It was a little over a decade ago Barbara deGrace walked into Valley Stream’s village hall ready to give back to the community she loved. Back then, she could only work part-time, with a busy schedule of personal and family commitments. But work she did.
deGrace retired Dec. 30 as Valley Stream’s deputy village clerk, a role she took on at the height of the coronavirus pandemic after spending years coordinating public information and providing administrative assistance to the mayor.
“Covid was probably among the most challenging periods that anyone in our lifetime has experienced, and Valley Stream was no exception,” deGrace said. “It was very important that we in the village government retained a large role in assisting the public through that terrible time.”
Valley Stream also kept Camp Barrett — the popular local summer camp — and the pool complex open, and hosted concerts throughout that first summer, with social distancing in place.
“It was all because the employees and elected board members wanted to help the public get through the trauma,” she said.
But it wasn’t just government. Businesses had significant struggles during that time, deGrace said, all trying to stay afloat during the lockdown, and the economic slowdown that followed. The village did its part, partnering with the Valley Stream Chamber of Commerce, connecting people to the vital government resources that were sure to help.
All of that meant taking on a greater role assisting both the mayor and the village clerk with the day-to-day functions of the village. But it was good teamwork that got deGrace through. And, with the help of others, working for — and with — the village has been a “great honor.”
During her time with the village, deGrace watched as the village grew from 38,000 people to 40,000, making Valley Stream the third largest village in the state behind Hempstead and Freeport.
“It’s easy to see how the day-to-day operations can be quite demanding,” deGrace said. “A large part of my job was to assist in getting accurate information out to the residents, staff and media whenever there was a need — which was all the time.”
Mayor Ed Fare has known deGrace since he was first elected in 2011, and described her as a “consummate professional whose contributions to the quality of life for our residents was evident in her approach to all she did in her work with us.”
deGrace started her career with the village part-time to ensure she had enough time for her family. Now, she looks forward to spending even more time with them. But says she won’t be far. Because in Valley Stream, it couldn’t be any other way.
“Our motto was, ‘We are all in this together, and we will get through this together,’ and we did,” deGrace said. “Working with this team of government professionals has been a great honor.
“I will miss the day-to-day interactions that have enriched my time with the village. But there are only so many hours in each day, and I am now blessed to have an opportunity to spend important time with my new grandson. That is where my energy will be spent.
“However, I have warned everyone at work, I’m always around.”