As 2013 comes to a close, so does the remarkable tenure of Clinton County Legislature Chairman Jimmy Langley and the service of three of his fellow legislators.
Ushered out by term limits, Sara Rowden, Robert Butler and Robert Heins will all end their 12-year runs as legislators on Jan. 1. Langley will stay on as a legislator for two more years but will give up the chairman’s gavel.
The hallmark of the legislature under his leadership has been the transformation from a completely partisan body to that of a non-political, working-together group.
Rowden, a Democrat, and Butler and Heins, both Republicans, have also worked hard to make life better for their constituents for many years. They can leave feeling proud of their accomplishments. They and their colleagues have put the best interests of the county before party politics. Together, they were able to accomplish some impressive feats.
Among the most important was the creation and growth of Plattsburgh International Airport. The decision to move the County Airport from its old site on Route 3 to the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base was not without controversy; many in the community thought it would never take flight.
But it has proven to be a wise choice, with business at the new airport, which opened in 2007, growing to the point that legislators recently voted for a $54.93 million expansion that will triple the size of the terminal.
Langley’s leadership was critical — he made numerous trips to New York City and Washington to meet with Federal Aviation Administration officials to lobby for funding for the airport. His persistence, charm and knowledge of aviation served him well, and the county was awarded more than $40 million for the project.
Heins, who served in the important role of Airport Committee chairman, said Langley’s leadership was invaluable.
“A lot of people in this county don’t know what he does behind the scenes,” Heins said recently. “He does what’s best for the county and never wants to draw attention to himself.”
Langley has never been about headlines or confrontation. At Langley’s final meeting as chairman, county union head Joe Musso stood before the legislature and praised Langley and Democrat and Republican legislators for their honesty and fairness.
In a world where unions and municipal bodies are often at odds over contracts, it was telling to see Musso give genuine praise.
We hope that soon-to-be Chairman Sam Dyer continues on the path that Langley, Rowden, Heins and Butler have followed. He has said that is his intent. Nobody wants a return to the days of secret party meetings and political jockeying.
As Langley himself recently said, “I think our greatest accomplishment was that we got along so well.”
It is something that every political body in the North Country should strive for.