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Village gatekeeper to retire after 20 years

By Jackie Lupo
TIM LAMORTE/RIVERTOWNS ENTERPRISE

Susan Maggiotto sits at her desk at Hastings Village Hall.

 

When Susan Maggiotto shows a visitor around the Hastings Village Hall, she knows the history of every paint color on the walls and every piece of upholstery on the furniture. She ought to, because she picked them out 18 years ago, when the building was gutted and renovated, then redecorated under her direction.

Now, at 70, Maggiotto is retiring from what she calls her “home away from home” after 20 years as village clerk and deputy village manager. She announced her retirement to Village Manager Fran Frobel at the end of December, and her last day of work will be Feb. 24. “It’s time — I have a lot of travel plans, and it will be nice to have a lot of time with my family,” she told the Enterprise. “I’ll leave my files in order.”

Maggiotto’s capacity for order is no small legacy, and it’s certain that she will leave her mark in ways far beyond the striking blue-grey paint in the municipal building’s corridors. “The clerk has a lot of statutory responsibilities,” she explained. “You are the records keeper, and because we have such a small staff here, we each wear a lot of different hats.”

Her office, on the left just inside the front entrance, is the typical visitor’s first stop on any kind of official business. “My office is the gatekeeper,” Maggiotto observed. “Everyone comes to the village hall and pokes their head into my office. People want human contact. They just want someone to talk to. That’s a huge aspect of the job — being the face of village hall to the public. You want them to leave with a good image of what the village is.”

Maggiotto was well established in Hastings when she became a village employee. Originally a high school English teacher in her hometown of Buffalo, she and her husband, Lou, an attorney in Bronxville, moved to Hastings in 1978. They have four children and nine grandchildren.

During her years as a “stay-at-home mom,” she was one of those Hastings volunteers without whom the village doesn't quite function, serving at various times as president of the PTA and the League of Women Voters. When then-Village Manager Neil Hess offered her a planning position in 1990, “I figured it would be nice to have a part-time job,” she said. “I was at a little desk right outside Neil’s office. I saw the parade of people every day.”

Hess saw her aptitude for dealing with the public and suggested she go into municipal management. She attended Pace University at night and earned a master’s degree in public administration, then went to work as the administrative assistant to Scarsdale's village manager from 1994 to 1997.

“After Mary Callas, the longtime [Hastings] village clerk, retired after 15 years, Neil changed the position to deputy village manager/village clerk,” Maggiotto recalled. “I was interested.”

Maggiotto was happy to return to Hastings Village Hall in 1997. The “parade of people” she met came and went over the years, and Maggiotto developed special bonds with residents, village staffers, and members of other organizations. “We’ve had a complete turnover in village hall since I started,” she mused. But old relationships are sometimes strongest: she mentioned how pleased she was to be invited to a recent fire department function. “I have a lot of friendships with current people, and those who are not here anymore. It’s been so enriching to meet so many people, and I think it says something about Hastings.”

The challenges keep the job interesting even after many years. “I’m always getting something new,” she observed. “Someone always comes up with a new question or a new problem. It’s been a great opportunity to view humanity in all its permutations.”

If anything has changed about Hastings since the Maggiottos relocated from the Upper West Side of Manhattan almost 40 years ago, it’s the point of origin for families moving to the village today.

“People used to move here from the Upper West Side,” she observed. “Then it was people who moved from the Upper West Side to Riverdale and then to Hastings. Now it’s Brooklyn; but those are the kind of people who would have lived on the Upper West Side before, but then it got too expensive! In the whole time I’m here, only two people have ever told me they moved from the Upper East Side. It tells you a lot about the values of the people here.”

The always well-organized Maggiotto is now keeping a book of “things to do,” both large and small, after Retirement Day. For example, she is looking forward to improving her piano skills. “A few years ago I became an adult piano student, and I would love to spend more time practicing every day,” she said. “It gives me enormous pleasure to sit at the piano and play beautiful notes that Bach wrote, or Mozart. It’s like magic to me.”

There’s another thing Maggiotto is looking forward to once she returns to private life: “I’ve had to be apolitical as the village clerk because I run the elections, so I never contribute to political parties and I don’t sign petitions,” she explained. “Now I’ll have the freedom to do that and be more active.”

On the other hand, Maggiotto will miss pulling into her parking space and looking at the Palisades. “The other thing I love — my little reward for staying late at night at meetings — is that I have this clear view of Manhattan. I feel like it’s such a gift to see that from here.”


Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of the Rivertowns Enterprise. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.


 

February 10, 2017

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