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Bush exits after more than two decades on Lewis Legislature

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LOWVILLE — After more than two decades as a Lewis County legislator, Jack T. Bush was more than ready to hand over the keys to the county to a fresh crop of lawmakers.

“I guess I just feel I’ve paid my dues,” said Mr. Bush, who on Dec. 31 ended his latest eight-year stint on the board after choosing not to run for re-election. “I’ve had a great time, for the most part.”

Fellow Republican Neil H. Pepper has replaced him as legislative representative for District 9, which includes the towns of Greig and Lyonsdale.

While seven of the 10 current lawmakers were not on the board one year ago and five have no legislative experience, the long-time legislator said he is confident in their collective abilities.

“I think they’ll be just fine,” he said. “These guys will hopefully pull together and do what they were elected to do.”

Communication is key, both among legislators and with department heads and other experienced county employees, said Mr. Bush, a retired heating oil business owner who continues to work part-time for Lowville concrete company V.S. Virkler & Sons Inc.

“All you’ve got to do is talk to one another,” he said.

That also applies to dealings with the county-owned Lewis County General Hospital administration and board of managers, Mr. Bush said.

“We’re all one entity,” he said.

And, one more piece of advice for the new legislators: “They can’t be afraid to say, ‘I don’t know. I’ll do my best to get back to you with an answer.’”

Mr. Bush first joined the county Legislature in 1979 and represented part of the town of Lowville through 1987, then again from 1993 through 1997, serving as chairman for a couple of years.

After moving to Brantingham, he was elected again to the board with six newcomers in November 2005.

Given his past experience on the board, Mr. Bush was selected as chairman in January 2006 and served in that role until relinquishing it a year ago to Chairman Michael A. Tabolt, R-Croghan.

With Mr. Tabolt poised to lead the least experienced group of legislators since 2006, Mr. Bush offered his longtime colleague some advice, as well.

“Just try to guide folks down the right path and give them all the information they need to make a good decision,” he said. “Sometimes you just have to sit down and hang on your hat and see what’s going to happen.”

While taking a firm stand on a number of issues, his leadership style consisted primarily of seeking ideas and consensus from fellow board members.

Even after stepping down as chairman, Mr. Bush remained in the limelight over the past year as chairman of the Ways & Means and Buildings and Grounds Committee. As such, he had the tasks of both addressing office space needs and navigating through a difficult budget year without a county manager.

While the latter task was completed, Mr. Bush and other supporters of a new county office building on outer Stowe Street — intended to offer more room for the Department of Social Services and eliminate the need for leased office space — ultimately were unable to garner enough support to move the project forward. Legislators then decided to buy Lewis Lanes but soon afterward reneged on the purchase, leaving the new board to consider solutions to that issue.

“They’re going to have to keep working on it, because we’re still renting space and DSS is still cramped,” Mr. Bush said. “They need more space.”

While the longtime legislator said he has no intention of seeking a fourth stint on the board, he doesn’t anticipate being bored.

Along with his work with V.S. Virkler, he continues to serve as head of the Lewis County Industrial Development Agency board and is organizing an eight-hour mine safety and health refresher course.

He and his wife, Susan, also are planning their annual trip to Florida, and he anticipates adding ultralight flying and fishing to his schedule, as long as they don’t conflict with his time on the golf course.

“I don’t remember the last time I’ve been fishing on Brantingham Lake,” Mr. Bush said. “I’m going to do it this spring.”

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