Posted at: 10/26/2013 11:59 PM
| Updated at: 10/27/2013 12:38 AM
By: Steve Flamisch
ALBANY -- Mayor Jerry Jennings choked back tears Saturday as he thanked family, friends, and political allies for two decades of support.
The five-term mayor, who is leaving office in January, spoke at a party in his honor thrown by the Center for Economic Growth and more than 20 other sponsors. His voice echoed in the high-ceilings of the former bank at 90 State St., now owned by Mazzone Hospitality.
"This is a beautiful facility," Jennings told the crowd of more than 400 people. "It's a beautiful night. You're all beautiful people. I am very proud to say your are all my friends."
NewsChannel 13's Benita Zahn served as the emcee, introducing speakers who thanked the mayor with words, gifts, and proclamations.
The mayor stood beside his wife, Mary Ann, during an emotional video presentation that concluded with a shot of Jennings and his late brother Joey.
Jennings also talked about his late niece, Tracy, who died of brain cancer in 1996. Invoking her memory, he announced the event raised more than $30,000 for the Children's Hospital at Albany Medical Center.
"I'm proud of our city," Jennings said.
"A PEOPLE PERSON"
An Albany native, Jennings worked as a teacher and administrator at Albany High School, and served several terms on the city council, before he was sworn in to his first term as mayor on January 1, 1994.
His supporters point to new businesses, jobs, and youth programs that have sprung up during his 20 years in office. Critics note the long-delayed convention center and urban blight.
For his part, Jennings –- who decided this year he would not seek a sixth term in office -- said his legacy should be that of a people person.
"I feel real good about the twenty years," Jennings told NewsChannel 13. "I really do. You know, I've helped people and that was my goal when I took over."
He continued, "People look at me and say, 'You know, there's Jerry. There's our mayor. He's a people person.' And that's what I wanted. I wanted the city to feel good about where we were going, and people did come together."
With a little more than two months left in office, Jennings said he still has not decided on his next career move. The 65 year-old said he is most looking forward to watching his three grandchildren grow up.
"I'm going to take my time and make a decision that will be good for me and my family," Jennings said.