Hundreds of elected officials and supporters gathered Sunday evening at the Diamond Mills ballroom in Saugerties, to celebrate the career of Maurice Hinchey. The veteran congressman will be retiring in January because of health reasons.
The $100-per-plate annual fall dinner list of attendees comprised a Who's Who of local politics. The venue represents a departure from the traditional Kingston destination for political functions. Organizers desired a spot closer to Hinchey's hometown, and also a showcase for alternate catering destinations throughout the area.
“The event is all about celebrating Maurice Hinchey, just letting him know how special he really is,” said Ulster County Democratic Party Chairman Frank Cardinale. “People like Maurice Hinchey come around once in a lifetime.”
Speakers included County Executive Michael Hein, State Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, and a host of Democratic candidates running in November's election.
Cahill launched his own career as a Hinchey staffer in 1975, during Hinchey's first term as state assemblyman. Later, Cahill was drafted by Hinchey to replace him in that same assembly seat in 1992.
“He's been a great friend, not just to me, but virtually everybody you see in this room, and any other room you go in, that's in his congressional district,” Cahill said.
“He's been an inspiration, a conscience, a guide, a moral compass for lots of people, and a mentor for generations of politicians,” Cahill added. “I'm very proud to have been associated with him. We will continue to look to him as our leader.”
Hein said he has been a mentor to an entire generation of people. “He's influenced an entire nation, with his commitment to the environment, and ability to lead with his heart and his head to protect the citizens of this community,” he said.
“There are a lot of things that need to be done in the future, Hinchey said. “I'm sorry that I'm not going to be there. “It's 20 years that I've been down in Washington,” he said. “There are other people that can deal with this, and do it effectively.”
The retiring lawmaker said “intelligent, reasonable, strong, sensitive people, who know what is the best interest of the population who lives here,” is what is needed in the future.