In two decades in Congress, Mike McNulty never lost sight of his priorities - the people he served and the family he loves.
For that remarkable life's work, he was hailed Feb. 21 by a capacity crowd of more than 1,200 family, friends, fellow public servants, constituents and labor leaders at a music-infused Albany gala. The retired congressman, whose service to the 21st district earned him top grades from New York State United Teachers' two national affiliates, said he hadn't wanted a retirement gala until he hit upon the idea of having it benefit the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York.
McNulty thanked the crowd and recognized his wife, daughters, father, sister and the many other family members whose support made his career possible. McNulty referenced his deep roots in the labor movement; he has noted that "throughout my service in the United States Congress," he always made "improving the lives of working men and women" one of his highest priorities.
That dedication was praised by NYSUT President Richard Iannuzzi - who spoke at the gala of McNulty's impressive voting record and integrity - and by NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira, one of the co-chairs for event at the Empire State Plaza. Denis Hughes, president of the state AFL-CIO, was also on hand to pay homage to the retired congressman, who had previously served in the New York state Assembly.
"Mike McNulty's record on the issues important to working people couldn't be better," Iannuzzi said.
Neira added: "The real testament to Mike's dedication to his community – and to his nation – are the countless lives he has touched over his many years of public service."
Sen. Charles Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand headed a long list of elected leaders who praised McNulty. Gillibrand, now the nation's newest senator, spoke movingly of McNulty as an exemplar of striking the right balance in serving family and constituents. She recalled how, when she was first thinking about running for public office, then expecting her first son, "the first person I want to see was Mike." He suggested: "Go to the labor breakfast."
"That was good advice," Gillibrand said.
She also recalled how during her time as a congresswoman, she and her family often traveled to and from Washington with McNulty, whose kindness made him a hero to her children.
The McNulty clan's children were a highlight of the evening, leading the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. A soaring solo performance of "I Hope You Dance," by Teigin Legault, 14, one of Congressman McNulty's granddaughters, brought the roaring crowd to a standing ovation.
Another youthful "showstopper" was Anthony Garguila, a fourth-grader at Glenmont Elementary School, who captivated the audience with a stirring rendition of the National Anthem.
McNulty retired in January after serving two decades as representative for the 21st Congressional District, which includes Albany, Schenectady, Schoharie and Montgomery counties as well as parts of Rensselaer, Saratoga and Fulton counties.