After nearly 15 years, Dec. 27 marked Richard Tupper’s last day as Cortlandville town supervisor.
Tupper, who oversaw large commercial and industrial growth during his time, decided not to run for re-election in November.
Tom Williams took over Wednesday as supervisor.
Tupper’s decision came in part so he and his wife, Barbara Tupper, a retired Barry Elementary School teacher, could spend time traveling to Florida and Europe.
“I think I could have stayed on for as long as I wanted, but my wife was right,” he said. “I think it’s time.”
Tupper was first elected to the Cortland County Legislature in 1982. He served as the chairman of the Legislature from 1990 to 1996 before leaving the Legislature in 1998.
He was elected to the Cortlandville Town Board in 2005 and was appointed supervisor after former supervisor Ray Thorpe died in September that year. He was unopposed for re-election.
Tupper said that his time as supervisor experienced a “fabulous growth period,” with the building of Walmart, Lowe’s, Gutchess Lumber Sports Complex and Ted Testa Park.
“We like to think we are the industrial and commercial heart of Cortland County,” he said.
In 2015, Cortlandville agreed to swap 6.1 acres on Route 281 with Gutchess Lumber for nearly 100 acres near Gracie Road and Route 13 for the creation of the sports complex. Four baseball fields, six multi-use fields and walking trails, among other amenities, are planned for the park.
It wasn’t Tupper’s first foray into park-building.
Planning for Ted Testa Park, which originally opened as Starr Road Sports Complex, began in 2000 after a survey from town residents found that youth athletics were the most commonly requested public service. The park opened in 2008 and was renamed after town board member Ted Testa in 2012.
Tupper, said former town board member John Proud, “was instrumental in spearheading a number of projects for the town,” including the sports complex.
The creation of Ted Testa Park also saw the creation of Little League Baseball teams in the town.
“There were no Little Leaguers in 2007 when we started,” he said. “Now there are 300 Little Leaguers on 16 or 17 teams.”
Still, his time wasn’t without challenges.
In March, the state comptroller’s office released an audit stating the town of Cortlandville improperly spent $22,600 in public funds in 2015 to create a boat launch on then-board member Greg Leach’s private property in Blodgett Mills.
The state Constitution prohibits spending town money for the benefit of private parties, the comptroller said, and the town failed to put up signs indicating the boat launch was for public use, nor was it listed on the town website.
Cortlandville Town Board member Douglas Withey said that while he enjoyed working with Tupper, he wished that Tupper was more transparent, especially in regard to Gutchess Lumber Sports Complex.
“The first time I heard about it, the plans were already on the wall of the town hall,” Withey said. Withey ran for supervisor in the General Election in November.
“I’m happy for him,” Withey added. “I’m happy for his retirement and his health.”
Tupper’s immediate retirement plans will mostly involve golf, he said. He will join Town Board member Ted Testa in 2020 to raise funds to expand Gutchess Lumber Sports Complex, Testa said.
“He’s always had a great demeanor” when working with people, Testa said. “He really knows the town laws and town people.”
Testa said he was most impressed by the growth that occurred under Tupper.
“He was a good board member from day one,” Testa said. “Our tax rate is good. In Cortlandville, we’ve got a lot going on.”
More than anything, Tupper will miss the people he worked with.
“The town’s employees are incredible group,” he said. “I call them my Cortlandville family. We’ve got great staff who can run things very well. They help make things easier.”
His advice for the incoming supervisor?
“You got good people here. Listen to the department heads. They have been here for many years. You’ve got to let them have a little bit of a free hand.”