It is with a heavy heart that I write to pay tribute to neighbor, citizen, political gadfly and Greenport Zoning Board member Arthur Tasker. We met Arthur and Lucia soon after moving to Greenport at a neighbor’s backyard gathering, and then became intrinsically linked as Greenporters do when faced with challenges — this time in the form of Hurricane Irene, which left his Sandy Beach home without power while the rest of town had the lights on. They borrowed our generator and sweetly made us cookies and shared a bottle of wine as thanks when the ordeal was over. I’d see Arthur around town or at village meetings and we’d exchange pleasantries.
Before he was on the ZBA, Arthur would attend many meetings, including the site visits. It seemed to me that his legal background fueled his passion for the role of the ZBA in our government. In a classic Greenport moment, when Arthur came bounding up the driveway at a ZBA site visit, he saw us, smiled and wondered why we had suddenly become so keenly interested in the work of the ZBA. When we told him we were the buyers-in-waiting on the application before the ZBA, his whole mood softened.
Arthur embodied everything I love about Greenport and Greenporters. He was tough, he was engaged, he did his homework, but he also welcomed you once you showed that you also loved the place and were committed to it. He had that way of letting you know that you were never going to be a real Greenport native, but you were OK anyway.
In the meeting room of the Third Street firehouse, Arthur was a fixture, always dressed nattily, always prepared to do battle for his cause. I always point to Arthur as an example of how democracy is supposed to work. You bring your receipts, you argue your point and the people up at the dais typically will listen and consider your ideas. Arthur could be tough on us, for sure — usually my colleagues more than me, but I think that’s just because I had picked up his pet project of expanding the sewer across Stirling Creek.
I’m not sure how much our motivations for supporting that project aligned, but I do know that Arthur recognized a mutual interest and used this as an opportunity to create the change he wanted. Week in and week out, Arthur put on a clinic in what it means to be a good citizen, including his careful consideration and analysis on the ZBA — perhaps one of Mayor Hubbard’s best appointments. Particularly since the onset of social media, we hear lots of empty talk about politics nationally and locally intended to pass as civic engagement.
Arthur was the epitome of walking the walk. I believe he made us better as elected officials, which in turn made the village a stronger organization and operation. The late Congressman John Lewis encouraged us to get into “good trouble,” and Arthur was the Greenport version of that. I’m sure Arthur will be missed at village and town meetings in the months and years to come. All of us can honor Arthur’s legacy by striving to be even half as engaged as he was in the workings of our local governments. Get up to that podium and give ‘em hell when you have to! But just like Arthur, let’s do our homework, bring our receipts and keep it respectful. My sincere condolences to Lucia, the Tasker family and everybody in the Village of Greenport and Southold on this great loss.
Doug Roberts, a former Greenport Village trustee, is the founder/CEO of The Institute for Education Innovation, a national think tank of public school superintendents. He lives with his wife and daughter in Northport.