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A model legislator

Betty Little should be the model for everyone who ever runs for elected office.

She announced this week she will retire at the end of 2020, when her current term ends. Here in the North Country and in the Capitol, she is respected by members of both parties. She will be missed, but we know she is not the last of her kind. The example she sets is too obviously good to not be imitated.

Over the 24 years she has represented us in Albany, she has consistently been honest, available, fair, reasonable and civil. She has found a healthy balance between her own priorities — which she states openly and honestly — and being open to what various constituents want her to do.

She has never been cagey or elusive with us. So many politicians are: out of fear of public scrutiny, to preserve their bargaining options, or because they have something to hide. Betty Little takes the daring approach of putting her cards on the table.

Betty Little behaves with honesty and dignity, and expresses sadness about those who don’t — and there have been many of those in Albany. She returns calls personally and promptly, and tells you where she stands on issues –but also the legislative and political limitations.

We know Little would not appreciate us comparing her to other politicians, because she hates political warfare, but we want to make the point that future candidates can do better, starting any time, by behaving more like Betty Little.

Her constituents can tell she is not really interested in power, personal advancement or party dominance, but simply in doing a job people need done — and she has done it so unwaveringly well for so many years that no one can help but admire her consistency. Since that’s what most citizens really want, it makes it hard for anyone to run against her.

Legislatively, she has been a bulldog on important Adirondack issues, generally favoring the interests of longtime residents over environmentalists but also with an open mind for compromise. The Forest Preserve land bank is a major accomplishment. She also played a major role in landing major Olympic venue upgrades as well as the 2023 Winter World University Games based in Lake Placid. And she launched the Adirondack Community Housing Trust, which started slowly but has the right idea and may take on a larger role as the housing market gets tighter in places such as Lake Placid.

On cellphone coverage and high-speed internet, she has pushed hard to do better than the scraps of improvement the North Country has received. She fought in vain to keep North Country prisons from closing, and then fought — unsuccessfully so far — to make it easier for the state to sell and redevelop closed prison sites.

Her local accomplishments are perhaps even more important. Every community in her district can thank her for getting state assistance with certain projects.

We look forward to this next year being not just a victory lap for her. We hope leaders from all over the state take the opportunity to work with her on some important accomplishments.

By deciding to fill the role the way most people want it filled, and maintaining that standard for three decades, Betty Little has reinforced North Country people’s belief that good politicians are out there, and that they shouldn’t have to put up with too much disappointment.

Leaders of the future, take notice. Regardless of your ideological leanings, if you are a person of consistency and integrity, and if you work hard and collaboratively to help people, voters will thank you for it.

Thank you, Betty Little, for your service.