Assemblyman Gary Finch wasn't surprised when he learned his longtime colleague, Assemblyman Oaks, decided not to seek another term.
There was an inkling months ago, he said. It was during discussions about what would happen to the Assembly Republican leadership if its current leader, Brian Kolb, won the GOP gubernatorial nomination. (Kolb bowed out of the race in February.)
Oaks, according to Finch, hinted then that he may not run for re-election.
After Oaks, R-Macedon, made his announcement earlier this month, Finch said he has "great memories" of his colleague. They served in the state Assembly together for nearly two decades — Oaks was elected in 1992 and Finch in 1999 — and each represented parts of Cayuga County for a bulk of that time.
Finch, R-Springport, called Oaks "a good friend and a very bright guy." He then offered even higher praise of his fellow assemblyman.
"Bob is really the conscience of the conference and he lives that kind of life as well," Finch said. "He always takes the high road. I've never seen him critical of anyone."
Oaks was Wayne County clerk for a decade before being elected to the state Assembly in 1992. After that race in 1992, he didn't face a Democratic opponent again in any of his re-election bids.
In 2011, Oaks was named ranking member of the powerful Assembly Ways and Means Committee. The panel plays a key role in drafting the annual state budget.
Oaks explained in a statement and in an interview with The Citizen that he is leaving government service to spend more time with his family. He and his wife have two grandchildren, one of whom lives nearby.
When Oaks concludes his Assembly service at the end of the year, Finch said his colleague will be missed.
"He's a very principled person in a world where it's hard to find principles sometimes," Finch said. "Bob Oaks is the barometer for it. Just talking with him I think you can sense that."