SARANAC LAKE - Most communities would be happy to have just one of its U.S. senators come for a visit. On Friday, Saranac Lake got a twofer.
Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand spent part of the day together in the Saranac Lake area, where they participated in a pair of roundtable discussions: one on veterans issues at North Country Community College, the other on economic development at the Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear. In between those stops, the pair traveled together to Long Lake for another public forum. Gillibrand also visited Bombardier Transportation in Plattsburgh Friday afternoon.
"That's a big deal for us as a community," said Sylvie Nelson, executive director of the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce. "For two senators to come to a small community like Saranac Lake, that's impressive."
U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer, left, and Kirsten Gillibrand, right, and state Sen. Betty Little, center, enjoy ice cream cones at Donnelly’s on Friday.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
The chamber organized the events at the college and the airport. Nelson said she was initially approached by staff from Gillibrand's office, who wanted to host a pair of roundtable sessions in the area. Nelson said she suggested veterans issues and the emerging biotech cluster in Saranac Lake as topics. Later, the chamber learned that Schumer would attend as well.
"I think my first reaction was, 'Wow, OK,'" Nelson said.
Speaking at the morning roundtable, Schumer called it "a rare moment."
"Sen. Gillibrand and I are spending the day together," he said. "We spend a lot of days together, but they are mostly stuck in Washington. I think this is the first time we're spending the day together in a region. I think that shows the commitment we have to the North Country."
The area's state senator, Betty Little, attended both the Saranac Lake area events and praised Schumer and Gillibrand for their attention to the North Country.
"It's unbelievable," she told them at the airport. "To have you both here in person, meeting with our companies and knowing our district, it's phenomenal. This has to go down in history."
Following the airport roundtable, Schumer and Gillibrand stopped at Donnelly's for ice cream.
Earlier in the day, Schumer had flown into the Lake Clear airport from New York City.
Gillibrand was already in the area. She said she spent the past week vacationing with family - her husband Jonathan and two sons, Theodore and Henry - in Lake Placid, which has been a favorite summer vacation spot since she was young.
Gillibrand said her oldest son, nicknamed Teddy, went water skiing for the first time, on Lake Placid, during this vacation, and that the family also drove up the Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway and hiked the last half-mile to the summit of the Adirondacks' fifth-highest peak.
Schumer vacationed in the Lake Placid area last summer, at the same time as Gillibrand was in town.
"I introduced her children to the Tail o' the Pup (restaurant in Ray Brook)," Schumer said Friday.
"And they loved it," Gillibrand added. "But not as much as Chuck. He's their number-one fan."
Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.