Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 15 April 2011 00:00
This past election season, Mineola saw one of its own take a senate seat, another local resident become mayor and now a new village board come to fruition in front of a packed house at its community center.
The Village of Mineola held its Organization Night last Monday, April 4. With approximately 350 people in attendance, which included Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman, Legislator Rich Nicolello and State Senator Jack Martins, a mayor and two trustees were sworn in to the board.
Scott Strauss was sworn into the office of mayor while current trustee Larry Werther took the oath, locking him into the village as its longest board member at five terms and 10 years when his term ends. George Durham is the newest member to the board. He ran for trustee in 2006.
Current trustee Paul Pereira was designated as Deputy Mayor of Mineola. Werther served in the position when Martins was mayor.
Nassau County Clerk and Mineola native Maureen O’Connell swore Strauss into the office of mayor. Strauss was appointed to the board as trustee on Dec. 15, 2010.
“I’m honored to stand here and swear in an outstanding citizen of this community,” O’Connell said.
Strauss is a 47-year resident of Mineola and a graduate of Mineola High School, Class of 1981.
Strauss served for 20 years in the New York City Police Department. He retired as a detective in 2004. During his career, Strauss received numerous awards including the NYPD’s Medal for Valor and the Medal of Honor, the NYPD’s highest award.
He is a 29-year member of the Volunteer Fire Department. He served as Assistant Chief, Chief of Department and as Lieutenant and Captain.
He was recognized twice as Company #2’s “Firefighter of the Year” and received the Town of Hempstead’s “Firefighter of the Year” award in 2010. Before becoming a member of the Fire Department, Strauss was a Junior Firefighter.
Strauss is an Assistant Scoutmaster with Troop 45 of the Boy Scouts of America. He himself earned the rank of Eagle Scout, Scouting’s highest award.
As fire sirens blared throughout the area near Village Hall, Strauss gave his acceptance speech, thanking those who’ve supported him and welcomed the challenge of filling a certain former mayor’s shoes.
“Maybe I should’ve ran for chief,” he said prompting a laugh from the crowd. “When my wife, who also grew up in Mineola, and I married and were looking for a place to live, we didn’t have to travel far to realize the goal.”
Strauss cited community service and promoting the community is something, “he truly believes in. Government, local or otherwise, should be responsive to the needs of its citizens. As mayor, I pledge to continue my dedication to this village and preserve the excellent services we provide while making every attempt to keep taxes low.”
The former fire chief noted the “elephant in the room” in the succession of taking the mayor’s seat after Senator Martins. Strauss and the board presented Martins with an award for upstanding contributions to the community.
“You put your heart and soul into Mineola,” Strauss said of Martins. “When people take office, their main goal is to make the community better than they found it. You definitely did that and more. I realize I have very big shoes to fill and I’m confident that with my fellow board members we, will also [make this community] better.”
Legislator Nicolello swore in Larry Werther. Nicolello cited his five terms on the board as a testament to committing to village government.
“I congratulate mayor Scott, trustee Larry and trustee George for taking up the oath of office,” Nicolello said. “It’s a very difficult time and difficult decisions have to be made and these men have stepped up for the challenge. I’m honored to swear in Larry as trustee.”
Werther moved to Mineola with his wife, Francine, in the spring of 1980. It was supposed to be a temporary, first home for the Werther family. He quickly fell in love with his neighbors and the Village and his roots grew quickly and deep in Mineola.
His involvement in the community grew to include stints coaching MAA and PAL teams, duties as Cub Master of Pack 246 and Assistant Scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 45 where both of his sons, Lawrence and Joseph attained the rank of Eagle Scout.
Werther earned a Bachelors Degree in Political Science with a minor in Economics from CUNY Queens College. He has spent the last 26 years in the financial services industry. He holds NASD Series 7, 63 and 65 licenses as well as Life and A&H licenses and certificates in Long Term Care.
“I thank my wife of 34 years for allowing me to share my life with the Village of Mineola and my son and daughter-in-law for giving me my immortality, my grandson here.”
Werther thanked the residents of the village for supporting him. He stated further that he wants to keep the village on the path it’s been on for the last eight years.
“We wanted to make this village a better place for our children,” Werther said. “But we had to realize that the thoughts of getting it from our parents and carrying it through to our children is three generations of responsibility. To our seniors, whose children we once were, we will never forget the contributions you gave to our village. You made Mineola what it was today.”
Former mayor of Mineola Bob Hinck swore in George Durham. Hinck said he could remember the first day he coached Durham in Little League.
“Thank you for having me swear in George,” he said. “The political power in Mineola, resides on Andrews Road,” Hinck stated, acknowledging that he and two of the board members live on Andrews Road.
“George, 37 years ago I stood in your shoes, getting elected trustee for the first time in 1974,” Hinck said. “It was an honor to serve my community and it’s an honor to swear you in.”
Durham is part of a fourth generation Mineola family and graduated from Mineola High School in 1981. Son of Fred and Josephine, George has been married for 15 years to his wife, Donna, and has two children, Brandon and Shannon.
Durham is currently the Data Communications Manager for Nassau Downs OTB. He is responsible for all data, satellite and telecommunications for betting parlors and Fast Track restaurants.
He was a member of the Community Planning Committee for six years on the village’s Master Plan. He was Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Downtown Revitalization and sat on the Village Fence Committee.
Durham is an assistant Scoutmaster, Lifescout and Senior Patrol Leader to Boy Scout Troop 45. He was a member of the Mineola Junior Fire Department from 1978-1981.
He has managed an MAA softball team since 2005 and won the Mayors Trophy in 2008 for dedication and devotion to the youth of Mineola.
“Wow what a crowd,” Durham said. “Thank you for everyone who came out and supported me. I had Bob Hinck swear me in because, it started right after I got married, Bob came down the block and asked now that I’m married and settled, ‘what are you going to give back to Mineola?’”
Hinck got Durham started on the community planning committee and it was all systems go from there. Durham said that’s where he got his finger on the pulse of the village.
“Thanks for that Bob,” he said. “It’s been a long road. I ran for trustee in 2006, didn’t make it. I look forward to working with the board.”
Village Justice Richard M. O’Callaghan was sworn in by his daughter Jane. O’Callaghan said he’s been honored to represent the village and will continue to do so.
“It’s an honor to represent this village,” he said. “I thank you for this opportunity.”