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Waddington mayor named 2013 Woman of the Year

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MASSENA - Three members of the St. Lawrence chapter of New York State Women, Inc., were waiting in line Thursday afternoon at the Department of Motor Vehicles office in Massena.

But they weren’t there for vehicle-related business.

They were there to congratulate one of the employees, Janet Otto-Cassada, who had been named St. Lawrence County’s Woman of the Year for 2013.

Chairperson Susan Bellor said they had received several letters of nomination for this year’s honor and Ms. Otto-Cassada, who is also the mayor of Waddington, stood out when their committee scored all of the nominees. According to Mrs. Bellor, Ms. Otto-Cassada “easily came up with the highest scores.”

Thursday’s visit by Mrs. Bellor, Pat McGrath and Miriam Ralston was a surprise for Ms. Otto-Cassada. She was behind the counter waiting on customers. Once she was free, she was presented with a bouquet of flowers.

“We would like to congratulate you,” Mrs. Bellor said.

Among those who had written letters nominating Ms. Otto-Cassada were Russell B. Strait, Cheryl D. Dumas and Lee Rutherford.

“Russ had said something about (the nomination),” Ms. Otto-Cassada said.

Still, it caught her by surprise, she said as she came out to hug the women for bestowing the honor on her.

Nomination letters had to include among other things, the person’s accomplishments, volunteer activities and why she should be considered at St. Lawrence County’s Woman of the Year.

The nominees, who had to reside in St. Lawrence County, needed to have made outstanding accomplishments in their professional lives, demonstrated service to their communities and/or churches, and have made positive and outstanding interactions with others around them.

Among Ms. Otto-Cassada’s accomplishments, according to the nominating letters, was her role in bringing the 2013 Bassmaster Elite Tournament to Waddington.

Mr. Strait noted that the event had already been turned down by two other entities as “too risky both financially and in event organization and coordination.”

However, he said, within a week Ms. Otto-Casssada had assessed the risk and reward and presented a plan to her village board “in concise manner outlining the risk, the reward and the financial obligations.”

The event attracted more than 35,000 people to Waddington, Mr. Strait said.

“Her community is forever on the map now, nationwide, The St. Lawrence River is a destination for fisherman all over the world,” he said.

Ms. Dumas noted that Ms. Otto-Cassada has put together jamborees for individuals in need, helped with an annual golf tournament to benefit youth in the Waddington community and held two brunches for residents at Hamilton Gardens to hear their concerns and provide assistance.

“By far her outstanding accomplishment was her fortitude and unnerving ability to see the ‘big picture’ for the village of Waddington and all of St. Lawrence County by hosting the 2013 Bass Elite Tournament. This event took well over a year of weekly meetings, many evenings of constant phone calls after having worked her regular eight hour day,” Ms. Dumas said.

She said Ms. Otto-Cassada also visited an event in Texas “to ensure that all of the necessary steps were in place for this Tournament to be a success.”

Ms. Rutherford, in her nominating letter, also applauded the efforts of Ms. Otto-Cassada.

“She has donated her time to help with jamborees, golf tournaments that proceeds went to the Waddington Basketball Association and helps with church functions. She is very community-oriented, not to mention her interest in helping local businesses to proper,” she wrote.

“Janet has made such an accomplishment by bringing the BASS Elite Series to the village of Waddington and St. Lawrence County. This was a huge undertaking with well over a year’s worth of work, commitment and many meetings. This brought revenues to Waddington and the County, (and) set records for the amount of people attending a BASS Elite Tournament,” Ms. Rutherford said.

Ms. Otto-Cassada will be recognized during a Nov. 14 dinner in her honor.

The North Lawrence native is the daughter of Peter and Jane Otto. Her late father was a county legislator for many years, representing the towns of Lawrence and Brasher on the St. Lawrence County Legislature.

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