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By Matt Murphy

MediaNews

BOSTON — State Rep. Robert Hargraves, a Groton Republican, was honored Wednesday with an award for his service to the state and his community, providing a capstone to his long career in public service.

Hargraves, 73, will retire at the end of the year from a 16-year career in the Legislature, but not before his colleagues sent him off with a parting gift.

At the annual Massachusetts Legislators Association in Randolph, Hargraves received the Legislator of the Year award.

“I’m honored. It’s special when you’re judged by your peers,” Hargraves said.

Created by the Legislature in 1946, the association honored two of their Republican colleagues who are leaving, including Hargraves and state Rep. Karyn Polito, R-Shrewsbury, who is running for treasurer. William Bulger, a former senator and president of UMass, and Charlotte Golar Ritchie, a former state rep and head of the Deval Patrick Committee, were also honored.

Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry, D-Boston, serves as president of the association. She recalled the time when she was a new legislator that Hargraves took to explain the “inner workings” of Legislature and mentor her through those early days.

“He’s a very kind man, and although we may not agree on all issues, I’m proud to have him as a colleague,” Dorcena Forry told The Sun of Lowell in a statement.

Hargraves’ district includes the towns of Groton, Ayer, Dunstable, Pepperell, and Townsend.

As his legislative career draws to a close, Hargraves said he is proud that a bill he has been pushing for years to protect doctors who treat Lyme disease may finally become law.

The House and Senate have approved an amendment to the budget that would prevent physicians from being disciplined for prescribing long-term antibiotic therapy for symptoms consistent with Lyme disease.

Hargraves is one of six lawmakers and two Republicans appointed to serve on the conference committee to finish crafting the state’s fiscal 2011 budget.

Hargraves also counts his efforts to rebuild and rehabilitate the covered bridge in Pepperell, the South Street bridge in Townsend and the bridge in Ayer spanning the railroad tracks as among his proudest accomplishments.

“The crowning glory will be the Pepperell covered bridge, which is scheduled to open sometime this month,” Hargraves said.

Hargraves said he leaves the Legislature with mixed emotions. He recently lost his bid to rejoin the Groton Board of Selectmen after he retires from Beacon Hill.

“I wouldn’t be honest if I said anything else. I’m going to miss it,” Hargraves said.

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