I sit to write this statement with a heart full of gratitude to the residents of the First Senatorial District for their unwavering trust in me and their commitment to the many goals we have achieved together throughout the years. A famous proverb teaches us that “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Your support from the beginning of my tenure allowed me to take that first step. But just as every journey has a beginning, it must also have an end and today it is with a tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment that I complete my final term in office as your state senator.
The First Senatorial District is truly a special place. Geographically, it is one of the largest and most beautiful Senate districts in the state, spanning from Brookhaven in the west, to Montauk and Fishers Island in the east. But the true beauty of this district lies in the heart of its people. I have been privileged to represent these hardworking, impassioned and compassionate individuals, who have stood side-by-side with me to ensure that we preserve our quality of life and advance the goals so important to individuals and families in our region.
It would take a lifetime to thank all the people who have guided me along this journey. We have been a team made up of the multitudes of constituents who have taken the time to meet with me and share their stories and concerns, diverse groups who have educated me on the importance of their causes, college officials and school superintendents who have passionately advocated for students, volunteers who give up their time to serve our community in so many important ways, first responders who put the safety of others before their own, scientists from Brookhaven National Lab who make cutting edge discoveries, fisherman and farmers who put food on our tables, and my partners in government who work tirelessly to ensure that we are meeting the needs of all these individuals and groups. The initiatives we advanced were successful because they were rooted in the ideas and efforts of our local people who set out to make a difference in their community.
Early on in my career I set goals, and to the people who elected me, I made promises. I did not rest until these goals were achieved. I promised to protect our quality of life and was successful in advancing so many environmental measures, most importantly preserving over 100,000 acres of Pine Barrens for future generations. I promised to deliver meaningful property tax relief and was able to put in place the successful STAR tax-relief program. I promised quality, affordable and accessible healthcare and now Stony Brook Medicine has come to our hospitals on the East End and throughout the region. I promised to fight for quality education and state aid allowing our schools to thrive. As chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee for four decades, I worked to grow and enhance our State University system. I fought tirelessly for the developmentally disabled population to ensure their needs are met and I made mental health services a priority, especially on the east end which was dramatically underserved.
With the start of every new legislative session, issues of statewide significance are put before members of the legislature and a state budget of over $100 billion is negotiated. While this work is incredibly important, as I reflect on my career, it was the small victories, not the major successes, that are foremost in my memory. It was the fight to get housing for the medically fragile, developmentally disabled child who no one would house. It was getting the power turned back on for the senior citizen on a fixed income who had to choose between their prescription medication and paying their utility bill. It was watching a staff member help a constituent who could not read, sort out his bills once a month. And the list goes on.
I am blessed to have been given your trust and the opportunity to serve in a job that I have loved for more than 40 years. Working together, we have accomplished so many goals important to residents of the First Senatorial District. While I know this has been a challenging year, I am heartened by the spirit of our friends and neighbors who have answered the call. Thank you for allowing me to serve our community and work with you over these past four decades. Wishing you all a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year.
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