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COMMENTARY: What a true public servant looks like

COMMENTARY: What a true public servant looks like


Getting elected to state office almost always comes with a price, especially in New York where the values of Albany politicians are not highly regarded.

Sen. Betty Little, our state senator for nearly two decades, is the exception.

And now it is our loss.

Sen. Little announced earlier this week she would not run for a 10th term in the 45th Senate District, ending a remarkable quarter century of service to, well, all of us.

She is 79 after all, but you would never know it by her schedule and commitment.

If there is an elected official who has done more in terms of helping everyday people, I do not know of them.

But here is the greatest compliment of all. I will not call her a “politician.” That would be an insult.

Betty Little’s legacy is that she remained one with the people she served, an active part of the community, a passionate advocate that transcended politics who never lost touch with her roots.

She just wanted to help people.

Elected officials of today, please take note.

She talked personally to people on the phone.

She showed up at community events.

She promised action and got results without ever issuing a press release over and over again.

A frantic woman called Betty once after the woman inadvertently shredded her STAR rebate check. Betty called the tax and finance office and got them to issue another check.

A couple living on the road between Crown Point and Port Henry called Betty to complain that tourists heading to the Lake Champlain ferry kept missing the turn forcing them to turn around in their driveway. Betty had a road sign put up to fix the problem.

A grandmother called because her grandson was about to lose his TAP financing for college because he was two credits shy of remaining eligible. Betty called the Higher Education Services Corporation that managed TAP and worked out a solution so the student could return to college.

A group from Plattsburgh was planning a mission to Nicaragua when the trip had to be canceled because of political upheaval and violence. The group was going to lose the money it spent on airfare. Betty intervened and the money was refunded.

Over the years, I have talked to Betty a countless number of times, but it was rarely at her office. She did her work out in the community.

She turned up at community events of all shapes and sizes from hockey and basketball games at the Civic Center to community meetings where she was always available to not just talk, but to listen.

Note to all elected officials, listen more.

Little leaves at a time when we need someone of her abilities and reputation more than ever, especially in a cesspool like Albany.

Betty Little accomplished something very few state elected officials have ever done after long stints in Albany. She remained respectable.

Lynne, Boecher, the Warren County Democratic chairwoman, said Little brought civility and class to the political discussion.

When was the last time a member of an opposing party said something like that?

Betty is unassuming, knowledgeable and legitimately concerned about people’s lives.

You may have noticed earlier in this article, I departed from the newspaper style of using a person’s last name on second reference and just used “Betty.”

Dan Mac Entee, her long-time communications director, shared a story about a lobbyist approaching a group of senators that included Little.

The lobbyist addressed each of the senators formally, “Hi, Sen.X, hi Sen. Y, hi Sen. Z,” until he got to Sen. Little.

“Hello Betty,” he said.

“What a great compliment,” Mac Entee related.

It’s also how her constituents know her; how we all know her.

“While I could sing Betty’s praises and have shared more than you need, I would end by adding that what I respect and admire most is that she is the same person today that she was 24 years ago when we met on her first campaign,” Mac Entee said. “She has never lost sight of what matters most in life. The title never went to her head.”

Elected officials take note: This is what a true public servant looks like.

Ken Tingley is the editor of The Post-Star and may be reached via email at His blog “The Front Page” discusses issues about newspapers and journalism. You can also follow him on Twitter at


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