After 40 years in the state Senate, Hugh Farley says he is done with politics.
The most senior member of the Senate said on Tuesday that he would not be seeking re-election because his wife, Sharon, is dealing with several health issues.
Farley said he was hoping to run for another term but that his family wanted him to retire.
“I’m in good health and I was looking forward to running,” he said. “I love my career. I’m proud of my service. I’ve worked hard at it. I’ve accomplished more than I’ve ever dreamed. But the time has come. Family comes first. I’m happy to be with my wife and family.”
Sharon is suffering from atrial fibrillation and respiratory problems. She is spending time in Florida and will be coming home soon, he said.
Farley, 83, has been married to Sharon for 57 years. The couple lives in Niskayuna.
“She is doing the best she can,” he said. “She looks like a million dollars.”
Farley, a Republican representing the 49th Senate District, said the state Capitol has been his life. He plans to keep active in the local community in his retirement.
Farley is the second longest serving senator in the history of New York. The first is the late John Marchi, also a Republican, who represented Staten Island for 50 years.
“I don’t think anyone would match that,” he joked, adding that he has served under six governors.
Why did Farley serve in the Senate for so long? Because of the people.
“That’s given me the biggest thrill, helping people and working with constituents,” he said. “I just met with about 60 students from Glen-Worden School in Glenville. Meeting with those children and chatting with them and showing them the Senate, I enjoy that.”
Sen. George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, said he remembers meeting Farley for the first time during a trip to the state Capitol when he was in fifth grade.
“He was my senator then and has always been my senator,” he said. “I have a picture of him and me when I was in fifth grade. He made an impression on me back then.”
Amedore said he commends Farley for choosing to leave the Senate. He said he believes Farley has done an outstanding job, pointing to his creation of hospice care and support for public libraries.
“I’m sure it was an extremely difficult decision,” he said. “In many ways your constituents and your district becomes your family. He’s making the right choice and doing the right thing.”
Amedore described Farley as an institution in Albany and said that he will be missed.
Assemblyman James Tedisco, R-Glenville, said he is considering a run for Farley’s seat, which could put him in the majority.
Farley said he expects Tedisco to run and that he would endorse him for his seat.
Tedisco said Farley is like a father to him and that he is the perfect example of a public servant.
“He defines and exemplifies everything that is great about our democracy,” he said. “He is working as hard today as the first day he became senator. My father passed away when he was fairly young, at 67 in the early 1980s. Farley and I had a great relationship and I learned a lot from him.”
Tedisco said he’s sad to see Farley leave the Senate but, at the same time, he’s happy that Farley can finally relax.
“I was thinking he would be there for another 20 years,” Tedisco said laughing. “I think he sacrificed a lot to stay there this long and help keep the majority.”
Tedisco said it would be difficult for anyone to follow in Farley’s footsteps.
Glenville Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle said he is also considering a run for Farley’s seat.
“It has crossed my mind over the past couple of months,” he said. “I have been getting a lot of calls asking me to consider it.”
Koetzle said he is sad to hear that Farley won’t be seeking re-election and that his wife is facing health challenges. He said he believes Farley has done a phenomenal job for the district and Glenville.
“Every time I’ve knocked on his door or called him on the phone he responded,” he said. “He most recently got us a $250,000 grant to protect our water plant. He has always been a friend of the town.”
Koetzle said that he has always been impressed by Farley’s personal touch.
“He always asked me about my wife and family,” he said. “He had an interest in my wife’s career as an educator. He was always such a gentleman. That touched me. Of all the people he knows and the size of his district he always remembers.”
Farley said he passed “literally a thousand pieces” of legislation and that he greatly contributed to the revitalization of Schenectady.
He noted that he brought the former Department of Transportation building to the city along with the Zone 5 Regional Law Enforcement Training Academy. He said he also secured millions of dollars in funding for the streetscape and Proctors.
Farley sponsored legislation that created the Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority, which he described as a catalyst for growth.
“Downtown Schenectady was decaying,” he said. “Metroplex made a huge difference in downtown. I had an awful time getting the legislation through the Assembly with Paul Tonko.”
Sen. James Seward, R-Oneonta, said in a statement that Farley always put his district’s needs above everything else. Seward, who sits next to Farley in the Senate chambers, said he would miss his presence.
“I have been fortunate to work closely with Sen. Farley and learn from his example as a compassionate, hard-working legislator who focuses on the needs of those in his district above all,” he said. “I have partnered with him on a number of initiatives that have benefited the state — we currently serve together on the Senate Select Committee on Libraries, a true passion for both of us.”
Farley has three children, seven grandchildren and one great grandchild. He said his son, Bob Farley, is not interested in running for his Senate seat. Farley is an attorney for the Senate and counsel to Sen. Simcha Felder.
Farley also has two daughters — Susan, who is a partner at Heslin Rothenberg Farley & Mesiti, and Peggy, who is a teacher in New Jersey.
Before the Senate, Farley served in the U.S. Army and was a high school teacher in Syracuse and Maryland. Since 2000 he has taught at the University at Albany’s School of Business. He is a professor emeritus of business law at the college.
“I have to try and keep active,” Farley said. “My wife always says I’m kind of hyperactive. I plan to stay active and involved in the community. We spend a lot of time here. This is home.”
Reach Gazette reporter Haley Viccaro at 395-3114, [email protected] or @HRViccaro on Twitter.