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NYSNYS NEWS: LCA press room manager Jean Gutbrodt retiring after 17 years on the job.
END OF AN ERA: Jean Gutbrodt, 85, who is retiring August 19 as press room manager -- NYSNYS News photo.

NYSNYS NEWS: LCA press room manager Jean Gutbrodt retiring after 17 years on the job.

By Kyle Hughes

ALBANY, N.Y. (August 18) – Governors and legislators come and go, but for the past 17 years there's been one constant presence behind a set of swinging doors on the third floor of the Capitol building.

That's where Jean Gutbrodt can be found sitting at a rolltop desk, ready to answer the phone, schedule press conferences, and do whatever else is necessary to keep things running smoothly in the pressroom of the Legislative Correspondents Association, the group of news reporters who cover state government.

As manager of the pressroom since 1999, she brings order and efficiency to a sometimes chaotic but vital corner of Albany's insular political world.

An era will come to an end Wednesday when she retires from the state Senate, two days before she turns 86 years old. Her post-retirement plans include travel and volunteer work. She also expects to continue with another one of her favorite pastimes, kayaking on the lake where she lives.

LCA President Susan Arbetter, the WCNY "Capital Pressroom" radio and TV host, broke the news of her leaving this way: "Our beloved Jean Gutbrodt – keeper of the flame, face of the LCA, rose among thorns – is retiring."

"She’ll be hard to replace and will be missed by all who were fortunate to work
with such a good-natured, organized and helpful woman," Senate Communications Director Kelly Cummings said Tuesday. "She’s also quite possibly the most energetic octogenarian on the planet."

Gutbrodt, who lives in Averill Park, grew up at 1894 Highland Ave. in Troy, where she graduated from high school in 1946. Her family rented one floor of their two-family to Joseph Shields, the city police chief who eventually bought a house two doors down.

One of her childhood memories is Shields bringing her dolls and candy gifts from Mame Faye, the most famous madam in the city's history. Faye's brothel was located at 1725 6th Ave., in a red-light district that occupied the same block as the Troy Police headquarters. She was in business from 1906 until World War II. The brothel was shut down in 1941 and Mame Faye died two years later.

Faye's patrons included RPI students, high school boys, traveling salesmen, soldiers arriving at Union Station across the street, and, it's safe to speculate, local politicians. Troy's train station was an important hub for travel from New England to the rest of the country. Eventually, much of the neighborhood fell to urban renewal, but the legends live on.

"Anytime anybody mentioned Troy, that's what they'd say – 'Mame Faye,' " Gutbrodt said. "That's what it was known for, no matter where it was."

Gutbrodt has worked in the Legislature since 1978, the first 20 of those years as a part-time session employee in Senate Operations.

"I was all over the place," she said Tuesday. "Wherever they needed me, I guess they'd send me, let's face it."

On occasion, she would come over to take care of the ornate room where the Senate Majority Conferences are held. But she admits she was clueless about the LCA press room.

"I didn't know it existed," she said. She was hired for the press room manager's job by John McArdle, Cummings' predecessor as communications director and a top aide to former Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.

The pressroom is a workspace open to journalists for more than a century, originally just newspaper reporters, but now including TV, radio and online-only reporters. The space is governed by a slate of elected officers, with the Senate providing a manager to handle day-to-day logistics and the Assembly providing basic maintenance of the room.

Gutbrodt said the biggest change she's seen in 17 years is the heavy security and identification passes that are now the norm in the Capitol, which used to be left unlocked and open to visitors, no questions asked. The LCA room, which remains unlocked and open, is a vestige of those pre-9/11 days.

Another big change: No more paper press releases for the most part, though the LCA directory still advises that paper copies be dropped off for distribution.

"Everything is on the computer now," she said.

Gutbrodt, a great-grandmother, says her post retirement plans include a trip to see family members and friends in Los Angeles, Florida and Texas. An avid kayaker, she also likes to ride on a Jet-ski watercraft at the home on Crooked Lake where she's lived for 30 years.