At last meeting, Philipstown supervisor hears tributes — and questions

Presiding over his last formal monthly meeting on Dec. 2 as Philipstown supervisor, Richard Shea received tributes, standing ovations and a round of song. 

Richard Shea

He also repudiated a resident’s criticism of both the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival plans for a new home and town government oversight of that project.

In an email the next day, Shea summed up the evening as “one for the record books, by turns weird, wacky, inappropriate and touching.”

First elected supervisor in 2009 after eight years as a member of the five-person Town Board, Shea did not seek re-election this fall and will leave office Dec. 31. Board Member John Van Tassel, who ran unopposed in November, will succeed him. 

During the meeting at Town Hall, Shea’s colleagues passed a resolution honoring him, prompting a standing ovation. Sandy Galef, whose state Assembly district includes Philipstown, presented a proclamation declaring him “an exceptional individual”; an aide to Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a Philipstown resident, brought similar recognition from Capitol Hill; and Putnam County Legislator Nancy Montgomery, whose district includes Philipstown and part of Putnam Valley, provided a statement attesting to her personal appreciation. 

Van Tassel called Shea “a role model for me; a role model for this board. You’ve taught me to listen” to the public and sometimes change an intended course of action as a result, he told Shea.

Councilors Judy Farrell, Robert Flaherty and Jason Angell separately praised Shea and the board gave him an antique map of Putnam County. Fred Martin, a resident, led the audience in a round of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.”

Shea responded by expressing appreciation to fellow board members, who “make my life easier and make your life better”; to Galef and other elected officials; and to residents for taking an interest in town affairs. 

“The great thing about local government is that we get to paint our future,” he said, before a second standing ovation. “You can have direct impact in your community.”

The board also saluted Judge Stephen Tomann for a quarter-century of service to the Philipstown Justice Court and awarded him a ceremonial gavel. Tomann, who could not attend the meeting, “is just a super-steady person,” said Shea. “As a justice, that’s what you want, this impartial, objective individual. Good justices are very hard to come by.”

During the public comments that ended the meeting, Garrison resident Joe Regele challenged HVSF’s plans to develop the former golf course at The Garrison into a theater and arts campus. He noted that the festival has applied for a special-events permit from the Town Board to stage performances in a temporary tent in 2022 and 2023 while Planning Board scrutiny of HVSF’s proposed permanent facilities continues.

“What opportunity does the public have to address a special permit?” Regele asked, claiming that the application is “full of inaccuracies and misstatements.” He urged that, “before a decision is made,” the Town Board explain how special-event permit approval relates to the review by the Planning Board, which, he said, has been “overwhelmed” by information from the applicant. 

Shea acknowledged that he supports the HVSF project, but noted he will not be on the Town Board when the special-event permit application comes up. He said there would be a public forum on the review process and pointed out that Planning Board meetings are open to all. “That’s democracy: You show up and get informed,” he said.

As Regele returned to his seat, he flipped off Davis McCallum, the HVSF artistic director, who was sitting in the audience.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Armstrong was the founding news editor of The Current (then known as in 2010 and later a senior correspondent and contributing editor for the paper. She worked earlier in Washington as a White House correspondent and national affairs reporter and assistant news editor for daily international news services. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Areas of expertise: Politics and government