Senators, governors, administrators and staff have all come and gone, but for 37 years, Karen Layman has been at her desk.
Layman, 54, of Clifton Park, is retiring at the end of the year from the state Senate Finance Committee/Minority in Albany. She started in 1970 as a stenographer and is now an administrative assistant to budget and fiscal staff.
It is the only job she has ever had.
Layman was recently honored by state Senator and Democratic leader Malcolm Smith, D-Queens, with a proclamation at the Senate Democratic Conference.
Karen set a standard that will be difficult to match, Smith said in the press release announcing the proclamation. `But each and every one of us should at the very least try to emulate her work and attitude.`
Layman was told 15 minutes prior to the proclamation that someone else was about to receive an award in the conference room, but she said she knew something was going on when she saw friends and family there instead.
`Senator Smith, he just had the biggest grin on his face,` Layman said. `I cannot remember a word of what I said, but my husband said I was very gracious.`
Layman has lived in Clifton Park with her husband, Bob, since 1976. Born in Watervliet, she attended Catholic Central High School in Troy.
After high school, she applied for a job in the state stenographer pool, but was turned down and later found a job in the Senate Finance Committee/Minority.
`When I started right out of high school it was kind of intimidating. I just did my work,` Layman said. `It’s like this is my home because I have spent so much time here; you get to know everybody. It is going to be very hard to leave, but yet I want to leave while I’m on top while I can still walk out.`
Layman’s boss, Ahmed Diomande, the director of budget studies and the acting secretary of the Senate Finance Committee/Minority, said he has worked with Layman for the past four and a half years.
`Thirty-seven years is a lot of time, most definitely. If you have been able to spend that in one place I think that speaks a lot about the place itself and you yourself,` Diomande said. `The reality is, you don’t replace people like Karen.`
Layman’s tenure has spanned six governors and five Democratic leaders.
`Karen is the glue that sticks all of it together,` Diomande said. `It’s like a table, if you remove the supports, there is no table. That’s how important she is.`
Layman said when she retires she plans to spend more time with her family and get more actively involved in diabetes and cancer charities ` after enjoying retirement a bit.
`You’re kind of limited here to go on vacations,` Layman said. `I got married in November because you can’t really plan anything [from] January to June. For 10 days straight when a budget comes out, my family doesn’t see me.`
Mortimer Lawrence, Smith’s chief of staff, said that Layman will be sorely missed.
`Not only is she smart in her area of expertise to the budget, she probably knows just as much as some of the seven budget directors that she’s worked for,` Lawrence said. `I can honestly say that I’ve had nothing but good things to say about her.`
Diomande said he admired Layman’s consistency and respect for her coworkers, and wants to create an award in her honor.
`I believe if we have something that I will start, this is my contribution,` Diomande said. `Creating an award in her name to give it out to a staff person who I believe really emulates this kind of spirit. That’s something I’m personally committed to doing.`