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Ortloff Papers Acquired by SUNY Plattsburgh

PLATTSBURGH, NY __ Calling it a "tip of the iceberg" of the history of the region over the past two decades, recently-retired Assemblyman Chris Ortloff has donated the collection of his Assembly term papers to the State University of New York College at Plattsburgh.

Assemblyman Chris Ortloff and Special Collections Librarian Debra Kimok Ortloff has turned over to the Special Collections Unit of Feinberg Library more than 110 cubic feet of materials documenting the 20 years he represented Clinton, Franklin, St. Lawrence and Essex counties in the New York State Assembly and in public life.

"The life and the work of an elected official are only partly about politics.  Politics gets you into office and keeps you there. But, your life and work are about everything in the community," said Ortloff.  "If it was just about me, I don't know how much value it would have. But, the fact that I was the representative of 130,000 people, and that my office collected significant pieces of their lives over 20 years, I believe has value and merit."

Ortloff was elected to the New York State Assembly in a special election in February 1986 following the resignation of long-term Assemblyman Andrew Ryan. Ortloff served for 20 years until former Gov. George Pataki appointed him a commissioner on the New York State Parole Board in June 2006.

When he resigned from the Assembly last year to assume his current post, he was Assistant Minority Leader. He had been a member of Ways and Means, Rules, Environmental Conservation, Transportation, Energy and Corporations, Authorities and Commissions committees, and was on the Joint Legislative Commissions on Demographics and Reapportionment. He was also (and remains) a member of the Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial Commission and the statewide Veterans Cemetery Sitting Committee.

Ortloff, an avid historian, said that researchers, other historians and community members would find a wide array of information in the files once the collection is open to the public.  He said the collection included all the legislation he sponsored in the Assembly, correspondences sent to the office from constituents, annual surveys for the past 20 years, information from when he was chair of the Clinton County Republican Committee (1995-2002) and many photographs. He also said that there are many files on the major events of the era, including: the Akwesasne war of 1989-90; Ortloff's service on the Assembly Indian Affairs subcommittee; sea lamprey eradication in Lake Champlain; construction of five new prisons; the formation of the Battle of Plattsburgh Association; the St. Lawrence Aquarium; and, the growth of the Almanzo Wilder Farm in Burke.  Also, the near-closing of General Motors Central Foundry in Massena in 1986, the deactivation and restoration of Northway emergency callboxes twice during the period, the 1998 Ice Storm, the closing of Plattsburgh Air Base and subsequent formation of the Plattsburgh Intermunicipal Development Corporation (precursor to the Plattsburgh Airbase Redevelopment Corporation)are detailed in the files.

Debra Kimok, Special Collections librarian at SUNY Plattsburgh, said the acquisition of the papers would be a treasure trove for historians and others.

"Not only is it a rich resource for community researchers and interested parties, but also for our students. I can think of several departments at SUNY Plattsburgh that could make good use of this information."

She said that it would take a while to process the papers before making them available for review by the public.  "I estimate that it will take about two years to catalogue the many news releases, legislative memoranda, newsletters, correspondences, letters, reports, studies and publications, photographs, clippings and other archival resources. But, once we have completed that process, the materials will be available to the public."

Ortloff said he hopes that the public will find a significant number of human stories in them more so than about him and his work as an assemblyman for North Country residents.

"It really isn't about me; it about the people I represented," said Ortloff. "That why it made sense to donate them to Special Collections where so many of the things that the community is proud of are recorded."

For more information on Special Collections, contact Kimok at 518 564-5206 or [email protected]
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