PLATTSBURGH — Gov. Andrew Cuomo's State of the State address was exactly what some North Country leaders wanted to hear.
"He talked about tourism being an economic engine, and I don't think it has ever been addressed that way since I've been here," Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward (R-Willsboro) said.
"That is very significant for my district."
Sayward said she is excited to start another session under Cuomo, who took office last year. She believes much can be done.
"I am ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work. You can accomplish so much more when you have a leader with a clear vision and confidence like that."
Because Cuomo has seen positive numbers in his popularity rating, Sayward said, legislators will be more likely to work with him in their election year.
"We had a lot of successes last year, and I think we can build on that this year."
Assemblywoman Janet Duprey (R-Peru) also liked what the governor had to say, especially his expression of support for more public-private enterprises, which would help create jobs, and a greater emphasis on tourism.
"That works in with the need for the ACR (Adirondack Club and Resort) project in Tupper Lake," Duprey said, referring to a long-proposed development centered on Big Tupper Ski Area.
"That project absolutely fits in with his comments."
Duprey also said she hopes the governor can come through on his pledge to produce more mandate relief for municipalities. Local governments have cried out for that in the wake of last year's property-tax cap.
"We haven't really done any significant mandate relief, and the governor sounded like he was just as unhappy about that," she said.
"So it is encouraging that we will get something done this year, and we have to because a lot of local governments used significant portions of their fund balance, and you can only do that for so long."
City of Plattsburgh Mayor Donald Kasprzak, who was invited to attend the speech but could not due to city business, also hopes more mandate relief is on the way.
"As mayor, I agreed with his tax-cap initiative, however, all municipalities need mandate relief immediately from the unaffordable pension and retirement costs, and I can only hope the governor and Albany legislature address this issue in 2012," he said.
"I am confident Governor Cuomo will have the same level of success in 2012 as he had in 2011."
The mayor said the governor's approach to state government is similar to the path he and the city's Common Council have taken the past five years, which has proven to be fiscally successful.
"Many of Governor Cuomo's initiatives mentioned in his State of the State have been implemented in the City of Plattsburgh. More accountability, improved efficiencies, infrastructure improvements and fiscal discipline are just a few he mentioned that we practice," he said.
"I appreciate all of his 2011 efforts and support his 2012 initiatives of strengthening Buffalo, building the largest convention center and a second round of economic-development projects.
"I am hopeful there is support for casino gambling, as well."
Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) said the presentation of the speech, which featured live graphics on a screen behind the governor, was impressive.
"I've been here 17 years, and it was the best I've ever seen. It was very well done."
Little, who serves on the state's Task Force on Mandate Relief, said she hopes more can be done this year. She supports the idea of public hearings around the state and a vote by the legislature.
"For every mandate, there is an advocacy, and to remove them can be very difficult," she said.
"But if we gave local governments and school districts some more flexibility in meeting these mandates, there may be other ways for them to achieve the same results."
Jim McKenna, president and CEO of the Lake Placid Convention and Visitors Bureau, attended the State of the State address.
"The room was definitely packed. It was really good speech," he said. "His enthusiasm is contagious. His message was clear, and it's sincere. There is no doubt his leadership is taking our state in a new direction.
"Clearly, there is a different feeling about New York state out there in the (tourism) marketplace — it's very clear in the work that I do. I liked the part about how next year, we're going to start running."
Cuomo placed tourism high among key focal points for the coming year.
"I think that bodes really well for our region," McKenna said.
"He concentrated a lot on New York City and the new convention center there, but he named the Adirondacks as a hidden gem. We're looking forward to the programming he was talking about.
"And I think we're going to get the proper mix going for sustainable growth in the North Country. The momentum of what we've got with the (North Country) Regional Economic Development Council, combined with his goal to keep New York a top tourist destination, bodes well for future growth. He got me psyched. I think we were well served, and we are going to be in a better position, no doubt."
Essex County Emergency Services Director Don Jaquish was also in Albany, seated among hundreds of first-responders who worked the front lines during and after tropical storms Irene and Lee.
"When they talked about strengthening emergency management, they all applauded," Jaquish said of the energy in the audience.
"The duty of the government is to protect the citizenry. That's what it's about."
Jaquish agreed with Cuomo's push to improve the emergency-communications system statewide.
"I hope some of that trickles down to county emergency services, because at this point, we rely on the county support. Really, the boots on the ground are on the local level."
Jeff Straight, chief of Upper Jay Volunteer Fire Department, traveled with Jaquish to Albany.
The first-responders gave the governor high marks for the list of accomplishments he achieved in one year.
"Gov. Cuomo was very motivational and positive-minded about what he wants to do," Straight said.
"It will help us greatly if he can actually get funding for some of the programs he wants to do. The speech was energizing."
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