(Updated March 1 at 10:25 a.m.)
ALBANY – Long time state senator and representative of Chautauqua County Catherine Young (R-Olean) is resigning from her office to take a job at Cornell University.
The unexpected announcement came Thursday, catching many off guard – including her colleagues as well as other elected officials in Chautauqua County.
Young announced she has accepted a position as director of the New York State Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture at Cornell AgriTech and begin her new role on March 11.
Since May 2005, Young has represented New York State’s 57th Senate district, which includes all of Chautauqua County, Cattaraugus County and Allegany County, as well as the lower half of Livingston County.
Young won a special election in 2005 following the death of former Sen. and Republican Patricia “Pat” McGee. Prior to serving in the Senate Young was a member of the State Assembly, representing the 149th Assembly district.
In a statement released Thursday afternoon (printed below in its entirety), Young said, “Leaving my job in the Senate – a job that I love – has not been an easy decision and it is bittersweet. I have put my energy, heart and soul into working hard for my district and getting results, and as I travel throughout the region from Ripley to Livonia and everywhere in between, the progress we have made is visible…. Now, there’s a new and exciting opportunity to carry on my public service, by not only continuing to work hard for Western New York, but to advance economic growth and prosperity statewide.”
Young’s announcement comes just two months after her Republican party lost power in the State Senate and just four months after she won reelection to a new term, running unopposed.
It also comes after she lost an internal Republican leadership battle with current leader John Flannigan. After the GOP lost control of the Senate in November, Young led an unsuccessful leadership challenge and following the vote, she was stripped of her leadership role on the chamber’s finance committee and lost control of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee.
According to other media reports, news of the resignation caught the Capitol by surprise on Thursday, with Flanagan being blindsided with news reports of Young’s decision during a live radio interview – when he said that he was not aware of anything and that the GOP certainly wanted Young to stay in Albany.
Young leaves public life with more than half a million dollars left in her campaign account, which is also owed $100,000 by the Senate Republican Campaign Committee.
It’s not known how soon it will be before a replacement is found to serve the remainder of the current term, which ends on Dec. 31, 2020. Governor Andrew Cuomo has the sole power to call a special election through a proclamation. That could come prior to the November General Election, or the seat could remain vacant until that time.
Thursday afternoon she provided the following statement.
Serving the people of our region for the past 23 years truly has been the deepest honor of my life, first as a Cattaraugus County legislator, then as a New York State Assemblywoman and Senator. I often have reflected about that sunburned and freckled-faced kid with pigtails who spent so much time working and playing on our farm, always having big hopes and dreams but never realizing that I would someday have the opportunity to find my passion of helping others as a Senator.
Reaching out a hand to people and communities, growing the economy, nurturing agriculture and being a champion for upstate New York always have been at the top of my priorities. That calling has inspired, driven and fulfilled me, and there have been countless successes over these many years.
More than anything, people need good-paying jobs to support themselves and their families. Upstate New York needs thriving businesses to provide those jobs and to revitalize our communities. And our farmers need innovative ways to boost profitability.
Now, there’s a new and exciting opportunity to carry on my public service, by not only continuing to work hard for Western New York, but to advance economic growth and prosperity statewide by leading the Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture at Cornell AgriTech.
Farming and food manufacturing always have been the bread and butter of our region. To grow New York’s food, beverage and agriculture economy by linking them with the incredible innovation, expertise and resources at Cornell AgriTech so they can expand and flourish is a natural extension of my work that I have done as a Senator. We have many outstanding food manufacturers in our region that I have helped grow over the years, and I will continue to work hard to expand all of New York State agriculture economy.
Cornell University holds special and personal significance to my family and to me. My grandparents toiled and struggled during the great Depression, raising four children on the farm in the hardest of times. In spite of tremendous adversity, they made sure that each of their children focused on getting a good education so that they would have better lives. In 1949, my father went off to Cornell University, and he and his siblings were the first generation in our family to graduate from college.
My Dad not only showed through his example the vital importance of tenacity and hard work, but he also instilled in me a deep admiration for Cornell.
Leaving my job in the Senate – a job that I love – has not been an easy decision and it is bittersweet.
I have put my energy, heart and soul into working hard for my district and getting results, and as I travel throughout the region from Ripley to Livonia and everywhere in between, the progress we have made is visible.
There is no greater privilege than to help others, whether it is comforting and finding aid for those whose homes and businesses were ravaged by flood waters, ensuring that a toddler with a brain tumor received the medical expertise and treatment that she needed, or pinning a long overdue medal on a veteran’s chest – these are the experiences that have given me so much and enriched my life.
I have met so many wonderful people along the way and have developed friendships that I treasure. Our brave firefighters and first responders who save property and lives, veterans who have given their all to protect our freedom, outstanding law enforcement who put our safety ahead of theirs, senior citizens who have life experiences that provide lessons for us all, health care workers who provide excellent care, teachers who make sure our children have the best learning opportunities, captains of industry who invest in our economy, small business owners and farmers who are the backbone of our region, citizens who work hard every day, volunteers who are committed to helping others, elected officials who are making their communities the best they can be – the people in my district are phenomenal and they make me very proud.
It has been a tremendous honor that they have shared their joys and sorrows, tribulations and successes, and hopes and dreams with me, and I am eternally grateful to have had their faith and trust.
I also have been blessed with outstanding staff who have tremendous accomplishments in helping our constituents, and I am thankful for their service to the people in our region.
And finally, I need to give my heartfelt thanks and love to my family – my husband, Dick, and my children – Maureen and Jerry, Patrick and Sydney, and Rich and Kait and grandson Rowan – who have been very supportive and have made sacrifices along the way.
Being a Senator has been a labor of love. Thank you to everyone for allowing me to have the most rewarding experience of a lifetime.
- Senator Catherine Young
Feb. 28, 2019