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Former County Exec Dies; Elected Officials Talk About Her Influence

Courtesy of Dutchess Democratic Women's Caucus

A former Dutchess County executive died Wednesday. She broke several barriers and, to this day, remains the county’s only woman and Democratic county executive to have held the office.

Lucille Pattison became Dutchess County executive in 1978 through a special election, after having served on the county legislature since 1973. The first woman Democratic county executive in the United States, Pattison was reelected for the next two terms, retiring in 1991. Marc Molinaro, a Republican, is the current Dutchess County executive.

That case erupted in 1987, when Tawana Brawley, an African-American teen from Wappingers Falls in Dutchess County, made national headlines for making false rape accusations against six white men, some of whom were police officers.

MaryEllen Odell is Putnam County Executive. A Republican, she is the first woman to hold the office in Putnam, which neighbors Dutchess. She says it is hard to believe that her route to the county executive seat was a similar one to Pattison’s.

Odell took office in November 2011 after former state Senator Vincent Leibell resigned before taking office following an investigation that led to his conviction on federal corruption charges. Odell did not know Pattison, but wishes she did.

Again, here’s Molinaro.

Fran Knapp is Dutchess County’s Democratic Elections Commissioner.

Putnam County’s Odell has a few questions she would have liked to ask Pattison.

And here’s the second one.

Both Knapp and Molinaro say Pattison excelled at reaching across the aisle and building relationships, which served her extremely well in a Republican-dominated arena. And Molinaro agrees that she is a role model.

Pattison was awarded the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal in 1994, for her advocacy for children. Pattison was 77.

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