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Clarkstown Dedicates Meeting Room In Honor Of Shirley J. Thormann

Earlier this week, I had the great honor of presiding over a ceremony dedicating a meeting room in honor of the late Shirley Thormann. Fittingly located just outside the Planning Department in Town Hall, the conference room contains some great mementos of Shirley’s pioneering work and dedication to the Town of Clarkstown. The
ceremony was well attended by the Thormann family, friends, former co-workers, and County Executive Ed Day and served as another reminder as to how much I miss her friendship and professional guidance.


I have such tremendous respect for Shirley, both as a friend and as a public official that it’s difficult to know where to start singing her praises. So let’s start with her accomplishments during her tenure on the Clarkstown Planning Board. Shirley J. Thormann served the Town of Clarkstown as the first female member of the Planning Board from 1974 to 1983, and then served again from 2004-2018. She was appointed as the first female Chairwoman of the Planning Board from 2005-2016. Under her leadership, Clarkstown received the Pace University Land Use Law Center Founders Award in 2011 and the New York State Planning Federation Comprehensive Plan Award in 2012 for the 2009 Clarkstown Comprehensive Plan. Shirley also served as Chairwoman of the Town’s Citizens Advisory Board on Housing, as an ardent advocate for affordable housing for seniors as well as those with special needs.


Shirley’s working career began when she started teaching at P.S. 59 in the Bronx followed by White Plains High School. From the late 1960’s to 1987, she found her home teaching American History at Convent of the Sacred Heart Prep School in Greenwich, CT. Shirley advanced in her career to become the head of the Upper School, and subsequently served on the school’s Board of Trustees from 2004-2005. Her experience here served her well in solving problems, communicating with people,
and making intelligent and informed decisions true to her convictions.


Not only did Shirley excel in the education field, she was a tireless public servant and civic-minded individual. She held many titles, including Civic Association President, Cub Scout Den Mother, Altar and Rosary Society at St. Paul’s Church, CCD Teacher, Ladies Auxiliary at Nyack Hospital, Meals on Wheels volunteer, Grace Episcopal Thrift Shop volunteer, Birchbrook Day Camp Director, Trustee of the Valley Cottage Library Board and as a Board member for the Hi- Tor Animal Shelter and Pipers Dream Animal  Rescue. Clearly, Shirley cared deeply about her community and stepped up time and time again in order to serve it.


I had the honor of meeting Shirley in 2001. We served together on the Citizens Advisory Board in 2002 and then on the Planning Board for five years. We became fast friends, and Shirley was more than willing to mentor me. Even though we were from different political parties, we had much in common. We both believed in good, honest government and shared the ideology that it was important to work across the aisle. And I soon learned that Shirley was a master in the strategy and importance of proper
planning in the Town. Shirley was a whirlwind of determination and conviction. She let you know exactly where she stood on an issue and why. She would fight tooth and nail to get the results she wanted, but at the end of the day could put her differences with anyone aside and treat them with respect and kindness. That seems to be an increasingly rare trait in politics and government, and it’s one of the things I admired most about Shirley, and one of the traits I miss most about her presence today.


Shirley’s legacy goes well beyond what I can list here in a short column, and well above what the dedication of a meeting room can do to honor her. But each time I pass the
Shirley J. Thormann room, I will be reminded of her remarkable achievements and service to the Town of Clarkstown. I will smile and remember her fondly for both her guidance and her friendship.


If you find yourself in Town Hall, please take a moment to stop in and view the dedications and memorabilia honoring Ms. Thormann and her incredible contributions to the Town of Clarkstown.