I lived in Livingston for only four years, a small fraction of one’s existence, yet it influenced my life’s trajectory and set me on a path that lasted 42 years. It all began with an elective high school course in government and policy. I was intrigued, interested (unlike most of my other courses) and learned how the government can impact practically everything we do in our daily lives. Mr. Hill’s high school class led me to pursue my newly-identified interest in government, earn a bachelor’s degree in political science and a masters’ degree in political communication from New York State schools and start my career in public service.

I began working in the New York State Legislature in Albany, NY as a policy analyst. The work was rewarding, challenging and exciting and taught me much more than textbooks ever could. The intricacies of the political environment were intriguing and I admit I quickly became enthralled in the politics, the legislative process, and the opportunity to make a difference for people through public policy. Invaluable lessons were learned by hard work, long hours and personal compromises though I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I learned how to negotiate to reach a consensus within a diverse political landscape, a skill set involving good interpersonal communication, forward thinking, knowledge of content and consideration of various perspectives. I considered it a highly valuable ‘on the job training’ program.

It launched me into other government and nonprofit positions, all advocating for greater investments in public education. The first was a lobbyist position with the NYS School Boards Association, then as the Acting Director of the NYC Board of Education’s Albany Legislative Office. A few years later, I was appointed Executive Director of the Conference of Big 5 School Districts, an urban public education advocacy organization representing the largest city school districts in New York. If you can guess the Big 5 districts without looking them up, congratulations! If you can list them by population sizes, it’s even more impressive.

These positions afforded me the opportunity to use my legislative knowledge to advance budget, policy, operational and pedagogical issues before small, rural, urban and suburban school districts. While based in Albany, I traveled throughout the state – from the tip of Long Island, to the far reaches of the North Country, through the Southern Tier, out to Western New York, Niagara Falls and of course to all of the Big 5 school districts. The car rides were long and the scenery sometimes endless, yet the people I met were warm, hard working, appreciative and welcoming. They were school board members, school superintendents, parents and staff working diligently at the local level in tandem with my work at the state and federal levels. We were on the same team.

After running the Big 5 organization for 24 years, I was offered and accepted an opportunity to return back to the State Legislature as the NY Senate Education Committee Director. While the Big 5 had become like a family to me, I knew it was time to move on and embrace another chapter of my professional life.

Four years later, I retired from the State Senate, feeling deeply fulfilled with my contributions in public education policy and grateful for the opportunities I had. My professional career was always based in Albany but after I met my husband I relocated to Westchester County and commuted to Albany for 23 years. Albany was where I began my career, cut my teeth, achieved my goals and ultimately retired.

Livingston High School also played a significant part in my personal life as I have maintained long lasting friendships from the 1970s. Nearly 50 years of friendships woven through each stage of our individual journeys. It’s truly remarkable. We have laughed together, traveled together, celebrated and grieved together. Another family, this one is of friends, that will last forever.

My daughter and I were fortunate to have had the support of family and friends when my husband passed away 11 years ago from a 9/11-related cancer. His death left a deep hole in our hearts that will always remind us of his compassion and his commitment to public service. His entire career was in various government positions and I can proudly say that our daughter has carried on our calling for government service by teaching deaf children.

Life is an unpredictable journey. There are many unknowns, turns and twists. The constants may be limited but they are comforting, reliable and important. They are called friends. As a recent retiree, I look forward to spending more time with them – laughing, exploring and enjoying the rest of our journey together.