ATHENS — Greene County Legislator Gene Hatton, R-Athens, who died Tuesday of a massive heart attack, is being remembered in the community as a kind man who was dedicated to public service.
Hatton’s eldest son Gerard, of Staten Island, remembered his dad as instilling him and his brother, Michael, with a good work ethic. Hatton also taught his sons to keep a good check on their finances.
“He raised me and my brother the right way,” Gerard said of his father Thursday. “He was very, very organized.”
Once Hatton retired from his job at Ford, he immediately went into public service — first, as an Athens town board member, working his way up into the legislature, Gerard said.
“He lived for that,” Gerard said. “He did that four or five nights a week — he just liked doing it.”
A wake was held for the late county lawmaker Thursday afternoon and evening at the Millspaugh Camerato Funeral in Jefferson Heights.
There was an outpouring of support from the community who respected his father, Gerard said.
“Everybody said when he spoke, people listened,” the loving son said. “The whole area lost a real asset.”
U.S. Rep. John Faso, R-19 released a statement Thursday paying Hatton and his family respect.
“Gene was a true public servant devoted to his family, community and nation,” Faso said. “He will be sorely missed.”
Athens Democratic Committee Chairwoman Catherine Censor was not personally close to Hatton, but said they had positive correspondence over email about the new Greene County Jail project.
“He wrote a very thoughtful reply,” Censor said. “I was aware he cared deeply about the community.”
Assemblyman Pete Lopez, R-102, enjoyed working with Hatton because he was thoughtful and respectful.
“I found him to be a positive, peaceful presence,” Lopez said. “He loved his community.”
Greene County Board of Elections Commissioner Brent Bogardus knew Hatton for many years and described him as professional and a great asset to Athens and the county.
“Gene was truly a class act, no doubt about it,” Bogardus said.
Greene County Legislature Chairman Kevin Lewis enjoyed listening to Hatton’s ideas in county meetings and said he had great experience in what he did.
“He’s going to be sorely missed,” Lewis said.
Hatton’s term on the county Legislature isn’t set to end until the 2018 fiscal year. Any political party in Athens can nominate a candidate to succeed him in the upcoming November election, Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden said.
Candidates will need to be submitted to the Greene County Board of Elections in September.
If a person is elected, he or she would serve the rest of Hatton’s 16-month term, Groden said. The candidate could then run for a three-year term after that initial term ends.
“This is totally the town of Athens’ decision,” Groden said. “It wouldn’t just be a Republican [who could succeed Hatton].”
If a legislator resigns or dies after ballots are due in September for political candidates, the legislature could appoint someone to serve the remainder of that legislator’s term.
“There wouldn’t be legal time to form a ballot initiative,” Groden said.
Bogardus said there will be someone on the ballot for the November election.
“At this juncture, none of us really want to think about it because we’re devastated by Gene’s loss,” Groden said.
It’s too early to announce who the candidate might be on the Democratic ticket due to the circumstances of Hatton’s death, Censor said.
“We obviously we’ll circle back to it,” Censor said.
A funeral procession for Hatton will take place today between 8:30 and 9 a.m. at the Millspaugh Camerato Funeral Home followed by a mass at St. Patrick’s Church in Athens at 10 a.m.
To reach reporter Daniel Zuckerman email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @DZuckerman_CGM.