Long-time Falls lawmaker being feted on retirement
When the first African-American woman to serve in the Niagara County Legislature retires in December after an 18-year legislative career, she will leave having repeatedly commanded the attention of some of the state's top leaders.
At least two of them will be on hand to toast her retirement at a gala later this month.
H. Carl McCall, who served as state comptroller during much of the George Pataki era in state government, will be the keynote speaker at a tribute honoring the accomplishments of Deputy Minority Leader Renae Kimble, D-Niagara Falls. That tribute will be held Nov. 17 at Niagara County Community College.
Also on hand will be Assemblyman John D. Ceretto, the Lewiston Republican who often worked across the aisle with Kimble on a number of issues impacting western Niagara County. Ceretto is the event's honorary co-chairperson, along with local community leader Shirley Hamilton, the event chairperson and organizer.
The "One in a Million" tribute starts at 6 p.m. The $75 ticket price includes a choice of steak, chicken or fish.
Hamilton, a longtime friend and ally of Kimble's, noted that the retiring lawmaker's 18-year-career was filled with firsts. She's the longest-serving woman in the County Legislature, and, after serving briefly as the only woman in the Legislature, served as first chairwoman of the Legislature's Women's Caucus—a caucus that will continue into the next legislative session following wins by women legislative candidates on Tuesday night.
Kimble's keystone accomplishment was authoring the county law that created the "county manager" form of government and the county's administrative code. She also made her mark as a fierce opponent of New York Power Authority management, repeatedly demanding a seat on the NYPA board of trustees for Niagara County.
Kimble was also the leading light behind what eventually became the Niagara County Opportunity Zones, areas of the county's three cities that offer special incentives to lure businesses to open their doors.
"Renae Kimble was an exceptional legislator, and her absence will be apparent," said Legislature Chairman William L. Ross. "Whether you agreed with Renae on any particular issue or disagreed, you knew that she was one of the best-informed people in the room. She researched every resolution she submitted in enormous detail, and she was an extremely effective debater."
Ross noted that he disagreed at times with Kimble, but even when they were at odds, he respected her views, and the work she put into being a legislator.
"When Renae Kimble spoke, it was almost always from a position of deeply-held principle," Ross said. "Nearly as often, though, it was a position backed up by facts. She could be a great debate ally or a fearsome adversary on the floor of the Legislature."
That became apparent at a recent meeting when Empire Development Corp. Regional Director Sam Hoyt came to address lawmakers. Kimble indicated that she planned to end her legislative career quietly when she announced her retirement plans in March, but found herself leading the charge against recent EDC "pirating" of Niagara County companies that were relocated to Erie County using state tax dollars.
"You can apply a lot of labels to Renae Kimble," Ross said. "I'll stick with 'hard worker,' although 'class act' would be sufficient as well."
"(We will be bidding) farewell to a champion who has represented the citizens of Niagara County with distinction, honor, integrity, grace and great strength," Hamilton wrote in an invitation to the "One in a Million" tribute. "Legislator Kimble has served tirelessly in the Niagara County Legislature ... and has been a voice not only for her constituents, but for Niagara County."
Those interested in attending the "One in a Million" tribute may do so by contacting Hamilton at 716-282-7044 or Bertha Webb at 716-285-5973 to make reservations and buy tickets. Checks should be made payable to "Tribute to Renae."