This month will bring a whirlwind of bittersweet occasions for Village of Malverne Mayor Patti Ann McDonald.
McDonald will, for the first time, be the grand marshal of the Rockville Centre parade to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day — one of her favorite holidays — on March 25. At the same time, March is also her birth month, as well as that of her late husband, New York Police Department Detective Steven McDonald, who died two months ago after suffering a heart attack.
March also marks 10 years since Patti was elected mayor of Malverne, a position she enthusiastically pursued after eight years as a village trustee. Her husband encouraged her to seek the post. “Steven was always my biggest cheerleader,” McDonald said, her voiced tinged with emotion.
Asked what she considers her most notable contributions to the village, McDonald, a native Malvernite, mentioned in passing $380,000 in grants that she helped secure for a 2008 village-wide beautification effort. “No one is looking for a pat on the back when we do these things,” she has said in the past. “We just do them.”
She does not mention her efforts to keep the Long Island Rail Road’s West Hempstead line operational during weekend service cuts that started in 2010. “I really believe if we hadn’t kept talking about it, they would’ve said it wasn’t such a big deal, and they would’ve cut back a little bit more and a little bit more, until it was gone,” she has said.
As far as McDonald is concerned, her greatest achievements and responsibilities have been focused on people — on making connections with the folks who are part of the village every day. “I can’t take credit for everything in the village, she said. “I can take credit for working with people.”
She is quick to acknowledge that her successes are in large part due to the team of village government employees and officials who make the village tick. “It’s the people that I work with that help run the village — they are the front line,” she said, adding that Terry Emmel, the village clerk, “was one of the best decisions we ever made.”
“Terry and Jill [Valli], and all the ladies — they make the village what it is today,” McDonald said.
“And Paul Jessup,” she continued. “Talk about someone who loves the village.” Jessup has been supervisor of the Department of Public Works for nearly two decades.
Throughout her tenure as mayor, McDonald has showcased the talents of the village’s younger residents. At last month’s board meeting, she asked Maeve Ledwith, 7, to perform several Irish step dances. She also gave young Malvernite Matteo Ventrudo, 4, a favorite police figurine owned by her husband on what would have been his 60th birthday. Matteo, who underwent several brain surgeries, was honored by both the mayor and the village police, who gave him a police uniform, hat and badge.
At most village events — whether it’s a 9/11 service, the annual holiday lighting or another occasion — a Malverne child’s artistic talent — singing, dancing, painting or otherwise — is part of the program. “We want people here to know that your government interacts with you, and we care about you,” McDonald said. “We really do care.”
Asked about life in Malverne over the past 10 years, June Inglese, a 34-year village resident, said she sees no change, which is a good thing. “I see it pretty much staying the same, which is the way most of us like the village,” Inglese said. And, as for McDonald, Inglese added, “I think she’s hands on. I don’t know her personally, but we say hi when we see each other in the street. I know she loves the village. Her heart is in the right spot.”
Donald Pupke, who served as Malverne’s deputy mayor when McDonald became a trustee, recalled, “I was impressed at the outset by her quiet competence and sincerity. However, in complete candor, at moments I had my doubts that she would make it, because she was almost too shy and too hesitant to speak in public settings. I look back at that now with humor because her shyness is long gone, but her sincerity and quiet competence has remained.”
A 16-year resident named John, who did not wish to be identified by last name, had only accolades for the mayor’s work. “The spirit of the place, the parades, all the different things that she does, the flags and the flowers all around here, it beautifies the place and it’s a nice gesture,” he said. “It’s a very nice place to live. And her family — they’re a credit to the community.”
In Malverne’s history, only one mayor — Stewart Morrow — has served longer than McDonald. Morrow was mayor from 1974 through 1986.
Asked whether she planned to surpass his record, McDonald replied, “My plan is to finish out my two years, so, if not beat him — then join him.”