Visitation continued Friday at the DiDonato Funeral Home in Ulster County for New York state Assemblyman Frank Skartados. Several assemblymembers, including Speaker Carl Heastie, were expected. Skartados died Sunday at age 62 from pancreatic cancer. People attending viewing hours Thursday remembered the Hudson Valley Democrat as a most honorable public servant.
Fellow Hudson Valley Democrat James Skoufis, who was elected to the Assembly in November 2012, says he sought out Skartados for advice before taking office. Skoufis considered Skartados, a fellow Greek-American, a mentor.
“He was always, I was one of the few colleagues that got to see him in the Assembly in Albany as well as back home, for obvious reasons. I’m the next-door assemblyman. And it was remarkable how he was always visibly much happier back home. Not to say he was upset or sad in the Assembly, but he always had a smile on his face back home in the Hudson Valley where maybe he didn’t always have it on his face in the legislature up in Albany,” Skoufis says. “And that speaks to where he was most comfortable. He was most comfortable being around the people he represented and he cared for. And more people will miss him than he probably ever even knew.”
Skartados’ 104th District straddles both sides of the Hudson River, the only district whose cities and towns all border the river. The district includes Beacon, Newburgh and Poughkeepsie, cities represented by Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney.
“Oh, Frank is just a great American story, I mean, the guy came to America at 14 years old, had to learn the language. He was born on an island off the coast of Greece. He had to pay his way through school. He started a business and was successful with that, and then got elected to the state house by his neighbors. I mean, that’s the American dream,” Maloney says. “He was a bulldog for what he thought was right. And he was always sticking up for people who were shut out and who didn’t have everything lined up for them in this world. And I loved working with him. And we’re going to miss him a lot. He was a great, decent, passionate, honest public servant.”
Skartados put himself through the State University of New York at New Paltz and earned a degree in political science. He went on to earn a master's degree in International Studies at the State University of California at Sacramento. Skartados first served in 2009. He lost the seat to Republican Thomas Kirwan two years later. Skartados then retook the seat in a special election in 2012 after Kirwan’s death. He focused his energy on education, the environment and easing the tax burden on municipalities, to name a few.
Phillip Leber is Hudson Regional Political Director of the Working Families Party.
“So, I remember the time I first met Frank Skartados, actually. I was brand new with the Working Families Party. I didn’t know what I was doing. And I went to his office and I was nervous because I’d never met an assemblyman before,” Leber says. “And he brought me in, shook my hand and treated me as an equal. And I’ll never forget that. Just, ‘how could I help? It was, he made it really easy.”
Republican state Senator Sue Serino’s district overlaps with Skartados’ Assembly district.
“He was just such a great guy and he’s going to be so missed. I loved working with him,” Serino says. “He didn’t care about the ‘R’ or the ‘D’ [Republican or Democrat]. We both had that mindset. And we just got great things accomplished, so he’s going to really be missed.”
In his first term, Skartados secured $6 million to complete the Walkway Over the Hudson pedestrian bridge, which spans from Poughkeepsie to Lloyd, and later secured funds to build Hudson River connector trails in Lloyd. Democratic Albany area Assemblywoman Pat Fahy also paid her respects. She talks about Skartados’ advocacy concerning PFOS water contamination in Newburgh.
“I saw a whole new side of him with the water crisis, the tainted water here in Newburgh and Hoosick Falls. And he just so passionately advocated for this district, and I couldn’t have been more supportive of what he did. Also a terrific advocate, I had a chance to work with him on a number of the pipeline issues. I shared the very serious concern about some of the oil and gas pipelines coming through here,” Fahy says. “So it’s a voice we will miss and it’s just, for me, a very, very serious loss for the New York state Assembly. He came in just a year ahead of me, and it’s hard to believe he’s gone.”
Skartados lived on his farm in Milton, Ulster County, where he raised goats, sheep and chickens for pleasure. He is survived by his teenage daughter Alyssa and two brothers. Other surviving family members are in Greece.