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Waddington mayor lauded as 2013 Woman of the Year

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MASSENA - Over the summer, Waddington Mayor Janet Otto-Cassada was applauded as one of the leaders of the effort to bring the successful 2013 Bass Elite Series tournament to her village.

On Thursday night, she was applauded again, this time as the 2013 St. Lawrence County Chapter New York State Women, Inc. Woman of the Year.

Ms. Otto-Cassada, however, was quick to point out during a dinner in her honor that the success of the bass tournament was a community effort.

“When it happened, everyone was giving me accolades. If we didn’t have a community working with us all of the time, we wouldn’t have been able to pull it off,” she said, speaking in front of a crowd that included family, friends and past Woman of the Year honorees Susan Bellor, Ann Borsellino, Carol Perry and Jackie Sheehan.

She recognized some of those in attendance at the Village Inn for their role in bringing the tournament to Waddington and making it the success it was. A total of 34,100 people turned out for the Aug. 8 to 11 Evan Williams Bourbon Showdown at St. Lawrence River, breaking a record for the 2013 season.

“I can’t thank everybody enough,” Ms. Otto-Cassada said.

Ms. Bellor, who serves as committee chairperson for the Woman of the Year program said Ms. Otto-Cassada had been one of many nominees for the 2013 honor.

“We had a slew of nominations from all over the county, which is great,” she said.

Ms. Otto-Cassada said she was honored to have been selected from the group.

“I’m very honored, very honored for this chance to be Woman of the Year. But I didn’t do it on my own. I’m not Hillary Clinton,” she quipped.

A resolution signed by Waddington Town Supervisor Mark Scott, declaring Thursday as “Janet Otto-Cassada, Woman of the Year Day” noted that she had earned the honor.

“Janet has touched many lives, with those at work, at church, at school and in her position as mayor through her optimism and positive people skills,” he said.

Mr. Scott noted that Ms. Otto-Cassada, who has served as Waddington mayor for nine years, has played a role in many efforts in the community.

“Janet has volunteered her time with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the United Methodist Church and the Order of the Eastern Star.She has worked on jamborees for people in need, has helped with the annual golf tournament to benefit the community’s youth and has held brunches for the residents of Hamilton Gardens to listen to their concerns,” he said.

“Janet was heavily involved with her son’s graduating class in fundraisers, high school plays and sports events,” Mr. Scott noted, adding, “Janet has been instrumental in the upgrade of the Waddington Civic Center, the parks and infrastructure.”

A 17-year employee with the Department of Motor Vehicles, Ms. Otto-Cassada was instrumental in bringing this summer’s bass tournament to Waddington, according to the town supervisor.

“Janet’s most outstanding accomplishment has showcased her drive to hosting the successful 2013 Bass Elite tournament. This event evolved from her planning, vision, positive interactions with many people and several organizations such as fire, rescue, EMS, law enforcement, businesses, and villages and towns throughout St. Lawrence County that brought 35,000 people to the village of Waddington and St. Lawrence County,” he said.

Those who spoke during Thursday’s dinner also had words of praise. Among them was Russell B. Strait, one of the individuals who nominated Ms. Otto-Cassada for the honor.

“This is a person who grew older in North Lawrence, her birthplace, but grew up in the village of Waddington as we all did watching her fortitude, commitment and resolve in leading the village,” he said. “I’ve seen her in tears of compassion, joy and happiness, and I’ve seen her in tears for others.”

Others said she was someone who was there for her family and the community, as well as the person who, despite some naysayers, helped make Waddington known to the world through the success of the Bass Elite Series tournament.

Ms. Otto-Cassada was not only the Woman of the Year Thursday night, she was also the winner of a 50/50 raffle that raises money for a scholarship provided by the St. Lawrence County Chapter New York State Women, Inc. But, in her giving spirit that every speaker had pointed out, she returned her winnings so that someone else would benefit.

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