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County Recognizes Outgoing Legislators

OSWEGO, NY – Before adjourning this month’s legislature meeting, Chairman Barry Leemann took a moment to recognize the legislators who won’t be coming back in 2010.

Some are retiring; others lost their re-election bids in November. They all served their constituents to the best of the ability, he noted.

The legislators will be invited to the county’s reorganizational meeting in January to be recognized.

The Oswego County Legislature bid farewell to its outgoing legislators at the close of its last meeting of the year. From left are Art Gearsbeck, District 6, nine years; Paul Santore, District 16, eight years; Phil Vasho, District 22, six years; Lee Walker Jr., District 15, two terms, five years; and Jack Beckwith, District 21, two terms, 12 years. Absent from the photo are legislators Jim Bryant, District 5, and Clayton Brewer, District 24.
The Oswego County Legislature bid farewell to its outgoing legislators at the close of its last meeting of the year. From left are Art Gearsbeck, District 6, nine years; Paul Santore, District 16, eight years; Phil Vasho, District 22, six years; Lee Walker Jr., District 15, two terms, five years; and Jack Beckwith, District 21, two terms, 12 years. Absent from the photo are legislators Jim Bryant, District 5, and Clayton Brewer, District 24.

Legislator Clayton Brewer has been a member of the legislature “for many, many years,” Leemann said.

However, he was unable to attend the final meeting of 2009 due to illness, he explained.

“He wanted to be here real bad,” Leemann said. “But, his family urged him not to come.”

Another veteran legislator, James Bryant, was also absent from the December meeting.

The chairman invited Legislator Art Gearsbeck to receive a complimentary nameplate and be recognized for his service. The legislator, however, declined the offer.

“I walked through these doors in January of 1986 as a 23-year-old man. I had come to witness my step-father, Paco Malone, become a legislator,” Legislator Lee Walker Jr. recalled. He was here until 1992 when he died. He was a Democrat and a Republican was appointed to take his place. As green as I was, I decided I wanted to run for his seat. And, I did and the rest was history.”

In January 1993 he walked through the same doors, this time as a new legislator. There were 36 legislators at the time.

He never missed a meeting.

“In 1995, I voted to reduce the legislature from 36 to 25. Lost myself a job over that one,” he laughed.

He said he’d like to see the current legislature reduced to around 15.

“I met a lot of good friends, on both sides of the aisle. When I left in 1995 it was Jack Beckwith I left. He’s being honored again tonight,” he said of the retiring Hannibal legislator.

Walker also recalled some of the battles he had over the years with Brewer.

“When I came back to the legislature in ’08, he sat there and was a little quieter. Of course, he was 80 years old,” Walker added. “He was a good guy, worked real hard. I hope to see him here in January because he deserves a standing ovation and he should be here to see that.”

Legislators Dan Chalifoux and Barb Brown served with Walker as well as his step-father, he said.

(Legislator) Art Ospelt used to sit up front, as the county administrator, Walker said.

“When I came on in 1993, Hollis Iselin was chairman of the legislature. We were in our caucus and we talked about not voting for him. How can I not vote for a 93-year-old man sitting up here,” he said.

“It’s been a nice run, a nice ride,” he said of his tenure with the county. “Who knows, maybe I’ll be back.”

Out-going Legislator Paul Santore said he enjoyed his eight years on the legislature.

“I know that I did what I thought was the right thing to do. Everybody didn’t always agree with me. But I did things for what I hoped was the right reason,” he said.

He enjoyed his time working with people and helping people, he added.

“Jack has really been an excellent legislator. We’re going to hate to see you go,” Leemann said.

“My father always said it doesn’t matter what you do in life – it’s how you do it,” Beckwith said. “I hope I’ve been a good politician.

Also cited at the meeting was Legislator Phil Vasho.

“I’ve been deeply honored to work with everybody in this room,” Vasho said. “I have a lot of respect for everybody in this room. I am going to miss you all. But, it’s time to move on. So, goodbye and good luck.”

The legislature will hold its reorganizational meeting at 2 p.m. on Jan. 7 in the Legislative Chambers, 46 E. Bridge St.