The Mineola Village Board welcomed its newest trustee in Dennis Walsh Monday night during the village’s annual installation ceremony at the community center.
“You are someone who’s respected in our community, not only for your views but for your dedication to the village and your desire to do the right thing,” Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss said of Walsh as part of his second inaugural address.
“I’m overwhelmed by the fact that I was elected to this position,” Walsh said, noting that he had not prepared remarks. “I’ve been sitting in this room for 10 years now, down the hallway over here. Mineola has always been a place – a good place – to grow up, to raise a family, to invite visitors to thrive in the village and a place to age in dignity and we will continue to see that happen.”
Walsh “has been a lifeblood of all we have up here today,” NY State Sen. Jack Martins said of the newest trustee before administering the oath. “You join a great group, there are wonderful things in store for this village, there are great things happening right now, all the more so because you decided to take this step forward.”
Walsh’s election to the board signaled the departure of board member Lawrence Werther, who in his decade in village government served as trustee, deputy mayor and mayor following the election of Martins to the state senate.
“For the last 10 years, trustee Werther has served Mineola, he’s dedicated himself in his positions as trustee, deputy mayor and mayor,” said Strauss, who along with the other board members presented Werther with a medallion for his years of service. “Larry, thank you for your service to your community. I also thank his wife, Fran, for her commitment and understanding. I know all too well the strains of being a member of the board of trustees puts on a family.”
In his invocation, Rev. Chester Easton of the First Presbyterian Church said “this evening we are very well aware that some of the best leadership that we can have is at the very close-to-home, local level,”
Though the room was not as packed as when he was first installed as mayor, numerous other local officials including former village board member John DaVanzo, Williston Park Mayor Paul Ehrbar, American Legion Commander Carl Marchese, VFW Commander Tom Slardino, Mineola Fire Chief Jeff Clark, village auxiliary police chief Mike Spate, Chaminade High School President Bro. Thomas Cleary, S.M. and Principal Bro. Joseph Belizzi, S.M., Winthrop Hospital President John Collins, former mayor Robert Hinck and former deputy mayor Lou Santosus were all in attendance.
“I want to thank them all... for being here this evening,” Strauss said. “Without all of those organizations and all those people that are represented here... the village wouldn’t be as strong or as good as it is.”
Nassau County Clerk Maureen O’Connell, herself a Mineola resident, administered the oath of office to Strauss, praising the administration’s work for upgrading the village’s bond rating as well as extolling his responses to “two hurricanes, a nor’easter, numerous rain, rind and snowstorms and of course... Superstorm Sandy. He’s brought senior housing to Mineola, he’s approved new workforce housing for our young adults, under his direction the Bruce Terrace and the Second Street flood mitigation projects were begun. For those of you and all of us who’ve been around Mineola so many years, the Bruce Terrace flooding has been going on since I’m a child.”
Strauss, who was uncontested in this year’s election, also celebrated his 50 birthday this past Saturday. He was first elected in 2011.
“Two years ago I stood before you as a newly-elected mayor in a village my wife and I were raised in; two years ago, you put your faith in the future of our community in my hands. Tonight I stand before you knowing again you have that same trust and confidence in me,” Strauss said in his speech, which centered on the implementation of the village’s master plan - building housing, stores and businesses opening and “smart growth” in the downtown area. “Because of your vision, coupled with the trust and confidence you have in this administration, Mineola is and will continue to be on the forefront of progression and prosperity.”
Also installed to a second term was trustee George Durham, who was sworn in by former mayor Robert Hinck.
“George, your service here is marked extraordinarily by your high commitment and devotion to our youth,” Hinck said.
“The first two years have been a learning experience that I think we have handled well,” Durham said. “We came across several obstacles both big and small – Hurricanes Irene and Superstorm Sandy – plus several snowstorms, damaging summer storms, and me made it through it. Major construction in the downtown is underway. Though we are still looking for the missing piece in that downtown puzzle that can make it a destination place that we can all be proud of. As we went around the first time, we talked to people and we understood some of their problems and we’ve worked on those. During this campaign we also heard people and their number one problems was curbs and trees and sidewalks and roads, the conditions of the roads.”
With the installation of Walsh, it is the first time that all five members of the village board have been Mineola High School graduates.
“I’m happy to join this group of Mineola High School graduates,” Walsh said. “The teacher, deputy mayor Pereira, somehow figured out that we have around 250 years of living in Mineola combined with the entire board.”
Added Durham of the driving force behind the board members: “we are all doing this for our friends and families and we want to continue to make Mineola a great place to live and raise a family.”