Town, Booth say their goodbyes
On the verge of tears, Wayne Booth concluded his final meeting as Town of Newburgh supervisor Monday night with a sharp rap of his gavel – according to Booth, the first and only time it has been used in his 12 years in office.
Booth, who is stepping down to become deputy Orange County executive, serving County Executive Steve Neuhaus, explained that he favors a more civil approach to governing. As such, he said he never saw the need to use the gavel to maintain order at meetings.
In fact, shortly after assuming reins of the town 12 years ago, his first order was to decommission the town’s archaic three-light warning system that had been used to limit public comments at Town Board meetings to three minutes. Under the system, the light changed from green to orange with 15 seconds remaining – and to red, precisely at three minutes.
For Monday’s meeting, Booth brought back the old warning system and set it out on a table, a symbol of the progress the town has achieved in the civilized treatment of its citizens during his 12-plus years as supervisor.
Booth recalled that in 1992, he started his career with the Town of Newburgh Building Department. Over the next 22 years, he served in a number of capacities, survived eight elections and received “an educational experience in human nature that no world-class university could have equaled.”
Booth took the opportunity to thank a lengthy list of persons he credited with helping him succeed over the years: the various town council members, both present and past, who have served with him over the past 12 years; the town employees, Town Supervisor Robert Kunkel and the 1991 Town Board, who hired Booth to his first town job; and to all the department heads, town employees and consultants who have served the town over the years.
“For the past 22 years I’ve had the pleasure of working side by side with some of the most dedicated professionals available anywhere,” he said. “Though we may have disagreed from time to time, and sometimes more often than not, we have always set aside any differences and have always accomplished our mission of providing the Town of Newburgh the best result possible.
“Whether it was trimming the budget to meet the changing economic times, manning the trucks on snowy winter events or responding to the many natural disasters, hurricanes, tropical storms and tornadoes, you have never let the town down, you have never let me down. Together we have built on the parks systems in the region, blazed trails for recreational use, built water filtration plants, and protected the quality of life for all our residents.
“I’m eternally grateful and will never forget you.”
Booth said, “every leader needs his support from within.”
“My internal support has been my family and my friends. My immediate family; my Rock of Gilbraltar, that I’ve always leaned on — Teri, my wife, not only my wife but my partner, and my part-time psychiatrist. She’s always supported my decisions without reservation or hesitation. This may reflect a lack of judgment on her part, but I thank her from the bottom of my heart for her love and understanding.
“I love you … and you’re stuck with me forever.”
Booth made an apology of sorts to his children for his chaotic schedule over the years.
“In spite of all this, they’ve managed to succeed.”
Board members were quick to heap praise on Booth.
Deputy Supervisor Gil George Woolsey Sr., the most senior council member, said, “we used to fight like brothers, but there isn’t anything that we wouldn’t do for each other. I want to wish him all the best and all the success he can have and I certainly understand why someone wants to better themselves. For that, I say congratulations and good luck to you.”
Piaquadio recalled his experiences in 2001, when he ran against Booth for supervisor in the primary — and lost.
“In 2003, I was elected as a councilman,” Piaquadio recalled Monday. “I was fearful that the acrimony from the 2001 election would still exist. I remember Wayne’s words well. ‘The people elected us to work together.’ And we have always done that since.
“I want to thank Wayne for serving our country as a sergeant in the Marines, thank Wayne for the outstanding family and type of man that he is. I want to thank Wayne for his work and dedication to this town. Wayne started as a park ranger and after 22 years is leaving as supervisor with the distinction of holding the supervisor’s position for longer than any of his predecessors.”
Piaquadio quoted Town Clerk Andrew Zarutskie:
“The County’s gain is the Town’s loss.”
Councilwoman Betty Greene said she wanted to tell Booth how much she will miss “her supervisor.”
“It has been a pleasure to work with him as a town councilwoman. I started out working with him as the receiver of taxes,” she said. “He was always a knowledgeable person to go to; I’m not belittling Mr. Piaquadio, but the Town will miss him. Gil has big shoes to fill, but I know that he can do it and we will all help him.
“One of the nice things that I will always remember about Wayne Booth is, Wayne, you are a true gentleman and it has been my pleasure to work with you and I wish you well in Goshen.”
Council newcomer Paul Ruggiero said, “I didn’t have the pleasure to work with Wayne. I didn’t get a chance to fight with him. Really wanted to, but I didn’t get that chance and I want to say congratulations and I hope you’re a phone call away when we need you. You’ve really made a difference for the town. I thank you for that.”
Zarutskie said that he thought that he had said everything to say that there was to say about Booth at the reorganization meeting in January.
“I want to echo what our four council members said and repeat what I said in January.
“I do not impress easily. Very few folks impress me, but Wayne Booth from the first day I met him, has impressed me with his demeanor, his charisma, with his balanced leadership and his judgment. There are times dealing with Wayne I wished I had become a Marine. The Town’s going to miss him. Someone asked me if I consider Wayne the greatest supervisor in Town history. Well, I’m not prepared to make that statement, but I think he’s the greatest supervisor during my lifetime. We’re going to miss him. He’s leaving big shoes to fill. The only compensating thing about his leaving is that we know the county’s going to benefit from his experience and leadership.”
Roseanne Smith, the person Booth credited with convincing him to run for town clerk 14 years ago, said:
“Wayne, I just want to wish you luck. We worked together a long time. We had a lot of disagreements, but you were always a gentleman, a professional. You led this town in the right direction. Our loss is the County’s gain. But we’re winning by getting Gil and I just wish you all the best. I know you’re going to do your best for the County.”
Booth, admitted being on edge for his exit as supervisor.
“It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve the residents of the Town of Newburgh for the past 22 years, and to have served with the Town Board for the past 12 years,” Booth said.
“At least I get the car now,” said Deputy Supervisor Piaquadio. “I’ve waited six years for it.”
“With all 106,000 miles on it,” quipped Booth. “Just like brand new.”
By ALLAN GAUL