Written by Rich Forestano Wednesday, 10 April 2013 08:36
A baseball fanatic would used the term “homegrown” if speaking of the Mineola Village Board after Mayor Scott Strauss, Trustee George Durham and Trustee-elect Dennis Walsh were sworn in at Organization Night on Tuesday, April 1. The board now consists of five Mineola High School graduates.
With 150 or so residents and numerous officials in attendance, Mineola swore in Mayor Strauss and Durham into their second terms. Walsh, a former NYPD cop, attended his first budget session as a rookie trustee on April 2.
All three terms run until 2015.
Walsh was the first to blow the whistle on the Federal Railroad Association failing to cover freight train cars carrying debris. A May 9, 2011 Mineola American cover story prompted Sen. Charles Schumer’s office to investigate the issue.
Walsh, with his family by his side, thanked his wife Barbara and his family for supporting him in his run for the board seat.
“I’ve been sitting in the room for 10 years down the hallway,” Walsh said gesturing toward Village Hall. “At the age of 62, I decided to run. I’d like to thank Mr. [Larry] Werther for his 10 years of service. I’m happy to join this group of Mineola High School graduates. I have to thank [Mr. Pereira] for figuring out that we have something like 250 years of living in Mineola on this board.”
The board honored former Trustee Larry Werther, who was in attendance, during the ceremony. He lost out in the at-large bid for trustee against Durham and Walsh.
“Mineola has always been a good place to grow up, to raise a family, to invite business to thrive in the village and to age in particular,” said Walsh.
State Senator Jack Martins, a former Mineola mayor, swore in Walsh.
“You look for people who would step up,” he said. “You look for opportunities where people can take their life experience and hopefully join this board and make things a little bit better. You look at people like Dennis Walsh who take that leap, who aren’t afraid to join this board…it is a difficult job.”
Strauss called Walsh a “great addition to the board” and feels he’s an “asset to the residents in his new role.”
Durham is part of a fourth generation Mineola family and graduated from Mineola High School in 1981 with Strauss. Son of Fred and Josephine, he has been married for 17 years to his wife, Donna, and has two children, Brandon and Shannon.
“The first few years have been a learning experience that I think we handled well,” Durham stated. “Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy, plus several snowstorms, but we made it through. The mayor has put first-rate plans in place for disaster recovery and [Tom] Rini and the DPW have done an amazing job.”
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.
“Major construction in the downtown is underway,” Durham said. “Winthrop is leading the way with its diabetes center, followed by the Winston and the Churchill and the 250 Old Country Road [apartment complexes].”
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.
Durham has managed an MAA softball team since 2005 and won the Mayor’s Trophy in 2008 for dedication and devotion to the youth of Mineola.
Former Mineola Mayor Robert Hinck swore in Durham for a second time since 2011.
“George, your service here, is marked by your extraordinary commitment and devotion to our youth,” said Hinck.
Strauss served for 20 years in the New York City Police Department. He retired as a detective in 2004 and currently handles security for the North Shore Long Island Jewish Hospital system. Strauss received numerous awards including the NYPD’s Medal for Valor and the Medal of Honor, the NYPD’s highest award.
He is a 32-year member of the Mineola Fire Department. He served as assistant chief, chief of department and as lieutenant and captain.
Strauss touted the village’s financial workings, noting Mineola upgraded its bond rating in 2011, but admitted challenges lay ahead. The village is currently putting together a budget to be adopted in May.
Strauss noted downtown revitalization initiatives the village undertook, including residential developments near the Mineola Train Station.
“We’re seeing smart growth in our village,” he said. “These are things that are desperately needed all across Long Island and 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.”
He was recognized twice as Company No. 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. Nassau County Clerk Maureen O’Connell swore in Strauss.
“He’s such a humble person and it’s always an honor to talk about Scott,” O’Connell said.