Paterson was the keynote speaker Sunday as Paul Smith's College graduated its 64th class.
Following commencement, Paterson spoke candidly about a variety of subjects, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Adirondacks, and making a guest appearance on New York City sports radio.
Chris Morris has our story.
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Though he was only in the Adirondacks for a few hours over the weekend, Paterson said he’s made a point to visit the Park whenever he has time.
“It’s a wonderful part of New York,” he said. “I was in government for 20 years and had never really taken advantage of it. Once I came up here around 2001, 2002 – it’s a place you’ve got to come back to from time to time. It’s as nice as any other place in the country.”
Paterson left office in December 2010 following a tumultuous two-year stint in the Governor’s Mansion. He rose to the position after Eliot Spitzer was forced to resign amid a prostitution scandal.
His rise to New York’s top political post coincided with one of the worst economic downturns the state or the nation has ever experienced. Add to that several legal dust-ups, including allegations that he tried to cover up a domestic abuse incident involving one of his top aides, and his term as governor was anything but a walk in the park.
And although Paterson feels a strong calling to serve in public office, he says for now, he won’t be venturing back into politics.
“There’s a lot that your family goes through,” Paterson said. “You never get to tell your side of the story. It’s just a continuing aggravation, and it gets worse and worse. And it gets even more difficult the higher you seek. I think a lot of things happened to my family and to me that we’ll leave to the universe, but I’m sure I don’t want to revisit that kind of situation again.”
When it comes to Cuomo, Paterson offers nothing but praise, noting that his ability to rally lawmakers and deliver an on-time budget earlier this year was nothing short of a miracle.
“I think we haven’t seen anything like Governor Cuomo – I mean in my lifetime,” he said. “He reduced double digits, billions of dollars, and he did it without taxing anyone. And he did it without borrowing. It’s incredible. And really, if you think about it, he did it without much fighting in that period of time.”
Paterson himself tried to pressure lawmakers into making sweeping cuts in order to control a ballooning deficit. But he says some Albany-insiders worked against him publicly, even though in private, they knew he was right.
“There are a number of people who I knew that knew we were in a crisis – they deliberately resisted the attempts to get the state back on track,” Paterson said. “And it wasn’t always ethical the way they did it.”
Still, Paterson says he pleased with the effort he put forth while in office.
He also credits the Assembly and the Senate for pulling together on this year’s budget, noting that during his tenure, so much time was spent on budgeting that other issues were left on the backburner.
This year, Paterson thinks Cuomo will successfully tackle ethics reform, as well as several other high priority matters.
“So he’s made it clear that it’s one of his three priorities right now – along with property tax cap and marriage equality,” he said. “And I wouldn’t bet against the fact that he could get them all done by the end of this session. That would be truly remarkable. But he certainly has a chance to get it done.”
With politics firmly set in the rearview, Paterson hopes to use his gift for public speaking in a new forum.
Earlier this spring, Paterson appeared on a New York City area sports radio show. He says the three-hour guest appearance may translate into a regular gig.
“I actually get a little nervous when I do the sports talk because I forgot things I knew,” Paterson said. “I mean I said that Babe Ruth hit 713 home runs – he actually hit 714 home runs. I’ve known that since I was 7 years old. So I must really care about doing it. I can do the political shows totally relaxed, but I actually get nervous with the sports because it means a lot to me.”
Although this particular trip to the Adirondacks was short – he boarded a plane at the Lake Clear airport less than two hours after delivering his commencement address – Paterson says he’ll use his new-found free time to make more trips up north.