ALBANY — The phone was ringing off the hook.
In a few brief seconds Wednesday, Malone's Leila Campbell went from anonymity to statewide prominence when Gov. George Pataki quoted from a letter she'd written him in the statewide broadcast of his annual State of the State speech.
"I'll have a heart attack if this keeps up," the 68-year-old resident of Limekiln Road laughingly said about the flood of calls from statewide news outlets unleashed by Pataki's speech.
Just minutes into his lengthy address, Pataki read from a letter Campbell wrote last September about the STAR property-tax reduction program, which saved her hundreds of dollars in school taxes.
Pataki said he'd received letters from thousands of senior citizens thanking him for passing STAR, which reduced school property taxes an average of 28-percent statewide and eliminated the tax entirely for many senior citizens.
"And let me read you a portion of one (letter) that I received, from Leila Campbell of Malone," Pataki said to his statewide audience.
"I lost my husband three years ago, and when that happens you lose half your income each month, but you still have to pay your bills," Pataki quoted from Campbell's letter. "After heat, lights, phone, insurance, food and doctor's bills, it's awful hard to pay taxes. I still mourn the loss of my husband. Now at least I won't worry about losing my home."
After the speech, Pataki said that he chose Campbell's letter to read from because he was personally touched by it. He said his own father died three years ago, and Campbell's note reminded him of his mother's situation.
Campbell said she was "very surprised and elated" that Pataki mentioned her.
"The STAR program works, and he deserved a letter of appreciation," she said. "I love Gov. Pataki. I voted for him, and I hope he'll be our next president. I'd hate to lose him from New York, but I think he's what we need for the country."
As to the media attention generated by Pataki's speech, Campbell said it was a thrill that broke up an otherwise routine winter day.
"Sometime it gets lonely way out here on Limekiln Road," she said. "It was an honor to be mentioned. Now I can't come down off Cloud Nine. If these calls keep up I'll probably faint."