By Daniel Pyefirstname.lastname@example.org
After spending 30 years in public service, state Sen. Mary Lou Rath, R-Williamsville, announced that she will retire at the conclusion of this year.
Rath has represented the 61st District, which includes parts of the City of Tonawanda, Town of Tonawanda, Amherst, Williamsville and Kenmore, since 1993. She was first elected to public office in 1979 when she joined the Erie County Legislature. She served as the Republican leader from 1989 until her election to the state Senate in November of 1993.
Rath said that every two years officials have to make the decision to run all over again and this year she decided it was time to move on and do other things.
“When you’re in public office for 30 years, you’ve left a lot of things you want to do undone,” she said. “I’m going to spend more time with my grandkids and traveling, among other things.”
Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, D-Kenmore, said he had an excellent working relationship with the senator and was very surprised by the announcement of her retirement.
“Every couple of years the theory circulates that Sen. Rath was retiring, but there was never anything to it,” Schimminger said. “So this year, when she personally told me of her plans, I was as shocked as anyone.”
Rath said she was grateful for the opportunity to serve and plans to stay involved in public issues in one way or another.
As to her successor, Rath said only that she thinks the logical person is Assemblyman Jim Hayes, R-Amherst.
“He’s a very effective assemblyman who is familiar with the system,” Rath said.
Other contenders are already lining up. Amherst Town Councilman Dan Ward said he will be running for the seat come November and that the open seat is a good opportunity for Democrats, who are currently outnumbered in the state Senate 33-29.
“We need a lot more passion, activity and leadership from this Senate seat,” Ward said in a released statement. “I have a huge agenda and want to return this office to the people of this district as a tool to provide solutions for their myriad problems.”