Brian McGarry, Schenectady County Legislator, Teacher Dies – The Daily Gazette

ROTTERDAM — Brian McGarry, a beloved community leader who spent years in the Schenectady County Legislature and worked as a teacher in the Duanesburg Central School District, died Thursday. He was 65 years old.

McGarry, a Republican who served as the Legislative Assembly’s Minority Leader, leaves behind a lasting legacy that should serve as an example to all lawmakers, said Anthony Jasenski, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, who confirmed McGarry’s death in a statement Sunday.

“All of us in the County Legislature and County Government are saddened by the passing of Legislator Brian McGarry, but we remain truly inspired by his dedication and willingness to continue serving our residents throughout his illness,” said Jasensky.

A cause of death was not immediately available, but McGarry was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer in 2014, shortly after he was first elected to a District 4 seat in the Legislature. , representing the village of Delanson and the towns of Duanesburg, Princetown and Rotterdam. , where he lived.

Jasenski said that while their political views and affiliations differed, he considered McGarry a friend dating back to their time at Draper High School together.

“Knowing him and considering him a friend from our days together at Draper High School, our political views and affiliations may have differed, but his record of public service should serve as an example to all of us on how to work together. and to govern effectively for the good of our community,” he said.

McGarry was a dedicated public servant until his death. He attended a legislative meeting remotely earlier this month, where he told those in attendance that his battle with cancer had worsened.

“It becomes more of a struggle, but I enjoy my representation in the county (legislature) and a group of people – you can’t imagine. Wonderful, wonderful people,” he said.

McGarry’s battle with cancer was a long one. He received several treatments after his diagnosis and even traveled abroad last year to receive treatment not yet approved in the United States.

His diagnosis never prevented him from performing his elective duties or seeking higher office.

In 2018, McGarry ran unsuccessfully to unseat Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, in the 111th Assembly District.

On Saturday, State Sen. James Tedisco, R-Glenville, said McGarry was a “great, lion-hearted public servant” in a social media statement.

Those who knew McGarry on Sunday said he was always interested in politics and was a strong believer in conservative values ​​who never hesitated to stand up for what he believed in – even if he had to do it alone.

But they said his legacy extends beyond politics, noting that McGarry was a devoted husband and father to his six children, who cared deeply about his Catholic faith and dedicated his life to education.

He was an avid photographer, who ran his own wedding photography business from the 1970s until he handed it over to his daughter in 2015 after his cancer diagnosis worsened.

Paul Grasso, a longtime friend of McGarry’s, recalled how they first met in a recreational hockey league in the early 1990s, shortly after McGarry quit his job as a videographer with CBS6 news to to pursue a master’s degree in education for the betterment of his family.

Grasso was initially stunned by the decision, but said McGarry excelled at teaching and had impacted the lives of thousands of students over the years at Duanesburg, where he taught a variety of classes.

“It just knocked me over; I would never have the guts to do that,” Grasso said. “But he had it all planned out and it paid off for him. He was a truly successful teacher. Every day you went out with him, an adult would run up to him and say, ‘Mr. McGarry, I went to college, got a job.

By the mid-1990s the couple had grown closer and eventually Grasso began helping McGarry photograph weddings. He said the two were complete opposites (Grasso dislikes politics, never married and had no children) but there was never a disagreement, even when photographing more than 700 marriages.

Over the years, McGarry’s family began to feel like their own, Grasso said.

“We’re kind of opposites, but Brian reaches out to everyone,” he said. “I think I’m a good example of that.”

McGarry was first elected to the county legislature in 2013, but his political career dates back to 2010, when he unsuccessfully ran to be Rotterdam’s overseer, according to John Mertz, chairman of the Rotterdam Republican Committee. .

Mertz recalls meeting McGarry in the early 2000s when he was on Rotterdam City Council. He said McGarry was familiar with city politics but never thought about running for office.

That changed in 2009, when Mertz, who was considering retiring from politics, was approached by McGarry to run for office again. He accepted, but on the condition that McGarry run alongside him for the position of city supervisor under a new political party: the No New Tax Party.

McGarry was ultimately unsuccessful in his bid for office, but became active in local politics and was eventually elected to a seat in the county legislature, becoming one of two Republicans on the board.

“He had a very strong voice, but he was also very thoughtful. I think that’s really important to keep in mind,” Mertz said. “He was a superb listener and he was very thoughtful in his take. decision. There was never a rush to judge with Brian. He never gave up. He was always very thoughtful in the way he governed.

Last November, two more Republican candidates, Josh Cuomo and Eric Hess, were elected to the legislature to represent District 4, which Mertz said “delighted” McGarry.

Hess, a resident of Rotterdam, said he first met McGarry through the Rotterdam Republican Committee about five years ago. He said McGarry was a beloved character who always made time to listen to residents, even as his condition deteriorated.

“He rarely complained and almost always showed up for the county legislature meeting, despite receiving treatment and therapy and suffering while battling cancer,” did he declare. “He was committed to his position in the Legislative Assembly and to serving the community as best he could.”

Joseph Mastroianni, a Rotterdam city council member running for state assembly in the 111th district against Santabarbara, said he first met McGarry in fourth grade at Duanesburg schools.

“He played official quarterback at recess,” he said. “He let us attack us too.”

Mastroianni said McGarry was not usually the kind of person associated with politics, describing him as a loving and honest person who would not hesitate to stand up for his values.

He said the couple had stayed in touch over the years, and in 2018 McGarry urged him to join the Republican Committee of Rotterdam and convinced him to run for city council last year and eventually for the ‘State Assembly.

Mastroianni said he initially laughed at the idea, but decided to follow through because of McGarry’s influence.

In June, Mastroianni successfully defeated Santabarbara in a primary for the Conservative ballot. The two are expected to face each other again in November’s general election.

“I just want to make him proud,” Mastroianni said of McGarry.

Contact journalist Chad Arnold at: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.

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