Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, a Republican, has announced she will not seek re-election.
Emotions flooded Teresa Sayward as she watched her son Glenn marry his longtime partner Ben.
As the veteran Assemblywoman announces her retirement, she said her most significant moment as a lawmaker was supporting gay marriage in New York state. The move drew criticism, especially from some of her Republican colleagues, but she said it was the right thing to do and changed many lives.
“This has been truly the best experience I have ever had in my life,” Sayward said in Plattsburgh at the Legislative Breakfast Friday, March 2, a day after announcing her retirement. “It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been rewarding.
“We have done so many things, but the most significant thing I ever did was to become the first Republican to sign for the same-sex marriage bill.”
Sayward, 67, served a decade as Willsboro Town Supervisor before being elected to the 113th Assembly District in 2002. The district covers Hamilton and Warren counties, most of Essex County and part of Saratoga County.
She spoke with family recently, including her husband Kenneth, with whom she celebrated a 50th wedding anniversary, and decided it was the right time for her to retire.
She will step down at the end of the year.
“Teresa, you are leaving us wanting more,” said North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas.
Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, R-Peru, of the 114th Assembly District, called it a bittersweet day and a huge loss for the North Country.
She said she and Sayward have been friends since they were teenagers. Duprey also supported the same-sex marriage bill.
“She is one of the most respected members of the Assembly by both parties that sit in those chambers,” Duprey said.
State Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, said she began admiring Sayward’s career when the latter was a supervisor in Willsboro.
“She is a tremendous representative of the issues of this constituency,” Little said. “I think she is going to be a tremendous advocate for the North Country in a different way.”
Sayward is not going away. The Adirondack Park still needs a strong voice, she said.
“If we don’t come together for a single purpose, we won’t be successful in anything we do,” Sayward said. “There is a lot of power when people come together.”
Sayward has been extremely pleased with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration. The most important thing, she said, is to work in a non-partisan way to push New York forward.
“I knew when I took this job I would know when it was time to leave,” Sayward said. “Thank you all very much for making this ride I had a very pleasant and wonderful experience.”
Essex County Board of Supervisors Chairman Randall “Randy” Douglas, a Democrat from the town of Jay, is strongly considering a run at Sayward’s seat.
“I have enjoyed working with Teresa,” he said. “She is a tremendous leader and I will miss her dearly.”
Sayward refused to play politics, and she didn’t care what party an individual belonged to, he said.
“I am honestly considering a run but no decision will be made until I thoroughly discuss the pros and cons of a run with my family,” Douglas said.
He plans to have those discussions in the next few weeks.
“One of the biggest items weighing on my decision is to make certain that my town of Jay and Essex County constituents’ needs for recovery from Irene are still able to be met, as a possible campaign would be very time consuming.”