MAHOPAC, N.Y. — “I am a lifer; I’m one of the rare ones,” said Regina Morini, about her life in Mahopac. “There are not many of us left.”
Morini’s resume of community service is lengthy and impressive—it ranges from the political to an array of service clubs and organizations, many of which the 80-year-old has been a part of for as long as she can remember. But one of those entities—the Mahopac Library Board of Trustees—will sadly no longer have her services. When elections were held last month, she decided it was time to retire and did not seek reelection.
Morini served on the Board of Trustees for seven years. She has also been a member of the board of the Mid-Hudson Library System, where she served for 10 years, stepped down, and then was later re-elected and served five more years.
“I am going to retire from that as well,” she said. “I am not going to run again.”
Morini said she always wanted to be part of the library in some capacity because she feels libraries are vital institutions to any community, noting that their role has changed over the years.
“I don’t know what these little towns would do without these libraries,” she said. “The Mahopac Library is now the center of the community. The schools used to be. When I went to school everything was held at the schools, but they aren’t anymore. A lot of tutoring gets done at the library. They have flower shows, an art exhibit every month. Thousands of people every week go through that door. It’s the busiest place in town.”
Morini was a Putnam County legislator back in the ’90s and it was then that she was approached to join the Mid-Hudson Library System’s board.
“As a legislator, I was involved in trying get funding for the libraries, so [joining the board] was natural synergy,” she said.
As the libraries began to transition to the digital age, Morini said, many were desperate for money.
“When the libraries started to get involved with computers it was hard to get funding for them,” she recalled. “It was a big expense.”
Though stepping down from the Mahopac Library board was a bittersweet decision, she felt it was simply time for some fresh blood with fresh ideas to take the reins.
“I feel it’s time for young people to get involved,” she said. “I sought out younger people to run and thought we needed some people with financial background, so we got Scott Weiss to run. And I had my niece, Elizabeth Costello, run—she’s a local attorney.”
Morini has fond memories of growing up in Mahopac.
“It was really a resort town; we had about seven hotels all around the lake,” she said. “There were winter people and summer people. And Mahopac School was all one school. It’s where Lakeview Elementary is now and it housed everyone—K through 12.”
In the late ‘70s, Putnam County created a charter form of government, which called for the position of county executive to be established. The first Putnam County executive, David Bruen, asked Morini to be his assistant. That position later became known as deputy county executive.
Morini, who also worked in the private sector as a title closer for a title company, held that deputy executive position for eight years. In 1990, she decided to run for the county legislature as a Democrat and she won.
Morini said she feels party affiliation has no real place in local politics, but she understands its part of the process.
“I started as a Democrat, but switched to Republican because it’s hard for a Democrat in Putnam County to get elected,” she said. “It’s hard for them; there’s no money, so there is no help. But I won with both parties.”
She stepped down from the county legislature in 2007, but notes she saw a lot of “big changes” in Putnam during her 18 years there.
“I remember when we signed the watershed agreement with New York City and when the county bought the Putnam Golf Course, and bought the farm in Brewster—the Benedict farm,” she said. “The main purpose was to keep green space to prevent a lot of development. You should know I served 10 years as the only woman in the legislature.”
Morini, who has three grown children and eight grandchildren (four of whom live in California), said her time as a legislator was positive, noting that lawmakers were more bipartisan in those days.
“I thought it was very rewarding,” she said. “I was an old timer so people felt free to call me and I was able to help with a lot of issues. We were much less partisan. It didn’t matter what party you were in; people would help you.”
Morini is also a member of the Lake Mahopac Rotary Club and Lake Mahopac Garden Club, which she calls “the oldest civic groups around.”
“I like the Rotary Club for what they do in the community,” she said. “It is a well-respected international organization. I have been a member since 1988 when they first allowed women. One of their goals is stopping polio worldwide, which is a very strong interest of mine. I had a sister who had polio when she was young. There are very few counties left that have it.”
Morini was honored by the Garden Club last month at its annual luncheon for her service with that organization.
“I’ve been a member for 50 years,” she said. “I am not leaving, but I am taking a back seat. I won’t be on any of the boards, but I am still a member.”
Morini has also spent several years a member of the Putnam Hospital Center’s Board of Directors. But, she says, it’s now time for a less hectic lifestyle.
“I am going to do things at my leisure,” she said. “I will still volunteer, but I will do it on my time. I will do things when I want to do them, not have to do something at 10 in the morning on Tuesdays. I’ll also go to California and visit my children and grandchildren.”
Morini said she’s proud of her town—and not surprisingly, the library remains at the center of her heart.
“I think Mahopac has a lot to offer but the library has been a terrific addition to the town,” she said. “If I sold real estate I would bring people to see the library if they were thinking about buying a house here. It’s a great selling point for the town. There is something for everyone there. They have some wonderful programs.
“I read a lot and [the library] just got some new furniture and you can sit there overlooking the lake and read quietly,” she adds. “And you will find me there a lot.”