January 23, 2022

Cortland’s Mike Dexter to receive citizenship award

Valerie Puma/staff reporter

Michael Dexter, right, and Cortland High School sophomore Ben McGraff stand beside one of the ‘Triumph’ elm trees planted in front of the school the first Saturday of June.

See a well-trimmed tree in Cortland? You might thank Mike Dexter. City’s Water Works well-decorated? Thank Dexter. Someone to help plant elm trees at Cortland High School? Dexter.

Dexter, a lifelong Cortland resident, will receive the Boy Scouts Distinguished Citizenship of the Year award, recognizing him for his commitment to the greater Cortland area.

Michael Dexter, who has lived in Cortland for 74 years, was nominated for the award by several past recipients, said Edward Brewer, district executive of the Chenango and Taughannock districts of the Baden-Powell Council.

“We are looking for people in the community that give exceptional community service and have made an impact in people’s lives and in the community itself,” Brewer said. “His (Dexter) different gamuts of community service throughout everything he’s done has helped the community in so many different ways — he’s an amazing individual.”

Last year’s recipients were then- Cortland city police Deputy Chief Paul Sandy and Community-Oriented Policing Officer Jesse Abbott for their contribution to the 9/11 monument in Courthouse Park in Cortland, Brewer said.

“Mike Dexter has been a tremendous resource to the community for years,” said Cortland Mayor Brian Tobin.

The event

What: Mike Dexter award dinner
When: 6:30 p.m. Sept. 23.
Where: Tinelli’s Hathaway House, Solon
Cost: $75, available by calling the Baden-Powell Council of Boy Scouts of America at 607-648-7888 or 877-674-8876.

Dexter watched his parents and grandparents give back to the community since he was young, he said. He was baptized and confirmed at St. Mary’s Church in Cortland, graduating St. Mary’s High School in 1965. He attended Mohawk Valley Community College before enlisting in the Navy for four years. In 1972, he was hired by the Cortland Water Board and began his 31-year career as the city’s water meter reader.

“I was the only meter reader and I became the public relations guy at the Water Department because I was able to interact with a lot of the community,” Dexter said. “I made a lot of friends and met new people I never would have met if I was doing work someplace else.”

The bulk of his community service work began at the Water Works through projects like decorating the building on Broadway for holidays, landscaping the grounds and caring for the animals on the property, Dexter said. After his retirement, Dexter continued with those projects.

In his retirement, he remained active in Cortland as chairman of the Cortland Landscape and Design Committee, where he assisted in trimming trees and planting hundreds of new trees throughout the city, Dexter said. He’s also helped decorate Main Street with flower displays and American flags while preparing for Memorial Day celebrations.

“I didn’t like how they were trimming the trees, so I got involved with the commission 20 years ago,” Dexter said.

Dexter has also served as an officer for the Central New York fast pitch softball league for 50 years, volunteered to keep score for the Cortland High School basketball team for 25 years, was St. Mary’s Church custodian for 17 years, served as chairman of the buildings and grounds, liturgy and finance committees for the church, volunteered as usher and lector and assisted both students and staff at the St. Mary’s School and donated more than 240 pints of blood to the American Red Cross, according to a biography written by Abbott and Brewer.

“I became community-oriented by doing a lot of stuff in the community,” Dexter said. “This award I guess means someone recognized some of the things I do in the community.”