The North Country since the turn of the century has an overhauled representation in the State Legislature. Is it more or less favorable than before?

On the face of it, you'd think less. After all, gone is 38-year senator Ronald B. Stafford, who died June 24, 2005, and 20-year assemblyman Chris Ortloff, who bowed out of a re-election bid last year to take a job on the state payroll. That's a lot of years of seniority to lose, especially for an area of sparse population and the limited political clout that normally goes with it.

What we have in their place are Sen. Betty Little of Queensbury, who has been a member of that house since 2002, having graduated from the Assembly. Like Stafford, she is a majority Republican, though even she wouldn't argue that she now has his enormous influence in state government -- or ever will, for that matter. She does have enough that she was able to capture $2 million worth of member items from the huge state pork barrel.

Teresa Sayward of Willsboro has been a member of the Assembly from this region since 2002. The Assembly has long been a Democratic stronghold, and there is nothing to indicate that will change anytime soon. Her power in the chamber, therefore, is not great.

Neither is Janet Duprey's, Clinton County legislator or treasurer for more than 30 years and last year elected to the State Assembly, where she is also in the minority as a Republican.

If our Assembly members seem impotent -- in their case, because of their party affiliation and rather short tenure in office -- so did the men they replaced. For all of Ortloff's longevity, the almost freakishly unaccommodating setup of the New York State Legislature has always availed members of a house minority party little in the way of capacity to get important things done.

What the North Country team of representatives does seem to have now, though, that it hasn't in the past is both a formal and informal unity of goals and commitment.

The Press-Republican Editorial Board asked Duprey last week to characterize the relationship of the three and how it affects their representation.

"We meet together often," she said. "Our offices are all on the ninth floor (of the Capitol), so we see each other all the time. ... We're all grandmothers, we've all raised our kids, who are all adults now. We're very candid with each other, and we greatly respect one another. We have identical goals and identical standards."

They are not striving to outdo one another, nor are they racing each other to seize recognition for whatever they jointly accomplish.

You get the feeling that these three 60-something women would be friends under any set of circumstances in which life placed them, and that relationship gives the North Country a focus that has been missing.

What they lack in seniority, they make up for in abundance in camaraderie and unanimity of purpose.

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