I want to thank Huntington NOW for inviting me to share some farewell thoughts as an outgoing member of the Huntington Town Board.
Please know that it has been one of my greatest privileges to serve Huntington residents as a Councilwoman over these last six years.
I might never have discovered my love of public service if not for former Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone, who in late 2001, contacted me to discuss the possibility of joining his administration.
At the time, I had nearly two decades of executive level public relations practice under my belt, the last five of which in my own business.
Our country and world were reeling in the unimaginable aftermath of September 11, with dismal realizations of how life had been cut short for thousands that day, while changing the lives of those left behind in an instant.
Unsurprisingly, the universal human realization that “life is (or sometimes can be) too short” response to 9-11 was well-evidenced in its impact on two of my clients in very different lines of business. One was a technology training company that could not train traumatized Wall Street defectors into Information Technology careers fast enough, and the other, a matrimonial law firm whose business had exploded overnight with clients who had mustered the courage to finally end their unhappy marriages.
No question, I had my hands full with a full roster of client work not to mention our then, ten and twelve year-old daughters, but I wasn’t looking to make any career changes.
After learning about the work Supervisor Petrone proposed I could do in his administration, it wasn’t lost on me that what he was offering was so much more than just a job. Frank Petrone was offering me a chance to have a hand in helping improve the conditions in my hometown, and the lives of the people living in it. Those two simple ideas have been driving my work ever since.
And just like that, I found myself sufficiently inspired to join the ranks of those switching their careers in the days and months following September 11.
Over the next twenty-one years, I would go on to enjoy the rare privilege of working alongside some of the best and the brightest minds in the government, education, business and civic arenas.
As I empty my office of papers and mementos that migrated with me after eleven years in the Town Supervisor’s Office, four years as the Director of the Huntington Community Development Agency and then six more as a Councilwoman, I am heartened by a sense of pride and accomplishment, but mostly, overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude for the work I was initially given the chance to do by Supervisor Petrone, and then later, by the voters of Huntington. To both our former Town Supervisor Petrone and the residents of Huntington, I sincerely thank you for allowing me that privilege.
As if this privilege isn’t awesome enough, seeing the names of those with whom I worked closely over two decades pop up time and again in emails and other documents reminds me how exceedingly fortunate I am to hail from an era of Huntington Town government that saw and greatly benefitted from the vision and leadership of community pillars Dolores (Dee) Thompson, Jim Kaden and Ken Christensen, each of whom Huntington sadly lost this year and last. There are many others who have also inspired me but for the purposes of this farewell it is particularly meaningful for me to focus on these three.
Dee, Jim and Ken were giants in their respective fields of business, education and government. They unselfishly spent what should have been their free time or precious retirement years to help us protect and improve Huntington. I am blessed to have been able to spend so much time with these devoted stewards, learn from them, and, ultimately, earn their friendship and trust. They are irreplaceable.
I and Huntington are also fortunate to be served by an exceptionally dedicated town workforce, many now retired but others remaining in service, who labor every day to make little miracles happen in their respective departments, sometimes in the most challenging circumstances. I have been proud time and again to serve alongside them and support or collaborate in their daily efforts.
As I prepare to sign off in just a few days I must give a nod to my loving and patient husband, Greg Cergol. Greg has wholeheartedly supported my professional pursuits during our 37 years of marriage, with work assignments at times sending me as far afield as Russia. Additionally, our daughters Kristina Cergol and Emily Littlefield, together with her husband Jordan, have offered their own invaluable insights and creative contributions. It’s always good to have Millennials at close hand to help direct one’s focus on what’s important to youth and young adults today, really, for the benefit of all of our tomorrows.
And then there is that special group of friends, supporters and colleagues who opted to take the campaign journey with me by serving as managers, advisors and volunteers- or all of the above. It was their belief in me, together with their unwavering support and good cheer that buoyed me through the rough seas. Without these faithful friends, and the Huntington Town Democratic Committee, I could not have done what I have loved doing more than anything ever before. I acknowledge and thank them all.
In my life I have been fortunate to enjoy varied work experiences, mentioned earlier here as a public relations executive, but also, as an adjunct college professor, a book author, a blogger and a business owner. Through these pursuits I learned that one must sometimes take a leap of faith and shift gears into new territory to accelerate personal growth, acquire new knowledge and meet yet more inspiring people. All of these areas fuel my desire to continue writing, creating and learning.
It was one year ago this month, and in this news site Huntington NOW that I announced that a time of transition was once again calling on me and that I would not be seeking re-election to the Huntington Town Board. I could not have imagined then how quickly my final year would pass!
As I plan and consider new endeavors in 2024 and beyond, I will remain attentive and ready to use my voice and knowledge in service to my hometown, as did those mentors before me who taught me by example that our work is never really done until well, we are.
Wishing all a happy, healthy new year.
And again, thank you.