Together, we have accomplished an incredible amount. When I took office, I immediately created various advisory boards to ensure that I could fulfill my promise to always govern by listening. One of the very first was a Veterans Advisory Board, and with their help, we were able to bring the Vet2Vet Program to Dutchess and preserve it in both counties every year that I have been in office. The program truly saves lives as it brings our veteran community together to ensure that those who have served our nation can thrive here at home.
In addition, I created an advisory board on Lyme and tick-borne diseases and together, we secured a historic level of state funding and passed a number of bills to help promote research, education and prevention initiatives statewide. A bill I am most proud of required the state to create educational materials for elementary school children to help them learn how to spot a tick and alert a guardian so it could be properly removed and monitored.
Since I served as the Chair or Ranking Member of the Senate’s Aging Committee, I also created an advisory board on aging. With their input, we worked to create unique events for area seniors including the famous Golden Gathering, which most years connected over 1,000 local seniors with critical health and human services. We also successfully advocated for new laws and services to prevent elder abuse and financial fraud, called attention to the lack of affordable transportation and housing options for seniors, and stood up for our most vulnerable neighbors living in nursing homes when the state made the dangerous decision to send COVID-positive patients into their facilities.
Further, with the help of my education advisory board, I was able to secure historic state funding for our local schools and libraries and develop unique initiatives to better serve students, including Skilled Trades Fairs, which exposed students to the many local opportunities available to them in the trades.
Having lost my brother to suicide, I am especially proud of the spotlight we have been able to put on the mental health challenges so many in our community are facing. In partnership with Dutchess County, I was able to secure state funding to help create the Stabilization Center, a safe place for neighbors in crisis to turn to access critical resources. The center has become a model for the rest of the state, and while we have made significant progress, much more needs to be done at all levels to empower our neighbors who may be struggling with a mental health challenge to secure the support they need.
Throughout my time in office, we have worked to ensure that our community gets its fair share and that our state tax dollars made their way back home. I am particularly proud of the progress we made on the Pudding Street Overpass—an infrastructure project that the community had been advocating for almost two decades. In 2021, the project was completed, and this year, we passed legislation to name it in honor of the many first responders who work tirelessly to serve and protect our communities.
While I have never been one to tout accomplishments, these are not my accomplishments, they are our accomplishments. By working to always do what’s right, we have shown what progress looks like when you put people over politics and put government to work for our local community.