Editorial: These people truly make a big difference

Let us begin by stating this very simple truth: A small number of people can bring about an extraordinary amount of good. 

Public advocates, a fireman who pushed past prejudice, a town justice leaving the bench after a long and solid career — these are just some of the people discussed in the pages of our newspapers this week, highlighting the very good work they do and have done in our communities. They give fresh meaning to two very important words: public service.

Each year at this time, Times Review Media Group newspapers recognize people who, in their own unique ways, make sizable contributions to our towns and hamlets. They are people who have made and continue to make real differences in our lives and what our communities look like.

They make things better, in other words. Recall the words of Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does.”
We have made selections in a number of categories. Each of the people chosen was picked for what he or she has done, or continues to do.

Community newspapers have many responsibilities. We have to show taxpayers how their hard-earned money is spent, or misspent; we have to report how elected or appointed officials vote on critical measures, and what ideas they propose to make life better in our communities; and as best we can, we have to hold public officials accountable for their actions, or inactions.

Beyond those lofty goals, it’s also vital that community newspapers write about people who do a world of good — in small ways, like the Greenport resident who picks up trash when she’s out for a run, and in big ways, like Riverhead Fire Department’s first African-American member.

Riverhead police officer Byron Perez, who speaks fluent Spanish, is a bridge between the department and the town’s growing Hispanic community. Richard Ligon, who died last May at 77, was a 40-year member of the Riverhead Fire Department. His application to join the department in the 1970s was rejected. He pushed past that to have a stellar career, as fellow firefighter and Riverhead Town Justice Allen Smith states in our story.

It is no exaggeration to say that the Village of Greenport might not look as it does today if not for the contributions of Mindy Ryan. During morning runs she noticed a lot of trash. She began cleanup efforts, and encouraged others to do the same. Today, she’s also leading the effort to revamp Greenport’s venerable American Legion Hall.

And then there’s William Price, who recently retired as a Southold Town justice after a 36-year tenure that will be remembered long after his departure. Looking at Judge Price’s career, those two words keep coming up: public service.

Here is a good way to end a career. Put this on a sticky note and attach it to your computer at whatever patronage job the taxpayers so generously compensate you for. It is Mr. Price’s two words for Eileen Powers, who has taken his spot on the town bench: “Do good.”

Words to remember.

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