New year’s Eve was a day for the Shelter Island Town Board to celebrate two public servants — one who chose to retire and the other who will continue serving in other capacities, but no longer as a Justice Court judge.
State Senator Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Judge Helen Rosenblum — who has long served the town, initially as town attorney and later on the Justice Court bench — were saluted for their years of contributions to Shelter Island.
Supervisor Gerry Siller called the presentation of proclamations to the two public officials “bittersweet,” noting the intent was to celebrate the two in person, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced virtual presentations via Zoom.
Ms. Rosenblum was the first person appointed as a town attorney in 1986 when then-Supervisor Jeffrey Simes asked her to take the job that was meant to be part-time work. She remained on the job for 16 years and was there during the first terms of Mr. Siller who said that when she focused on an issue there was “nobody better” to get practical matters accomplished.
She was always advocating for what was best for Shelter Island, Mr. Siller said.
For 16 years, Ms. Rosenblum handled major revisions to the master plan and the zoning code. She also was volunteer attorney for the Shelter Island Fire District, a role she continues to this day, and became involved as a volunteer with the Red Cross EMS squad.
In 2003, when Town Justice Edward Hannabury died, the Town Board appointed her to the bench and she was subsequently re-elected, carrying endorsements from both Democrats and Republicans.
She has also served on the regional Drug Court, working to help rehabilitate people who otherwise might have been sentenced to years in jail.
“It has been an honor serving this town,” Ms. Rosenblum said at the New Year’s Eve presentation, clearly emotional as her years as a judge has come to an end.
“Thank you very much for the honor,” she said about the proclamation. “It means a lot to me.”
Mr. LaValle was working 22 years ago on gaining State Senate approval of the legislation constructed by Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) to create the Community Preservation Fund, which has enabled a tax on new property buyers to fund purchases of land in the five East End towns for protection against development.
The same fund in more recent years has allowed money to be used for water quality projects.
While Mr. Siller is a Democrat and Mr. LaValle a Republican, the two set party affiliations aside in working for programs and policies that have served Islanders.
In opting not to seek another term after serving in the state Senate since 1976, Mr. LaValle was hailed as a man who fostered education, health care and the STAR program that enables tax cuts for seniors and disabled residents.
He has brought much money to Shelter Island for development of Taylor’s Island and road paving, among other efforts.
Deputy Supervisor Amber Brach-Williams thanked Mr. LaValle for his guidance in her own political career.
Mr. LaValle praised Shelter Island as a “very special place” and said from his first visit to Taylor’s Island, it had become special to him. He has also directed money to the Shelter Island Library that he said has served seniors and other residents through the years.