New York State Senator Betty Little has been serving in the legislature for 25 years. In 1995, the Republican won a special election to the state Assembly and in 2002 she won the state Senate seat that opened with the retirement of Senator Ronald Stafford. A year ago, she announced that she would retire at the end of this term — December 31st. As she approaches the end of her public service, the 80-year-old Little tells WAMC North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley she has no regrets about her decision to retire.
“You know, I've been in the Senate and the Assembly now for 25 years. And I said that I would not be there when I turned 80 and I had my 80th birthday in September. So you know you never know what's ahead of you when you're 80. But I've seen too many people dozing off during session in Chamber because they were older and it was not going to be me. And you know there are things I'd like to do mostly travel and I'm hopeful that this will end so we can travel and do more. And I'm very grateful that I'm going to be on the ORDA (Olympic Regional Development Authority) board.”
Pat Bradley: “Betty Little 25 years is a long time. What do you feel are some of the most important bills that you've passed or been involved with?”
Little: “Invasive species. Aquatic invasive species. I was on that when I was on the county board and Lake George was being infiltrated with milfoil and trying to get a handle on that right from the beginning. And we did. I sponsored a bill in the Assembly with Senator Pat McGee who's deceased now. Governor Pataki put money in the budget $25 million. Now we're working on road salt and there was a pilot project in Lake George. Those things have been important. Something I worked on for a long time, our farmers up here, apple orchards, they bring in workers from Jamaica and all and they would have to pay unemployment insurance on these workers. And stated in the contract was that these workers could never collect unemployment. They no longer have to pay unemployment insurance if they don't qualify for unemployment and they certainly never qualified for that. You know we've done a lot for net metering. A lot of things along those lines. And the constitutional amendments. I've sponsored five constitutional amendments. The most significant one is really this land bank, a lot of things that can be done with that and I can't wait to see it get tested a little bit better and people starting to use that amendment.”
Bradley: “Betty Little a couple months ago it was revealed that you're dealing with I believe it's breast cancer.”
Little: “Mm hmm.”
Bradley: “Why do you feel that it's important to talk about it publicly what you're facing and and secondarily how are you doing?”
Betty Little: “I'm doing fine finally. I had a few complications but I'm finally and ended up with three surgeries. And so, but I'm doing fine and you know at my age it's not a big deal. Better me than my daughters, daughters-in-laws with you know young families and all. And I didn't really think that I would tell anybody about it. And so I hadn't told my kids until I knew what was going to happen, when it was going to happen. And you know they were a little annoyed but they understood. You know, I was due to have a mammogram in March and of course COVID happened. And so I finally went for a checkup in July just just to do something, you know, I knew it was due and had a mammogram then. And that's when it was discovered. And it never would have been discovered if it wasn't through the mammogram and the digital mammograms that are so exact. And really, you know, from that and went to an ultrasound and to biopsy and all that. So it wasn't something I mean I probably could have lived with it for a long time before I would have known about it even. But because of that my daughter said Mom, you know, maybe you should tell people because people are not getting checkups like they should because of COVID. And I said well I don't know let me think. And then I thought well how am I any different from anybody else and why should I be not wanting to say what was going on? So I thought about it and we did a little statement that we were going to make and I was getting my hair cut and I read it to the woman that was cutting my hair. And I said what do you think? And she said I think someone's going to go to the phone and make an appointment. So then we went ahead and did it. And Mark Mulholland's wife died of breast cancer at 37 and it was just tragic with two children five and seven years old. And so knowing that it was going to go from a statement to you know a bigger press thing we talked to him and did an interview with him. And you know it is funny the day after it came out I got a call from our majority leader in the Senate, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and she called and said I just want to tell you I made appointment this morning. So I don't think my hairdresser knew that's who was going to be the one making the call. So I felt it was worthwhile.”
Subscribe to the WAMC News Podcast to hear an extended interview with retiring New York state Senator Betty Little. Republican State Assemblyman Dan Stec won November’s election to replace her.