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Richard Sush

Richard Sush
Saying Goodbye

By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO — July 14, 2006 – After five and a half years as the Village of Monticello Manager and a staple in the community and political scene for many more, Richard Sush told his board Monday evening that he would leave on August 11.
The move will end his reign as the longest-serving manager in at least two decades for the village.
It followed skirmishes between him and trustees Gordon Jenkins and Scott Schoonmaker over the new budget. Both trustees have been harsh critics of Sush for some time now. They unsuccessfully attempted to oust him last year.
But Sush was considered a major asset by Mayor Jim Barnicle, and he kept the confidence of the majority of the board, which also includes Victor Marinello and Brian Vandermark.
Barnicle said that Sush’s vigorous campaign to improve code enforcement will be remembered as his greatest achievement.
Barnicle was a trustee on the board when Sush was first hired. A number of buildings were crumbling at the time. Sush led the hiring of a full-time code enforcement officer, and a second one was put into the new budget this year. Home improvement grants also led to many of the village’s worst eyesores being replaced or renovated.
Despite all the work, there was always more to do. And the complaints never ended at village board meetings. Even Jenkins said the constant pressure of local citizens on the board and the manager can be a burden.
“It’s not an easy job. You have people on your back all the time,” said Jenkins.
Barnicle said Sush “has been a perfect fit for the village. . . . I will still lean on him for advice.” He said the two were casual friends when Barnicle was elected as mayor but eventually became close friends.
“He brought integrity, a breadth of knowledge and respect to the village when there was a yearly turnover of managers,” complimented the mayor.
Barnicle said he believed Sush will be remembered well over time.
“This is a tough community to deal with. I think he’s had enough. He leaves with his head high and goes out on his own terms.”
Barnicle also credited Sush with being able to establish a great rapport with department heads.
“He did a lot with a little money,” added Barnicle.
In an interview, Sush stated that he had been considering leaving the village almost his entire tenure.
“It’s a long time coming,” he stated.
His involvement in different projects kept him here longer, he stated. The village’s new firehouse and the reconstruction of Pleasant Street and Broadway (which will begin next year) were some of those projects.
“I didn’t like all that was negative here,” said the manager about the time when he first started.
Indeed, the village has had no shortage of problems with a high rate of poverty, crime and empty storefronts on Broadway.
“I wanted to do my part to make it better,” he said.
Back in 2001, the code enforcement officer only worked a few hours a week, he said. Homeowners were not forced to comply with zoning regulations. Improving code enforcement became his top priority.
“People want to move to a nice-looking community. We’re not done, but we’re fighting 30 years of neglect. . . . On any street in the village, there are houses that have been redone. We are light years ahead of where we were,” he said.
Another big effort by Sush was to go after property owners who were not paying taxes. When Barnicle took office, the village merged its grants department and treasurer’s office with the Town of Thompson’s, saving money and ultimately getting its finances in order. And he described the village’s police department as “second to none.”
For all of his work, though, there were constantly complaints at village meetings from residents, not to mention his battles with Jenkins and Schoonmaker. A 4.9 percent tax increase this year heightened tensions. And previously, he clashed with former Mayor Gary Sommers.
“Unfortunately, what’s happened in the village is that residents have abrogated their own personal responsibilities to determine their own future. That’s not government’s role. ... We aren’t supposed to make people wealthy and paint their house,” he stated.
By example, he pointed to some non-religious store owners on Broadway who are closed on Saturdays in the middle of the summer, the busiest shopping period of the year.
He noted the time he sent a letter to local eateries asking them to keep their storefronts clean of garbage. One restaurant owner brought the garbage to Village Hall and dropped it on the front desk. He told the village to stop those who were littering in front of his establishment.
“If folks are not willing to take an active role in their own village, then you get what you pay for. . . . That’s a real problem around here. We want somebody to save us,” said Sush.
Born in Brooklyn, he moved to Monticello when he was 11. He graduated from Monticello High School in 1964 and went on to Parson’s College in Iowa. He came back to the area and became a gym teacher at Sullivan County Community College. He went back to school and earned a master’s degree in elementary education at SUNY New Paltz and moved to student activities.
While at SCCC, he brought big-name acts to perform for the college at local hotels, like Stevie Wonder and the Pointer Sisters. He was close to bringing in Bruce Springsteen to perform for a school picnic until Springsteen’s album went platinum and he became too expensive. He almost brought Gene Simmons of KISS back to school to receive his diploma. Simmons graduated from SCCC but never received his diploma.
Sush moved into the counseling department of the school, earned his master’s degree in counseling from C.W. Post and became the director of the counseling department for ten years. He was appointed as an assistant to the dean and eventually served six years as Dean of Students. In all, he spent 28 years at the school.
He was also elected to two terms on the Town of Thompson Board and served six years there before going over to the village.
Sush is currently mulling several job offers. He plans on vacationing first and then will consider a move to California or Arizona. He and his wife Barbara have two grown children, Darren and Matthew.
Sush said the new manager should not be political. An outsider will bring fresh ideas to the village, although a local citizen would understand the needs of the community better, he said.
As for his advice to citizens on how to improve the village; he said they should look at their own homes, businesses or apartment complexes like they are doing so for the first time – and ask themselves if this is how they want it to look.
Barnicle said he intends to form a search committee to help locate a replacement. Advertisements may be sent to publications in New York City and elsewhere, as well as Internet sites. A conclusion on the village’s salary limitations will have to be determined. He said the new manager will have to have a combination of intelligence and thick skin.
“It is a tough job,” he remarked.
He said the village would be lucky to find a replacement by December. He isn’t sure who will take over his responsibilities in the interim.
“Richard is going to be a very big loss for the community,” concluded Barnicle.

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