By INDIANA NASH
NISKAYUNA- Walking into Senator Hugh Farley’s office at the Legislative Building in downtown Albany is refreshing after the walk up to the seventh floor.
The building is at once sterile and bustling, but Farley’s office neither- it is quiet and welcoming.
Farley’s desk is cleared of any clutter but the walls and shelves throughout the office are full of photographs of Farley with family and with other politicians: One with former President Bush, one at his daughter’s wedding, and one of him and a fellow senator.
This decorative interweaving between family and career gives a greater sense of why the Senator from Niskayuna has had one of the longest running careers in the New York State Senate and why he’s retiring.
“I’ve always wanted to be in government,” said Farley, “I’m not sure why because no one else in my family was interested in politics. But I definitely was.”
Before starting his career in Niskayuna’s Town Board and in the New York State Senate, Farley began teaching middle school in the late 1950s and attended law school at American University.
“I went to school at night and taught during the day. Judge Judy was in my class at the time! She was the only woman in the entire class too,” said Farley. Although he didn’t know her very well, Farley remembers her being rather quiet, unlike her persona in her television show.
But getting to know other law students wasn’t Farley’s priority at the time. He taught at a local school in Maryland and found that he had a real passion for working with kids.
“My father in-law always wanted me to go into the practice of law. But I knew that wasn’t where I belonged,” said Farley.
After finishing law school, Farley taught at a high school in Syracuse before being hired at SUNY Albany as a professor.
In 1970, Farley made his first foray into town government and ran for the Town Board of Niskayuna.
“For a few years, we had a supervisor who was a democrat with a republican majority,” said Farley. But when he looks back on that time, he can’t remember any differences in political views being a roadblock for the Board as a whole.
“I always get along well with who I’m working with,” said Farley, recalling several democratic governors who he’d had very good relationships with. What has always mattered to Farley is that the work gets done and this helped to serve him well throughout his career.
Then, in 1976, Farley ran for the State Senate.
“I’ll never forget my first election. I was running against an incumbent and I was ‘Hugh-Who?’” said Farley. But he defeated the incumbent, Senator Fred Isabella and Farley said that was one victory that he’ll never forget.
When he first stepped into office, Farley remembers his first days on the job as being somewhat overwhelming.
“But I’m very proud of my education and it taught me a lot about how government worked,” said Farley.
He was appointed Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Libraries in 1978. “They took one look at me and said, ‘oh, you’re the professor so you get all the library stuff,’” laughs Farley.
Virtually all state legislation which concerned libraries, Farley oversaw or had a hand in.
“Libraries are the cathedrals of learning for the general public. . . I was one of six boys growing up so I had to go to the library if I wanted to get anything done,” said Farley.
Although Farley has a career packed with many accomplishments to look back on during his last year in office, one of them strikes him the most.
“I passed the first pieces of legislation around Hospice,” said Farley. He was appointed Chair of the Senate Aging Committee in 1979, at a time when the need for programs like Hospice was growing.
“But family is the most important thing and I have always believed that,” said Farley.
On May 3, when he officially announced his retirement, that was his main reason.
His wife, Sharon, is dealing with health issues which Farley wants to be there to support her during and although their three children, Susan, Bobby, and Peggy, are all adults, Farley would like to spend more time with them.
Farley’s last day in office will be December 31, 2016 but he plans to continue participating in community-focused events as much as he can.
“But I will, of course, stay active within the community!” said Farley, with a steady shake of his head.
For those who visit his office, Farley gives what he calls an Irish goodbye upon their departure and it seems he plans to give his position the same treatment: a kind hug and a firm handshake, with an invitation to drop by at anytime.