By Sara-Megan Walsh
Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said his farewells as the prominent leader of the Town of Huntington, but not without — as he said it best and “straight” — a crypt and an alleyway.
Petrone led his final town board meeting Dec. 13 as he was honored and recognized by his fellow council members and residents for his 24 years of service as town supervisor. Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia presented the town’s chain of office, a 1-pound, 11-ounce chain featuring several medallions including some made of wampum, for Petrone to wear on the momentous occasion.
Supervisor gives one final farewell address to residents
Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) offered a public farewell speech to residents at the Dec. 13 town board meeting, upon receiving accolades for his accomplishments after 24 years of service. Below is an extended excerpt of his remarks:
Thank you all. It’s been a real experience, a real trip — if I can call it that — a highlight in my life. Actually 24 years is a career in itself, and it’s been made possible because of you.
I give it to you straight. Some people never liked it, didn’t like it, but it’s always been given to you straight on how I felt and what I thought was best for the entire community or residents at large. Sometimes, maybe, I was not all right, and I made sure it changed and we changed that. You guided me and you gave me that opportunity. I am a rich man, as a result of this, a very rich man full of heart and love you have given me. I share you inside, all of you. I shared a board with 20-somewhat council people. I could share some stories, but I won’t.
But, I think I want to thank this board for really capping this career for me. We’ve really reached new heights during these past several years. I’ve thanked each and every one of them. I’ve given them awards tonight and everything that was said is true — all those pieces add up. Mark [Cuthbertson] has been a partner for 20 years, someone who suffered with me through tough financial times right there plugging along and making the hard decisions that I will forever be grateful for.
It’s not by myself, it was done with other people. I mentioned my board members who are leaving and their accomplishments. I want to thank Gene Cook for all he’s done and everything that he means. I’ve learned some good lessons from Gene. You are going to go forward now. You have a new team to work with, and I think you are excited for that. I think we are all excited there’s a team coming in that’s going to bring Huntington to other heights, which is so very, very important. We’re thankful for that, that’s what service is all about. We should be thankful.
“It’s been a real experience, a real trip — if I can call it that — a highlight in my life, actually, 24 years is a career in itself, and it’s been made possible because of you,” Petrone said. “I am a rich man, as a result of this, a very rich man full of heart and love that you have given me.”
The outgoing supervisor joked he feared Raia was going to present him with an urn or burial plot. Petrone explained when he expanded the town clerk’s archival vault he had promised to do so on one condition: a future spot set aside for his urn.
“We will still have that available, but you have many long years ahead of you,” Raia said.
Petrone was praised by Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D), who has served alongside him for 20 years, for taking the town, which was on the brink of bankruptcy when he took office in 1994, to fiscal stability.
“He is a consistent builder, a mentor; he is someone who put his heart into the job and gave of himself,” Cuthbertson said. “I believe in my heart of hearts this town is so much better for his service.”
The town board members gave a proclamation to the outgoing supervisor that they will rename Irwin Place, the alleyway adjacent to town hall, Frank P. Petrone Way, in honor of Petrone’s accomplishments.
“Such a record of accomplishments warrants a special recognition to cement Supervisor Petrone’s legacy and inform future generations of how much of a debt we owe Supervisor Petrone,” Cuthbertson said. “Such a recognition would traditionally take the form of naming a street after the deserving person. However, a clear policy was set by Petrone to reserve street naming for the deceased, which he fortunately is not.”
Renaming Irwin Place was chosen as Petrone was well known for his habit of parking his car on alleyway, carefully pulling it up onto the sidewalk alongside the building.
“Seeing Supervisor Petrone’s personal car parked in his special spot was a visual signal to all who visit town hall that their government was open for business,” Cuthbertson said.
Petrone thanked each member of the town council for serving with him, including Raia, and noted that even his wife Pat, was in the audience attending her very first town board meeting. He received a standing ovation in recognition of his more than two decades in office.
Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) was joined by Legislators Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) and Lou D’Amaro (D-Huntington Station) to give Petrone a proclamation at the Dec. 19 county legislative meeting for his 24 years as town supervisor and more than 40 years of public service as an elected official.
“I can say without hesitation that in just about every conversation I’ve had over the last 12 years with residents in my community and in the greater Huntington community, they say ‘Things might be tough out there but in this town, things are pretty good,’” Stern said. “Some part of that is due to the leadership and steady hand of Supervisor Petrone for so many years.”
Petrone was lauded by the legislators for his sound fiscal management, innovative and affordable housing projects, preservation of open space and launching a revitalization of Huntington Station.
“Supervisor Petrone is a role model for all of us,” D’Amaro said. “I will always remember if you went to him and you needed something, and you needed to work together he was always cooperative, always willing to help no matter what the issue was … Mr. Supervisor, I wish you the best of luck in the future.”
Petrone said his first plans upon retirement are spending the next few months at his Florida home with his wife, and enjoying time with his first grandchild.