Any transition is unsettling. You are straddling the fence between looking toward the future and looking back to determine your final legacy before moving on.
Harrison Mayor/Supervisor Joan Walsh is facing a particularly momentous transition. After 35 years in public service, she will be transitioning to private life on Dec. 31 after her second term as mayor.
Walsh is hoping to make her final days in office count. She continues to take a strong stand on issues she sees as critical to the well being of the town, including the conservative fiscal approach she hopes to see continued after she has gone.
“The national economy remains uncertain and many in our community are still suffering financially. I hope the new board will continue to be financially conservative and maintain the gains that we have worked so hard as a community to achieve over the last four years,” she said.
Looking over her two terms as mayor, Walsh can cite achievements she is proud of as well as some disappointments.
“My greatest satisfaction is that I was able to contain spending and thus reduce the town’s debt,” she said. “We watched every dollar and it shows. That was what I was elected to do and we did it.”
But Walsh said there are things that she wishes she had more time for. She will leave office during a critical time in the MTA project's development plan. At the end of the year the future of the project will be placed in the hands of the new administration.
It's a project she will keep an eye on even after leaving her position.
“After years of trying to upgrade the downtown by many administrations, we finally have an opportunity to begin the renaissance of the business district," Walsh said. "I worry that the new administration will stop it.”
There are other projects that have gained little momentum over the last four years, which Walsh says has been frustrating.
“My greatest frustration is the state of limbo that exists for the beaver swamp brook field," she said. "It was before a NYS DEC Judge before I took office in 2008 and there is still not a decision as to what we can do there.”
As to the future, Walsh is excited to be able to spend time at home with family and friends. She said she is especially looking forward to spending time with her husband.
“I am particularly looking forward to getting to know my husband again," she said. "I look forward to time together with him and other family and friends. We used to have dinner parties 10 to 12 times a year and large gatherings two to three times a year. I can’t remember the last time we did either.”
Walsh began that family time with a recent trip with her daughter, but found that the transition from public official to private citizen is not always instantaneous. She said she spent part of the trip analyzing things like parking plans, sidewalk repairs and other town maintenance issues.
"It's one of the residual effects of being mayor," she said with a laugh.
With her time in office quickly coming to an end, Walsh said she has enjoyed her time in the public light, but now is the time to look toward the future.
“I will finally have the gift of time,” Walsh said. “And after the last four years I know just how precious a gift that is.”