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Waddington native honored by republican committee

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A Waddington native has been named as this year’s recipient of the highest honor granted by the St. Lawrence County Republican Committee.

Businessman Russell B. Strait will be honored with the Betsy Kaplan Award Wednesday at a candidate meet-and-greet event in Ogdensburg hosted by the county Republican Committee.

“Russ introduced me to politics in the early 90s when I recognized what he was doing as a Republican committee man,” said former committee Chairwoman Nancy K. Martin. “He’s been responsible for recruiting republican candidates. He’s conducted caucuses and gathered signatures. He is dedicated to the ideals of the conservative ideals of the Republican Party. I hold him in the utmost regard for his community work and his dedication to his family.”

Mr. Strait began his political career in the early 70s, when former Republican Mayor of the village of Waddington, R. Bruce Pemberton, asked him to serve on the town’s Republican Committee.

“I’ve met a lot of interesting people,” said Mr. Strait. “It has fleshed out my sense of humor, and I have formed some great relationships with community members. I have gained a healthy respect for anyone engaged in the opposition. I would encourage everyone to be involved in politics.”

Mr. Strait operates Harrison A. Rogers Insurance Agency in Waddington and Norfolk. He also presides as a director of NBT Bank. He has served for two decades as chairman of the Waddington Village Recreation Committee, and is currently serving as chairman of the village’s Joint Recreation Committee.

He is a 26-year member of the Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center Board of Directors, having served as its chairman from 2007 to 2010. Mr. Strait currently serves as the town and village representative to the St. Lawrence River Valley Redevelopment Agency.

Mr. Strait said he was inspired to begin a career in politics and community service after meeting his mentor and former St. Lawrence County Legislator Joel M. “Bud” Howard.

“He said you have to be grateful for what you have, and then you have to give back,” said Mr. Strait. “If you don’t engage, you’re missing out.”

The Betsy Kaplan Award was established in 2002 by the county committee’s executive committee. It is given annually to those who have offered faithful service to the Republican Party.

“She was a tremendous person,” said Mr. Strait of Mrs. Kaplan. “I met her early on. She could get you to do things and make you want to do them. She was a motivator and led by example.”

The meet-and-greet event will be held Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Freight House Restaurant, Ogdensburg. The committee is asking for a contribution of $25 to attend the event. Several Republican candidates are expected to appear, including U.S. Senate candidate Wendy Long of New York and 21st Congressional District candidate Matthew A. Doheny of Watertown. State Sens. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, and Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, and Assemblywoman Janet L. Duprey, R-Peru, are also expected to attend.

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