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Just a ‘Little’ party

State senator honored upon her retirement

State Sen. Betty Little holds a “Key to the Adirondacks” at her retirement party at the Hotel Saranac Thursday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

SARANAC LAKE — “You’re not going to be constituents anymore, you’re going to be my friends.”

State Sen. Betty Little said goodbye and thanked the people she has represented in her more than three decades in politics — voters, politicians and tourism marketers — at the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism’s Annual Meeting and Winter Social Thursday night.

At the Hotel Saranac Thursday, heavy hitters from around the Tri-Lakes had gathered to thank her for her work. Tupper Lake village Mayor Paul Maroun said this was one of many “Little” gatherings being held throughout her district during her last legislative session.

While politicians and prominent business owners lingered around Little, waiting for their chance to congratulate her on a career well spent and snap one more photo with her while she’s still a senator, Kat Harkins, a Saranac Laker and employee at the Adirondack North County Association waited for her chance to get in close.

She wanted to thank Little for helping her out when her youngest son was born. She said he was born at home and she ran into some difficulty in getting him insured. She contacted Little’s office, which she said advocated for her and helped her son.

Retirement plan

Little said her retirement was a hard decision to make, but that after years in the state Senate and Assembly, she wanted more time to spend with her six children and 18 grandchildren and to do more volunteering.

“This is amazing, absolutely amazing,” Little said of the gathering, stunned by how many people were there.

She said she was in her 20s before she ever even stepped north of Ticonderoga. Now, she said, she wants to spend some of her retirement traveling.

“I’ve always wanted to teach in Ireland,” Little said. “That would be a dream job.”

She said she is “100% Irish.” Her maiden name is O’Connor and she has lots of relatives in Ireland.

For now, she said when she works with Assemblyman Billy Jones she plans which bill will be her “swan song.” The problem is, she keeps coming up with new ones.

“Pretty soon we’re going to have an opera,” Little said.

Praise for Betty

When Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave his 2020 State of the State address earlier this month he took a moment to recognize Little, saying she is the longest-serving female, Republican senator in the state.

Little, on Thursday, revealed she had not expected the shoutout.

When she was led to her seat it was designated with her name while all the others simply said “senators.” She figured she was going to be recognized when Cuomo announced funding for the new Whiteface lodge or Lake George.

When Cuomo started talking about, “A school teacher who answered the call to service over 30 years ago with principled decency and compassion,” she was shocked.

“I was flabbergasted,” Little said. “It was quite an honor.”

She said she and Cuomo are “good friends,” who “do not always agree.”

“He’s done more for the North Country and the Adirondacks than anybody,” Little said.

Leaders from around the Tri-Lakes had speeches for Little, including Maroun, who worked as a counsel in her office.

“Senator, you’ve done something I can’t seem to do,” he said. “You’ve brought my whole village board together.”

Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau called her a “real woman.”

“She has heart,” Maroun said. “Politicians today — with the exception of everyone in this room — really don’t have heart. They don’t care about the person on the street. They don’t care if the hospital is going to be tomorrow. Some of them don’t even care if there is a hospital in the region. Betty Little does.”

Retired North Elba town Supervisor Roby Politi read a poem he wrote for her, in the style of Rudyard Kipling’s “If,” titled “Ode to Betty Little.”

“So here’s to you, our dear friend Betty

and all that you stand for.

Today we all lift our glasses and we toast your record

And our friendship, forevermore.”

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