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Bondi Honored for Decades of Service to Putnam County

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Former Putnam County Executive Robert Bondi basks in applause Tuesday during a special ceremony at the county office building in Carmel. He was honored for more than 30 years of public service, 20 of which was as county executive.

Praised by friends, colleagues and prior staff, former Putnam County executive Robert Bondi was honored last Tuesday with a plaque in the lobby of the county office building recognizing his more than 30 years of service.

In his trademark understated style and dry sense of humor, Bondi thanked the many department heads and hundreds of county employees who helped make his two decades memorable and successful.

“Over the years I had the opportunity to work with a lot of great people and that includes over 500 rank-and-file employees of the county,” Bondi said during the ceremony to unveil the plaque. “They are the ones that certainly did all the work.”

Bondi was Putnam’s third and longest-serving county executive, after the charter form of government was instituted in 1979. His tenure in the post, from 1991 through 2010, followed 11 years on the Putnam County Legislature, including two years as its chair. He also served for years as a firefighter for the Mahopac Volunteer Fire Department.

During his 20 years as county executive, two of Bondi’s most notable accomplishments were preserving Tilly Foster Farm in Brewster, turning it into a destination county facility that serves as a farm, education center and location for the culinary arts, and the 6,800-yard, par 71 Putnam County Golf Course in Mahopac.

Before the ceremony, Bondi toured various sites around the county with current County Executive Kevin Byrne to reminisce and to witness how Putnam has continued to evolve in the 13 years since he left office.

Byrne said Bondi served as a role model, having gravitated to public service. He also wanted to show his appreciation to Bondi for making people’s lives better and for the help that he still provides.

“As someone who grew up in Putnam County, I just want to say, thank you, Bob,” Byrne said. “We appreciate all your years of service. I appreciate the time you give me on the phone when I call for advice, the vision that you have that you’re willing to share.”

Among those who attended Tuesday’s ceremony were Bondi’s deputy county executives – Dan Birmingham, Frank Del Campo, Paul Eldridge and John Tully – along with a videotaped message from Don Smith. They credited Bondi, a Republican, with leading the county through challenging times such as the economic crisis the last few years of his stewardship, along with his willingness to listen to all sides of an issue, including from Democrats.

“As long as I’ve known him, either as deputy or a department head or a colleague working for him, and as a friend, Bob always instilled mission and vision and what was in the best interest of the citizens of Putnam County and doing his best to always maintain fiscal conservatism,” Tully said.

He sometimes differed with members of his own party as well. Eldridge recalled that he and Bondi sometimes had different approaches to the same issues, but it was Bondi who would take the steps to incorporate the best ideas from everyone.

“I have always admired you, Bob; I continue to admire you, and you were wonderful for this county, and I’m particularly happy about the fact that Tilly Foster Farm was preserved,” Eldridge said. “That could have been condos, and that could have been single-family homes, and Bob had the foresight to save it and to have it for generations to come.”

While preserving Tilly Foster and the golf course along fiscal priorities among his top successes, Bondi was elevated to county executive by vehemently opposing a landfill that the county was planning to site in Patterson in the late 1980s. Patterson residents overwhelmingly supported Bondi to help him secure victory in his first race for county executive in 1990.

“It’s really because of the people in the Town of Patterson that I built the career that I did, and I think about that all the time,” Bondi said. “I tried to live up to your standard.”

Current County Legislator Ginny Nacerino (R-Patterson) said the town has forever been grateful for those efforts some 35 years ago.

“He went to the wall for the Town of Patterson, and Patterson has never forgotten that,” she said.

Shortly after his service as county executive ended, Bondi moved to upstate Steuben County, where he owns and operates an organic dairy farm with his wife Mary Lou and their son, Matt. They own about 100 cows, he said.

Bondi said his philosophy about governing and making decisions was very simple – help people.

Despite now living several hours away, Bondi’s heart remains in Putnam County.

“I’m just very grateful for having the opportunity to serve here in the community that I was in and to work with so many wonderful people that have had such an impact on my life,” Bondi said.





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