Village of Thomas Mayor Robert Stern announced his retirement last Monday effective the next day after 17 years in his current position, citing old age and health problems.
“Next week I’m going into the hospital for surgery and I’m approaching 90,” Stern said in an interview with the Great Neck News on Friday. “I’m getting a little old and I think it’s the right time to give it to the younger people and they’ll be able to do a good job.”
Steven Weinberg, who has served as the village’s deputy mayor since 2002, took over as acting mayor of the village until the board’s Oct. 20 meeting when the trustees will vote on a permanent replacement for Stern.
“We’re going to miss his day-to-day running of the village,” Weinberg said of Stern. “He literally gave his entire life to the village.”
Weinberg, a former Queens assistant district attorney now working for Manhattan-based law firm Gottesman, Wolgel, Flynn, Weinberg & Lee, said in response to a question that he would like to be picked as Stern’s replacement on Oct. 20.
Village of Great Neck Mayor Ralph Kreitzman, the president of the Great Neck Village Officials Association, said in an e-mail “We wish Bob all the best in his second retirement.”
“For almost 20 years he has been a dedicated public servant and terrific advocate for his residents,” Kreitzman added. “He has a standing invitation and is most welcome to continue to join us at Great Neck Village Officials meetings.”
Stern, who is 89 and moved into Thomaston after serving in World War II, said he decided to run for mayor in 1996 after the previous administration had proposed to rip out several sidewalks throughout the village.
“My son came to me and said Elizabeth’s [Stern’s granddaughter] tricycle is going to end up in the middle of the street,” Stern said. “I said we’re going to have to do something about that.”
He said he then began knocking on the doors of the village’s 600 homes, in an attempt to find out what problems people had with the village.
“I did find out that [the residents] had a lot of complaints,” Stern said.
After winning the election in 1997, Stern, a retired retail businessman, said the first thing his administration did was “not rip up the sidewalks.”
He said that in his 17 years as mayor, his administration also tackled stabilizing the village’s economy and repaving village roads.
“I wanted to do these things and I’ve concluded them,” he said. “We have reduced expenses and we haven’t had taxes increased in the last five years.”
Stern also said he’s proud of expanding his village’s Department of Public Works, having built a garage for the department’s vehicles and training its employees.
“We gradually got control of all the public works department,” he said.
The village now has several trucks, street sweepers and other DPW vehicles that maintain the village, Stern said.
In 2011, Stern led the opposition to a proposed $36 million Long Island Rail Road project, which would replace the Colonial Road Bridge in Thomaston and build a pocket-track extension for improved rail service.
Village residents complained of the noise that could result from the project.
But after a year of discussions with Long Island Rail Road officials, Stern switched his position and supported the project.
“The last time this was under discussion they presented us with some architects renderings… they were reasonable and we agreed to them,” Stern said in December 2012.
When asked if there was anything he’d miss about being mayor of the village, Stern said “no” and added that he felt his board will do “a good job running the village.”
“There shouldn’t be any problems,” Stern said. “As long as we keep on top of it, it’s in good shape.”
Reach reporter Anthony O’Reilly by e-mail at email@example.com, by phone at 516.307.1045 x203 and on Twitter @ ORiled_Up. Also follow us on Twitter @theislandnow and Facebook at facebook.com/theislandnow.