In what was scheduled to be an uneventful regular meeting of the Town of Oyster Bay Board earlier this week, it was announced that Councilman Thomas Clark was retiring after 23 years of service.
Clark, who has accepted the position of the Deputy Commissioner in the Town's Department of Public Works, was first appointed to office in June, 1976. His decision to step down ends an unprecedented string of five successful re-election campaigns, which constituted a career that stands as the longest in town history.
"As much as I have enjoyed serving on the Town Board, it places tremendous demands on one's time," Councilman Clark stated. "My appointment as Deputy Commissioner will allow me to spend more time with my wife of 38 years, Corinne,and the rest of my family and will fulfill my longtime ambition of working in the day-to-day, nuts and bolts operation of town government."
Clark's wife and several of his ten children were in attendance as he reminisced over several defining moments in his career on the board. He relished the board's foresight and fortitude in the late 1970s in recognizing the need for affordable senior housing despite strong opposition to the plan. Since that initial housing plan, which proved to be a model for senior housing across the country, the town has continued to provide for its seniors.
"We were trying to provide for our seniors who built Long Island in the '30s, '40s and '50s," said Clark.
He also lauded the town's dedication to the handicapped through its many programs and the town's Music Under the Stars program. Clark had also made a special committment during his career to maintaining the suburban integrity of the town through tree plantings. He had introduced the Town's memorial tree planting program, initiated a tree planting program along Jerusalem Avenue in Hicksville and was continually requesting gas station owners to plant trees on their properties.
The members of the board, as well as Clark's family members and numerous town administrators, each gave tribute to Councilman Clark and his many years of service to the town.
"Some things that have not changed are Tom Clark's commitment, his role as a town councilman his dedication, not just to his home area of Hicksville which he loved very dearly, but his dedication to each and every resident in the town of Oyster Bay," said Supervisor John Venditto, who served on the board from 1981 to 1991 before leaving and then returning as supervisor two years ago. "Councilman Clark leaves a legacy of which he can be very proud,"
"Tom obviously brought his own style to his role as town councilman, he reflected his own background," said Venditto.
He continued to say, "Tom, not just by reason of longevity but by reason of example, has been like an older brother from whom all of us [board members] have learned something very special."
Clark, who had recently been the target of local criticism over the town's handling of an industrial property in Hicksville, noted the nature of the business in recalling how the board often had to make decisions despite conflicting interests.
"I always thought it was part of my job to take care of residents and try to provide reasonable living conditions. It was something that I took very seriously," said Clark. "I have been to many meetings where they shouted at me and meetings where they loved me. It all comes with the territory and I accepted it."
He continued, "We did things for the community that we thought were best. We turned things down and we approved things. The immediate residents could not always see, because the trees would often get in the way of the forest . . . but a lot of times we had the insight to realize that it would be all right. . . . We are trying to benefit the people, we are not here to hurt them we are here to do the right thing for them."
No names of possible replacements were available but a source from the town indicated that a decision would be made relatively quickly.