Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Goodbyes are never easy.
And for 20-year Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), the moment was almost too much as he shook the hands of dozens of supporters at the Broome County Library.
Hinchey served the 22nd District since 1992, he was a major force on many issues including upgrading the region's infrastructure, the environment, and building the Southern Tier's new high tech workforce.
Hinchey thanked his supporters in Binghamton reminding them he was always listening.
"Instead of listening to the lobbyists," Hinchey told his audience, "I listened to the people."
Rudy Gasper was a World War II veteran who got lost in the system.
After being hospitalized at the end of the war, the government lost his records.
Years later, Hinchey fixed that, restoring his benefits.
Gasper was in the audience to thank the congressman personally.
"And 50 years later," said Gasper, "He called me to his office and had all my awards I should have been receiving when I was in the hospital."
Realtor Lois Andrascik said Hinchey's work in getting IBM to clean up the toxic plume in Endicott saved 500 homes and families.
"He saved them. He saved Endicott, truly," said Andrascik, "We were being compared to the Love Canal."
Hinchey also spent years turning 400 miles of Route 17 into Interstate 86 which continues to bring in hundreds of thousands of federal dollars for new improvements.
He spent $17 million to help establish Binghamton University as a premiere research institute for energy efficient technologies. BU says that investment has paid off with new jobs and better candidates for them.
And he has always been a strong advocate for liberal issues including opposing the Iraq War from the beginning and taking on Wall Street.
Even with small issues, Hinchey helped.
When Don Tarr's scout troop visited Hinchey's office in Washington D.C. for a Capitol Tour,
Hinchey cleared his schedule after the original tour guide called in sick.
"To think that he would take a couple hours out of his day, to show 25 kids, not even voters around," said Tarr, "It really made a difference."
At the final farewell, the left leaning Congressman said serving was a privilege.
"I look back on my life in public service, proud of what we accomplished together, regretful that I could not do more, and hopeful that you will pick up where I left off," Hinchey said.
And before he gave up the podium, he turned the gratitude right back to his audience.
"For all the things that we have done, you have done it," he said, "Thanks very, very much, thank you."
As the audience left him with a standing ovation, Hinchey said his final goodbye.
The congressman will end his term in office at noon on January 3, 2013.