State Sen. Catharine M. Young

State Sen. Catharine M. Young

State Sen. Catharine M. Young, R-Olean, said Thursday as she prepares to leave the Senate, she is excited for the opportunity to lead Cornell's AgriTech Center of Excellence in Geneva.

In an interview with the Olean Times Herald Thursday shortly after announcing her resignation from the State Senate effective March 10, Young said the new post “is a way to continue my public service.”

Young was elected member of the Cattaraugus County Legislature in 1995 and won a special Assembly election in 1998, defeating Pat Tyler 19,332 to 12,045. Young was elected to the state Senate in May 2005, defeating Democrat Nancy Bargar of Chautauqua County 29,559 to 12,800.

Young grew up on a farm in Livingston County and her early ambitions were to become a farmer like her dad, Jim Orman, who coincidentally attended Cornell. She is a former Agriculture Committee chairman and chairman of the state’s Rural Resources Commission.

“I’ve always focused on agriculture, job growth and economic development,” Young said. “I’ll be taking that experience and putting it to work in a new way.” Her new mission will still be to get things done for Upstate and the region.

Young said the opportunity arose after her unsuccessful campaign for minority leader against Sen. John Flanagan of Suffolk County, but that she is not leaving because of that loss. She lost that fight 14-9.

After two months, she’s found it’s quite a different dynamic to be a member of the minority in the Senate. For the past two years she was chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee.

“It’s a very positive job,” she said of the Cornell post. “It’s a good opportunity. That’s why I decided to pursue it. It’s very difficult to make this decision because I love my district and the people so much. It’s not something I did lightly. I feel I can still help people in the region in my new role.”

Despite her decision to leave in 10 days, Young said, “I haven’t let up on the gas pedal in the Senate.”

Young said she was very grateful to the people in her district. “The best part of my job has been serving people. They have helped me to grow too.”

Young said she was “a little concerned about the direction” of state government. “This is a very different time in Albany right now. I believe very strongly that we need to focus on the state’s economy.”

Among the goals in her new job as director of the AgriTech Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture in Geneva are bringing more opportunities across the state for people who need good paying jobs.

“It’s a life-long passion I’ve had for agriculture,” Young said.

Looking back on her Senate career, Young said, “I see things every day where I’ve been fortunate enough to have had an impact. I’ve been a strong advocate for school aid — especially helping rural schools.”

As a champion for rural New York, Young said she also fought for access to quality healthcare for rural residents. She’s also fought for Western New York’s fair share of transportation funding.

Two transportation projects Young said she is especially proud of are the bridges over Cattaraugus Creek connecting Cattaraugus and Erie counties and the four miles of Route 219 expressway from Springville to Peters Road in the Cattaraugus County Town of Ashford.

The next goal, she said, is the continuation of the expressway through Cattaraugus County to I-86 near Salamanca. “I hope whoever my successor is continues with advocacy for Route 219,” Young said. “It’s important to me and my district.”

Asked if she was ever too partisan, Young replied, “I work with everybody. I’ve always worked for people and communities in the district and I have not been partisan in helping.”

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at rmiller@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)

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