Teresa Sayward can be summed up with one word: class.
That description has come up over and over since the Willsboro native revealed last week that she won't seek re-election to the 113th Assembly District seat she has held for the past 10 years.
The decision was a surprise to all but a few close friends. The 67-year-old said that she and her husband, Ken, were reflecting on their 50 years of marriage and the loss of a son five years ago in a motorcycle accident and decided that getting more family time was important in their lives.
For many years, her broader family has been the residents of the North Country. It is difficult for any legislator in a minority position to usher through legislation, but Sayward has always pressed hard on the issues that matter in our hometowns: agriculture, small businesses, schools, the Adirondack Park Agency. She also helped establish an Adirondack Caucus among the legislators so area concerns would have a platform.
The area's Republican trio — Sayward, Assemblywoman Janet Duprey and Sen. Betty Little — present a formidable female force in the State Legislature. Duprey and Little have both mentioned how much Sayward is respected by Democrats and Republicans alike.
But don't mistake her gentility for docility; Sayward did not hesitate to advocate and demand answers.
She told one of our reporters that when she was Willsboro supervisor, she went to Albany to discuss local issues with legislators. In meeting with powerful Sen. Ron Stafford, all he wanted to talk about were her family and people he knew in Willsboro — not the issues she was hoping to address. Finally, he stood up to signal the visit was over, and they shook hands. She clamped her hand over his in a two-handed shake and would not let go. She told him she really wanted to know how he stood on one of her important issues. He kept smiling and trying to pull away, and she kept asking. Though he still shirked the answer, he told her then: "You're quite tenacious."
She fought for her constituents as a member of the Essex County Board of Supervisors and continued to do so as a state assemblywoman.
Sayward says she will remain active as a lobbyist for regional issues. As she spoke to an appreciative crowd at the North Country Chamber of Commerce Legislative Issues Breakfast, a day after her announcement, she thanked her colleagues and constituents for "making the ride that I had a very pleasant and wonderful experience."
Having Sayward in the Assembly has been like having your neighbor there. We are sorry to see her leave but encouraged that she will remain active on behalf of this region.
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