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WRITE ON WEDNESDAY
Former Pittston Mayor Tom Walsh.
When I found out that Tom Walsh, former Mayor of Pittston passed away on Monday night, I asked Wil Toole to pen a few words. What better person to give you an insight into this good and humble man than an individual who worked closely with him during his time as Mayor. As usual, Wil Toole delivered with a thoughtful and poignant comment about the late Mayor who touched so many lives. Here’s Wil’s piece:
Pittston City Mayor Tom Walsh passed away this week and it is a passing that digs deeply into my heart.
I've know Tommy (as he was known to his friends) my entire life. My father being old enough to be his father enjoyed Tommy's company and my Dad being an outstanding handyman, appreciated Tommy's abilities as a plumber. He became my Father's adopted son and together they enjoyed life before TV made us all couch potatoes. They were close enough that Tommy's son received his first Train set as a gift from my father. The rifle that Tommy hunted with was also a gift from my father. It was impossible to know Tommy Walsh and not like him.
Tommy was elected a member of city council and served up until the time Mayor Loftus resigned. Tommy was then elected and was reelected mayor several times. He retired from public office on December 31, 1997.
The people of Pittston know very little of what Tommy did as mayor and they certainly have no idea of the thousands of dollars he saved the taxpayers because of his professional knowledge and ability. During his time as mayor, he spent his time fixing city hall plumbing, repairing the winter damage done to the city pool and offering advice to various city contractors. I recall one instance in particular when the city had ordered a new fire truck and later it was discovered that the truck could not fit into the firehouse garage. Two engineers were called to look at the firehouse structure and both said the required renovations could not be made. Tommy said, not to worry, he would fix it. A few months later, the then fire chief came to my office and told me we had to cancel the fire truck because nothing could be done to get it into the garage. He insisted that the city would be embarrassed when the truck was forced to sit out in the rain and snow. My reply to him was that if Tommy said he could fix it, he could fix it. What was the conclusion? Tommy adjusted the driveway approach, made adjustments to the door and the ceiling and the Fire truck was parked in the firehouse. That was 20 years ago and those renovations that Tommy did remain intact and working. More than people could ever understand, Tommy was very interested in the day to day operation of the city. Every workday at 6 PM, he would either stop by my office or call me for an update on what went on that day. He did the same thing with the Chief of Police who was Ed Doran at that time. I have no doubt that he knew more about what was going on in city government than any other member of his administration.
When Tommy left office, the city was just about debt free, had all new equipment in the street department, the department of sanitation, police department and I've already spoke of his contribution to upgrading the fire department. What he was most proud of is that the city's long range plan had been completed under his stewardship and Main Street from William Street north had been rehabilitated and plans were being made for going south on Main Street. The first part of that project was completed with the purchase and demolition of the old deteriorated buildings where the Tomato Festival is now located. Tommy retired before further improvements could be accomplished. The fact that the city operated a full Street and Sanitation Dept and had a full time open city hall was much to his credit. The police department was double the size of today's force. People could enter city hall 24/7 and speak to a police desk clerk. Today, city hall is locked up at 4PM and taxpayers need to take time from work to tend to their business.
My last conversation with mayor Walsh was him shaking his head that Pittston went from debt free to the crippling debt that now exists and from low taxes to the highest tax community in the County including the county itself. Tommy Walsh was a proud veteran of WWII, a proud mayor and a proud resident of Pittston City. Speaking for myself, I strongly admired Tommy Walsh and I will keep him in my thoughts and prayers to my own very end. My most precious memory of Tommy was his constant sense of humor. One day he asked me about a particular project and I told him I was up to my ears and needed help....... his reply? Call 911. That was Tommy Walsh.
Wil Toole is a former Pittston City official and candidate for Luzerne County Council as well as a frequent contributor to newspaper opinion pages in this area.