatism that made a lot of sense.

Good on customer service, she has been available to her constituents, which we greatly admire. She had strong opinions but worked well with others, partly because she is amicable, respectful and respectable.

In a time when the state Legislature earned a reputation as a dysfunctional sleaze pit, where an amazing number of lawmakers were so corrupt they went to prison even with lax self-created rules, Ms. Sayward was sometimes pointed to statewide as a model of ethics, as in an Ottaway Newspapers series on the "Seven Deadly Sins of Albany."

We can think of only one way in which she really disappointed us: Although she will leave the Assembly, she has been officially "retired" since she turned 65, collecting both a paycheck and a pension check. This double-dipping is unfortunately both legal and common, but it shouldn't be. You're either retired, or you're not.

Otherwise, though, we admire Ms. Sayward and wish her happiness in a very well earned retirement.

Meanwhile, we're eager to see who will replace her. There could be many qualified candidates, including some of the people who say they're thinking about it. We hope they live up to the standard set by their predecessor.



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