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This was one high-powered retirement party

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Governor, local officials among those honoring Putney

By John Barnhart

    This was a retirement party unlike the one most folks have. It brought out three sitting judges and another who is retired. Members of the Bedford County Board of Supervisors and Bedford Town council were there as well as were local constitutional officers and the local General Assembly delegation.

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    And Virginia’s governor also showed up.
    “Who would have thought the governor of Virginia would attend a function of this sort in downtown Goode?” Delegate Lacey Putney commented.
    The retirement party was held at Trivium, last week, in Putney’s honor. Putney chose not to run for reelection this year, ending 52 years in the House of Delegates. That body first met as the House of Burgesses in Jamestown in 1619 and Governor Bob McDonnell calculated that Putney has cast one of eight votes ever taken during that nearly 400-year period.
    Putney has cast 100,000 votes. He has the reputation of being the man who newly elected governors come to, asking him what to do. During the last four years, McDonnell has taken Putney with him each year to New York to talk with the big bond rating agencies.
    Senator Steve Newman, who originally held a House of Delegates seat before being elected to the state senate, recalled being part of a line of newly elected delegates, more than 20 years ago that Putney was introducing himself to. Newman said that line included current Gov. McDonnell, Congressman Morgan Griffith and Congressman Eric Cantor, now the House of Representatives majority whip.
    “I remember that line back in 1992 when he already had the number one license plate when I got there,” McDonnell commented.
    McDonnell said Putney had a passion for solving problems and getting things done. He said Putney was able to bring people together, regardless of their party affiliation.
    He said he was one of those governors who came to Putney asking for advice shortly after being elected.
    “I learned a lot that first year about budgeting,” McDonnell said.
    He said Putney had been on House/Senate Conference committees many times, reconciling the two bodies’ differing versions of bills.
    “He reminded me the House is always right,” McDonnell joked, adding that the conferees had little time for sleeping or eating during those times.
    McDonnell also recalled times when, while he was in the House of Delegates, heated debates would occur on the floor. Everybody would become quiet when Putney rose to speak.
    Newman called Putney a “master statesman,” but Putney isn’t ready for that title. He mentioned a quote attributed to President Harry Truman.
    “A statesman is a politician who has been dead for at least 15 years,” he said.
    “It’s hard to believe 52 years, that’s over half-a-century, I’ve worked for Lacey Putney,” commented Betty Lou Lane, his right hand in his law office and during General Assembly Sessions.
    Layne said Putney is a kind, compassionate person. She said she’s witnessed many occasions when Putney provided free legal services for people who couldn’t pay, made personal contributions including “buying Christmas” for children.
    “When he walks up to a person, you can see that smile break out and that hand stick out in greeting,” Layne said.
    Layne also personally witnessed Putney’s encounters with his nemesis.
    “There was one thing that got the best of Lacey and that was tangled-up telephone cords,” she said. Layne held one up and handed it to Putney “so you’ll have something to work on.”
    Layne noted that Putney would never compromise on his principles. She recalled the time when Governor Gerald Baliles tried to persuade Putney to support something that Putney didn’t agree with.
    “Governor, if I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong,” Putney said to Baliles.
    She also held up a needlepoint pillow which was always prominently displayed in Putney’s office. Everybody who has ever been there has seen it. It reads “Everybody is entitled to my opinion.”
    Putney, who was surprised at such a large turnout, said that he never thought “a redneck river rat from Big Island would be honored like this.”
    He then went on to repeat something Winston Churchill once said when being given an honor he felt he didn’t deserve.
    “If you shall have no misgivings about it, neither shall I,” Putney said.
    Putney predicted that the citizens of Virginia will continue to insist on the highest caliber of government from the state’s elected officials. He also predicted that Virginia, which is one of only eight states to have a AAA bond rating from all three bond rating agencies, will retain that rating and remain the best state in the U.S. for businesses.
    “The clock does not stop running when somebody resigns or does not seek reelection,” Putney said.