WATERTOWN — After a lifetime of community service, Jefferson County legislator Jennie M. Adsit is retiring from politics.
Friends, family, and colleagues gathered together Tuesday evening prior to the regularly scheduled legislator board meeting for a ceremony commemorating Mrs. Adsit’s service to both the board and the community.
Emceed by Legislature Chairman Scott Gray, the ceremony featured County Legislator Carolyn Fitzpatrick as the night’s main speaker on behalf of the legislature, with remarks from former mayors Tom Walker and Joseph Butler, Sr., as well as current mayor Joseph Butler, Jr.
Mr. Gray remembered getting to know Mrs. Adsit in 1982, before he had even gotten involved in politics, noting that she was always congenial and nice, but people shouldn’t have let that fool them when it came to politics.
“She was tough as nails, tenacious on issues and not afraid to speak,” he said. “She’s a style of politics that has long since dissipated; she would speak on something and be tough and oppose you, but then right after the meeting she would be nice; you just don’t really see her style anymore.”
Sitting off to the side near a table laid out with baked goods for those in attendance and flowers to honor her, Mrs. Adsit listened intently to all who spoke of her service and character, sharing memories and well wishes for her retirement. She said that while she had some mixed feelings about leaving, she recognizes that it is time to move on and let someone take her place.
Mrs. Adsit was the longest serving female on the board, devoting 42 years, and was also the first female elected under her own name in her own right, all others before were finishing out the terms of deceased husbands or taking over as their husbands went to war.
“When I first started, we were 34 members — 33 men and me,” she said. “It was so funny because the chairman, the one who led the board, was used to saying gentlemen, but then when I came along, he didn’t know what to do.”
Mayor Butler, who said he reserves the word amazing only for when it’s appropriate, stated Mrs. Adsit’s career truly has been amazing, noting that when she called, people wanted to help out of respect and admiration, knowing her heart and head were always in the right place.
Sharing one of his fondest memories as mayor, as well as one of his funniest, he said Mrs. Adsit made him laugh as hard as he has ever laughed as mayor when Gov. Andrew Cuomo came to town for the $10 million downtown revitalization initiative award at the Masonic Temple.
“I was talking to the governor and you came over and you grabbed him right on the face and you said ‘Welcome to Watertown, Gumba,’ and he laughed and I laughed, you’re the only one that could have gotten away with it,” she said to her as those gathered laughed along with him.
Gumba is a slang term for someone of Italian descent.
Before he finished his speech, Mayor Butler declared Oct. 1 as Jennie Adsit Day in the city of Watertown, going on to hug and kiss her on the cheek while presenting her with a memento.
Last to speak was Mrs. Fitzpatrick, who described Mrs. Adsit as being a force on a lot of things.
“I say force because if she wanted to get something done and she believed it was the right way to go, she went straight down that road and she wouldn’t stop,” Mrs. Fitzpatrick said. “She could be as gentle as a lamb, or as tough as a bull, and for all the right reasons.”
Mrs. Fitzpatrick shared that she and Mrs. Adsit would go out to lunch a lot, occasionally going to Cam’s before meetings. She remembers being elected as Chairwoman of the board back in 2011 as being one of the most important evenings of her life thanks to Mrs. Adsit.
“That night Jennie walked up these steps as I was sitting down and I stood up with respect and she came over and she put her finger almost in my face and she said, ‘You know, you didn’t deserve this,’” Mrs. Fitzpatrick said. “Then she said, ‘But you have worked so hard and you have earned this, and I’m very proud of you.’ That, until the day I die, was one of the most important moments in my life and I thank you for that.”
At the end of her speech, Mrs. Fitzpatrick held up a few chocolate bars, explaining that when she was chairwoman, she used to keep a pile of candy in her desk, making sure she always had a milk chocolate bar for her friend. As she presented the treats to Mrs. Adsit, she jokingly told her not to eat them all at once.
“Thank you for bringing me up right,” she said to Mrs. Adsit before embracing her. “I love you very much.”