By ASHLEY HELMS
After a 17-year political career, the Mamaroneck Town Council has bid farewell to a veteran councilwoman and avid environmentalist.
Phyllis Wittner, a Democrat, resigned from her position on the Town Council on Feb. 1 after joining the board in 1996. The 82-year-old town resident cited her physical mobility and overall health as her reasons for resigning, but said she will continue to protect the town’s environment; endeavors that she said are still in the works.
“I’m elderly and the parts don’t move well anymore,” Wittner said. “[The Town Council] is too much for me to contend with. However, I am still working at home on environmental matters for the town.”
After completing a career in marketing and merchandising, Wittner said she was volunteering for town boards, including the Coastal Zone Management Committee, and was approached about joining the Town Council in 1996 by Elaine Price, the Democratic supervisor at the time. Wittner said she is happy she joined the Town Council and stressed that campaigning for an election isn’t as arduous as many people think it will be.
“I had to thank [Price] because she took me by the hand and took me through the campaign process,” Wittner said. “I encourage people [to run] who have something to offer the town.”
While on the Town Council, Wittner said she was instrumental in the dredging of the Premium River in Larchmont and creating the Long Island Sound Watershed Intermunicipal Council in the late 1990s. The council is a group of 13 Westchester municipalities located within the Long Island Sound watershed that, like the Town of Mamaroneck, are concerned with protecting the environmentally sensitive area.
Despite her body of work, Wittner remains humble. She said she doesn’t focus on the things she’s done for the town.
“I have done an awful lot, but I don’t dwell on it,” Wittner said. “I just enjoy working with very bright people on the board. They’re great people; they’re well informed and did an excellent job.”
Town Supervisor Nancy Seligson, a Democrat, said she started her career on the Town Council in a way that was quite similar to Wittner’s. Seligson said Wittner was the liaison for the Coastal Zone Management Committee in 1999 while she was a member of the committee and Wittner asked her if she was interested in being on the Town Council. A spot on the board became available after Valerie O’Keeffe, a Republican, was elected as supervisor, and Wittner endorsed Seligson to finish out O’Keeffe’s unexpired term.
“I had never thought about it, but she asked me and I said I would consider it and I decided I was interested,” Seligson said. “We have been good friends ever since.”
Now that she will have more time to herself, Wittner said she wants to continue her hobby of collecting bird-themed postage stamps from around the world. She said collecting the stamps requires a great deal of devotion and anticipates resuming her hobby soon.
“I devote a lot of time to [bird stamps;] I want to know what order they’re in, the family and species,” Wittner said. “It takes a lot of research, its not just putting a stamp on a page.”
Regarding the process of appointing a candidate to fill Wittner’s seat, Seligson said someone will be selected by the board and they will be required to run in the next general election in November 2014. Seligson said the Town Council has been discussing possible candidates and, though she is not at liberty to drop names right now, she said the board will select a new council member quickly.
“We knew [Wittner] was going to leave for a few months. She gave it her all and had great interest in conservation and has been an incredibly committed board member and public servant,” Seligson said.