Thirty-one years ago, Garrison resident Ed Doyle followed in his father’s footsteps and began serving as town attorney for the Town of Philipstown. Doyle, who is 65, is stepped down at the end of 2012. He recently spoke with The Paper’s Michael Turton about his career, his observations on local politics and his plans for the future.
The Paper: When did you begin your duties as the Philipstown Town attorney?
Doyle: Jan. 1, 1980.
The Paper: Who was town supervisor then?
Doyle: Tony Mazzuca, Bill’s brother.
The Paper: What is behind your decision to move on? Why now?
Doyle: I’d like the opportunity to pursue other interests while I still have my health and can enjoy them.
The Paper: Are you retiring from practice completely or simply no longer serving as town attorney?
Doyle: I closed my practice in Peekskill. A firm in White Plains has taken over the estate planning and estate administration.
The Paper: What other forms of law did you practice in Peekskill?
Doyle: It was a general practice. In addition to the estate work I did real estate, some business law and in my early years some criminal defense. Before coming to Philipstown I did code prosecution for the City of Peekskill and served as assistant town attorney for the Town of Cortlandt.
The Paper: Where did you attend law school?
Doyle: I graduated from Fordham in 1973.
The Paper: Does the town find itself the target of more legal actions now than 31 years ago?
Doyle: Maybe more than 31 years ago, but for the past 10 to 15 years it’s been very consistent. I didn’t see any great spike. And in court we’ve been very successful as a defendant.
The Paper: Have the types of legal issues that the town deals with now changed much
during your tenure?
Doyle: It’s mostly zoning and planning, and again it’s been very consistent over the past 15 years. Maybe there are more issues in New York City or other urban areas. We’ve been fortunate that way — as a more rural community.
The Paper: This may be a stupid question to ask a lawyer, but do you think people often turn to lawyers too quickly in disputes with municipalities?
Doyle: I don’t sense that. Land is often the most valuable asset people have. People should go to a good attorney who knows the law. If there’s not a viable case, the lawyer won’t advise the client to pursue it. I’m not afraid of individuals going to a lawyer at all — I promote it.
The Paper: In your time with the town, what would you say was the thorniest issue you had to deal with from a legal perspective?
Doyle: One of the trickiest was the old gravel mine on Route 9 — Glassbury Court. Handling that was intricate; negotiations went on for several years.
The Paper: You always seemed very cool, calm and collected at the front of the council chambers. Do you feel that way inside when things got really heated as they sometimes did?
Doyle: Probably no more than anyone else! It’s one of the great challenges of being a lawyer. They teach you that in law school — you’re not supposed to be emotional. You analyze, you know the law and you give advice.
The Paper: Your father was the town attorney before you. How long did he serve in that position?
Doyle: My father, Charles Edward Doyle Jr., was town attorney from 1964 to 1979. He was the attorney for the Village of Cold Spring for a while as well.
The Paper: How big an influence was he in your decision to become a lawyer?
Doyle: I’m sure he was a very big influence. My grandfather was also a lawyer.
The Paper: What would your advice be to a young person contemplating a career in law today?
Doyle: It’s a very demanding profession. It requires extremely long hours and a lot of work, but I think you can say that about any pursuit today. If a person loves what they do, the long hours don’t hurt so much. I do think that the youth today are more aware of a need for balance in their lives — work, family, exercise, fun.
The Paper: What’s the last book you read for fun?
Doyle: I just read Vineyard Prey by Philip Craig. He wrote a series of 14 or 15 murder mysteries, all set on Martha’s Vineyard. It’s fun to read his detailed descriptions of the Vineyard; we go there every year.
The Paper: Do you have firm plans for your retirement?
Doyle: I have certain interests I’d like to pursue. My wife and I would like to travel more — go back to Europe and see more of the National Parks. If you were to ask me the single most awesome thing I have seen, it is to look down the Yosemite Valley. It is magnificent.
The Paper: You just came back from a bicycling vacation in New Zealand. What surprised you about that country?
Doyle: The number of dairy farms – I think they have surpassed sheep. And in Christchurch the damage from the earthquake a year and a half ago is still very evident. Areas are still roped off. Buildings will still have to be taken down.
The Paper: If you could rewind the tape and choose a different career path, what might you have chosen?
Doyle: Law would still be number one. But I think I would have enjoyed being a high school English teacher. I majored in English in college.
The Paper: Local elected officials often receive some pretty intense criticism. Why do you think most people seek public office locally?
Doyle: My observation of the Town Board over the years is that they are an extremely dedicated group of individuals. They want to contribute something to their community — they have very strong feelings for the community. The job has required more and more time over the years. It’s a significant part-time job. I think we’ve been lucky to have such a group, and it’s been a privilege to serve under them.
The Paper: Have you ever considered running for public office?
Doyle: No. I’ve enjoyed being the town attorney immensely. It’s given me an opportunity to give back to the community. My training has been as a lawyer, and I’ve enjoyed using that training and my profession in the civic arena.
The Paper: What is your favorite pizza topping?
Doyle: Cheese. My wife and I like plain pizza.
The Paper: What was the craziest, wildest, most emotional moment that you witnessed in your 31 years of attending Town Board meetings?
Doyle: Well, there have been a few, but I think they were all handled reasonably and the issues resolved.
The Paper: Very fitting that you would answer the last question in such a lawyerly way.
Doyle: [No comment – just smiled]