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Engineer agrees to continue with town

John Cronin’s boat went into the water early this year. He wanted to be sure it was ready for his targeted retirement date of June 28. The boat will be ready, but that doesn’t mean Mr. Cronin will be setting sail as frequently this summer as he had planned.

Instead, he’ll be back at his desk for what he expects will be the next two-and-a-half years as Shelter Island’s town engineer.

It’s not exactly a sentence to a job he couldn’t wait to leave, he told the Reporter Tuesday morning. He loves engineering and has enjoyed his time working for the town.

Supervisor Gary Gerth and Town Attorney Bob DeStefano Jr. came calling to ask if he’d consider trading in his part-time engineering job for that of full-time town engineer and postpone his retirement plans until the end of 2021.

One concern Mr. Cronin harbored was that November’s election could mean a change in administration and a new supervisor might want his own team at Town Hall. He spoke with the man seeking to unseat Mr. Gerth, Gerry Siller, who has occupied the supervisor’s seat in years past and is the Democratic candidate to return to that office.

Mr. Siller indicated his comfort with Mr. Cronin remaining in the job, clearing the way for the engineer to respond positively to the offer Mr. Gerth and Mr. DeStefano had put on the table.

What finally influenced his decision, he said, was that people seemed to have a good feeling about the direction the town was headed and he felt he had a role in helping create that attitude.

He also wanted to make changes in the engineer’s role, including becoming a member of the Water Advisory Committee, which will help give the committee more technical expertise. He’s pleased with the appointment of Mike Bebon as committee chairman, saying he brings technical and managerial talents to the role.

Mr. Cronin has observed a movement by the current Town Board to begin to change the way committees function. He wants to continue to see a deliberate path toward appointments of people with specific knowledge of each committee’s responsibilities, he said.

The next step in that direction, as Mr. Cronin sees it, is to allow Town Board members to continue to serve on committees, not just as liaisons. It’s a means to use their expertise on issues and their managerial strength.

“Leadership can evolve but you have to focus on it,” Mr. Cronin said.

He would like to have training for potential committee members that provides volunteers with a better understanding of what’s expected of them and the skills they need to contribute to the work.