The village and state paid tribute to the longest tenured mayor in its nearly 200-year history and announced they will be naming a park in his honor.
During an emotional ceremony that kicked off the village Board of Trustees’ July meeting, some 50 people crowded into the board room to say thank you to former Mayor Ernest Martin, and present him with a plaque and proclamation for his 40 years of service to the community.
Martin served as village Trustee from 1983-1992, and then mayor for 23 years before being replaced by Mayor Rick Nelson in the spring.
“For those of us who love history, this is it,” said New York State Senator Kathleen Marchoine, who represents Stillwater in the 43rd Senate District.
“I’m honored to be here to recognize a man who will always be known around here as ‘the mayor.’ Hardworking, dedicated, trustworthy and always putting his community first — those are the qualities that make Ernie Martin the very definition of a public servant.”
Marchoine made a special appearance in Stillwater to honor Martin, a long-time friend, and present him with a state proclamation for his service, which also included stints on the village Rescue Squad and as a sergeant with the Stillwater Police Department.
She also made a surprise announcement that the Major Dickinson Park playground known as the “sand lot” would be named in his honor. Just before Martin left office he had worked to secure a $50,000 grant to upgrade the longstanding park that had fallen into disrepair.
With Marchoine’s help, Stillwater was granted the “member item” funding in the 2015-16 New York State budget. The money will be used to give the park a facelift and upgrade the playground equipment.
“In his letter asking for funding, Mayor Martin said the project was crucial for making the park even safer for local children,” Marchoine said. “As always, Mayor Martin was concerned that children had a safe and fun place to play. In many ways the park is a legacy to his record of service.”
Machoine read the state proclamation, which included a long list of accomplishments made during Martin’s tenure. Among them were the village’s new water system, new sidewalks in the northend, the G.E. PCB lawsuit victory, and more.
“This honor today, I’m very humbled, but I really don’t deserve a lot of it,” said Martin, with tears in his eyes. “We all know one man can’t do it alone, it takes a team. You have to have excellent people around you and that I had. I have been very lucky in my life and career, I can’t emphasize that enough.”
“I wanted to be mayor because I wanted to keep this village alive,” he continued, with his wife Darlene by his side. “This village means a lot to me. I spent 40 years volunteering here. I love it here. I raised my family here, and I am going to die here.”
Trustee Judith Wood-Shaw, who helped organize the tribute with a special cake, presented the mayor with a plaque on behalf of the village and its Trustees. “It has been a pleasure and honor working with you over last four years,” Wood-Shaw said. “Your dedication and love for the residents is an inspiration to all of us.”
Also on hand were former Mayor David Rathbun, who Martin served under as Trustee, and Village Historian Linda Sanders, who thanked Martin for his help in establishing the Stillwater Blockhouse during his time in office.
“We want to thank you for your support of local history and finding a permanent home for the Blockhouse,” Sanders said. “Now we have a beautiful historical park to be proud of.”
As part of the Stillwater Revitalization Committee, Martin will help oversee the park renovations at Major Dickinson in coming months, along with other committee members to be appointed by the Village Board.
In other business July 21:
- Trustees held a public hearing on the village’s grant application for state funding to help pay two-thirds of the cost of replacing one of its water storage tanks (and water pipelines) that has corroded an reached the end of its service life. The total cost of the project is estimated at just over $550,000. The grant application is for $363,440, and the village would pay the remaining $188,000. No one spoke at the public hearing.
- Trustee John Murphy reported that the and Department of Public Work Foreman Matt Rifenburgh have completed a survey of village streets and put together a spreadsheet ranking the streets in terms of their condition. From this sheet, and public comments, the village will put together a five-year plan for street improvements based on need. Mayor Nelson asked that residents look over the survey (pdf) and contact the village to “campaign for their roads” if they believe there is an error. “We’re not (governing) in a box here,” Nelson said. “We want input from out residents on this.”
- Trustee Wood-Shaw reported she is forming a committee to oversee the playground improvements at the new Ernie Martin Park on Major Dickinson. The village received a $50,000 state grant to overhaul the park and purchase new playground equipment. The committee will put together a plan for the improvements, survey the village and order the new equipment, she said. Trustees also passed a resolution authorizing Mayor Nelson to negotiation with the owner to purchase or have a small parcel of land adjoining Ernie Martin Park donated to the village to expand the park.
- Trustees approved the appointment of Barbara Kennedy, Steve Marshall and Angelo Zullo to the village Zoning Board of Appeals.
- Mayor Nelson said he continues to investigate the purchase of new signs for the village in time for the fire departments 150th anniversary in September and the village Bicentennial in April. He also said the village is looking into acquiring smaller “directional signs” to install at various places directing tourists and newcomers to various attractions like the library, village hall, Blockhouse Park, etc.