Larkin wraps up a 40-year career in public service

By Wayne A Hall
Posted 1/2/19

True to his word, State Senator William Larkin was on the job on Dec. 31, his last day of a 40-year career in public office.Prior to his farewell address at the Newburgh Armory Unity Center on …

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Larkin wraps up a 40-year career in public service

Larkin in his New Windsor office in December.
Larkin in his New Windsor office in December.

True to his word, State Senator William Larkin was on the job on Dec. 31, his last day of a 40-year career in public office.

Prior to his farewell address at the Newburgh Armory Unity Center on Monday, he took some time in his modest New Windsor office to reflect on that career. During that time he compiled an impressive record of legislative and political achievements, one of which is the upcoming $10 million overhaul of the Purple Heart Hall of Honor at the New Windsor Cantonment. He has also helped the many communities he has served in smaller but very impactful ways.

“Senator Larkin has served our country for more than 70 years with honor and distinction,” said Orange County Executive Steve Neuahus. “$40 million for SUNY Orange’s Newburgh Campus, more than $10 million for the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor in New Windsor, more than $20 million in capital investments for St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital and millions more for local roads, emergency vehicles and other major infrastructure improvements for local municipalities. In addition to his role as a government official, Senator Larkin has served as a mentor to me and many other young leaders who will be ready to carry the baton in the years to come.”

Another milestone is helping the City of Newburgh battle poverty and increased educational opportunities at the Newburgh Armory Unity Center in partnership with philanthropist William Kaplan who credits Larkin for helping the Armory project succeed with funding. He helped secured more than $2 million in funding for the Newburgh Armory Unity Center to ensure its adaptive re-use.

Mayor Torrance Harvey credits Larkin with being a loyal supporter of Newburgh’s renaissance. His largeness was one of many benefits his constituents came to enjoy with regularity during his long tenure in office.

“It’s depth of service and generosity of such a great man,” added the mayor.

“Bill Larkin is more than just a public servant, he is my friend,” said Lou Heimbach, former Orange County Executive. “His record of service will remain unmatched for the ages. They just don’t make public servants like Bill Larkin anymore. Our community will sorely miss his experience as a government official but they will benefit from his future volunteer efforts in the years to come. I wish my friend good luck and good health as he enters the next chapter of his life.”

During his time in Albany, Larkin served on countless committees during his time in the Assembly and Senate including Finance, Rules and Health. In the Assembly he served as Assistant Minority Leader Pro Tempore and in the State Senate served as Majority Whip and Deputy Majority Leader of House Operations. He also delivered millions n capital funding for projects and infrastructure investments that have been shaping communities in the Hudson Valley for the past 40 years in parts of Orange, Ulster, Rockland and Sullivan counties:

- $40 million to establish SUNY Orange Campus in Newburgh.

- More than $10 million to build, maintain and enhance the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor.

- More than $100 million to support St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital.

- $1 million to refurbish existing education buildings on the campus of Mount St. Mary College in Newburgh.

- Secured tens of millions over the last four decades to support local municipalities, nonprofit organizations and businesses looking to create jobs and provide workforce development training. Funding secured for these projects helped to ensure that local leaders avoided raising taxes on their own residents to pay for costly infrastructure improvements.

“If you’re truly lucky, in the course of a public career you meet a few precious people who make the journey more joyful, more fun,” said Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney. “Sometimes they are not a member of your own generation or even in your own political party. Bill Larkin is one of the most honorable people I’ve ever met. He’s dedicated his entire adult life to the service of others – from the tropical islands of the South Pacific and snow-capped mountains of Korea – to the halls of the state capitol in Albany. Senator Larkin is a noble statesman and a happy warrior. Public servants like Bill Larkin shine brightly and light the way for cooperation and friendship even in an era when those essential values are vanishing. Because of his decency and warmth, we became true friends and partners in serving our neighbors. I’ll always be proud of that partnership. Senator Larkin has made an impact on every community he represents and his legacy will last for a century. Randy and I wish Bill, his wonderful wife Pat, and their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren all the best in this world.”

Prior to his life in politics, Larkin served in the U.S. Army. His nickname around his senate office was “The Colonel” after his final rank of Lt. Col. In the U.S. Army. He rose to command a unit of African American soldiers and was awarded the Legion of Merit medal in Korea, where his feet were badly frostbitten and still act up once in awhile.

Though he still feels aches and pains from long ago, he considers them battle scars and he’s proud of them. He also served in the Philippines, but one of his proudest moments of service to his country is the day he guarded the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on his march to Selma, Ala.

“I’m very proud of that,” he says.

Initially elected New Windsor Town Supervisor in 1976, Larkin moved to the Assembly in 1979 and finally to the New York State Senate in 1990 after the retirement of State Senator Richard Schermerhorn. At 90, he says his mind is pretty sharp.

“I’ll be 91 in February,” he adds.

Larkin leaned forward to emphasizee that his decision not to seek another term in Albany has nothing to do with some “mythical Blue Wave that some Democrats have wished for.” On the contrary, he says, his final battle is with Father Time “and it’s time that my wife Patricia and I enjoyed life together.

He can now focus on being a husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Between them, Senator Larkin and his wife Patricia have eight children, seventeen grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

There’s enough on his resume to fill a book, and Larking says he just might get around to writing it one day.

With the hoopla of retirement, Larkin remains straightforward and no nonsense, and those traits have served him well in his long and storied career in Albany. He leaves behind a 40-year legacy in public service and the gratitude of the many communities he has served and helped.


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