Thanks, Dick Rapp and those who celebrated him

To the Editor:

I would like to express my gratitude, first to Richard H. “Dick” Rapp for his 50 years of dedicated service to the Town of Westerlo.

Next, I want to thank the people of Westerlo for celebrating the dedication of the town hall to Richard H. Rapp on Saturday. Over 100 people attended a very moving ceremony, which highlighted many of Dick’s accomplishments. 

Last but not least, I want to thank all the behind-the-scenes people who made it happen:

— Members of the Dedication Committee: Laura Tenney, Debbie Theiss Mackey, Kelley Keefe, and Palma Schloer;

— The Westerlo Fire Police who assisted with traffic control and parking;

— Laura Tenney and Elaine Nevins for the beautiful flower arrangements; and

— Ken Mackey and Kevin Slingerland for providing transportation from the parking in the town parking to the ceremony.

Mary-Jane Araldi



At the June 29 ceremony dedicating the Westerlo Town Hall to Richard H. Rapp, between the speeches given by Congressman Paul Tonko, State Senator George Amedore, former Assemblyman Jack McEneny, and Westerlo Fire Chief Tom Diedrich, Mary-Jane Araldi gave this speech, tracing the arc of Rapp’s half-century of public service.

Following 26 years with Hudson River Construction Company, Richard Rapp served as deputy commissioner of public works for Albany County for seven years and as Albany County Commissioner of Public Works until 2000.

From 1964 to 1970, he was elected short-term assessor. Starting in 1970, he served three consecutive two-year terms as town supervisor. Starting in 1976, he served eight consecutive four-year terms as town supervisor, retiring in March 2019 — for a total of over 50 years of public service in Westerlo.

During Dick Rapp’s tenure, his leadership shaped the town milestones. Shortly after Dick’s first term began in 1970, he orchestrated the town’s purchase of 60 acres of the Goodfellow Farm for $5,000 for our town park. In 1975, the pavilion was built.

The bathrooms and water well were added in 1983 from a donated cash grant from the Hackett Foundation and later in 1988 following installation of the Iroquois gas line, a $52,000 recreation grant was used for tennis courts, ballfields, and playground equipment. The pavilion has also been frozen and used for ice skating.

Back in the day, the town meetings were held in Modern Woodsman Hall and in 1980 and sensing the need for consolidation, an addition was added to the current highway garage to accommodate the town offices and a meeting space.

In 1982, Dick’s foresight preempted state Department of Environmental Conservation’s impending landfill regulation. The town closed our landfill and we began the recycling era. The transfer station allowed for effectively disposing of our refuse while at the same time promoting recycling and was a step ahead.

In 1983, following the death of Harold Bell, Bell’s Store was donated to the town to be used as a library and the Westerlo  Library and museum was born. The town library has grown in popularity and purpose and remains a gathering place for residents.

In 1987, Dick began the connection with our sister town in Belgium. Quite by happenstance, our attention was drawn to our namesakes abroad. Mr. Rapp reached across the sea to promote a relationship that has continued for over 30 years.

March of 1988 found the town in receipt of property from the Blaisdell family. What was once the site of the Clearview Speedway in the fifties would now be the Blaisdell-White Town Park in South Westerlo.  The pavilion was added in 1990.

In 1989, under Mr. Rapp’s guidance, zoning was brought to the town of Westerlo. This new concept of zoning was foreign to our residents and very controversial. Following several public hearings, Local Law 1 of 1989 was enacted and Westerlo began to take charge of its future.

In the early ’90s, Westerlo leaped into the exciting world of cable TV. Supervisor Rapp spearheaded and responded to the residents’ interest and negotiated our first cable contract with Mid-Hudson Cable. Since then, the town has added WiFi and expanded our coverage areas and continues to move forward to provide a greater coverage area.

In 1994, Dick encouraged the celebration of the town’s 175th birthday.

In January 1996, Westerlo purchased the Percy House at 978 Route 401, the oldest structure in town.  It was to be home to the Westerlo Town Museum. With the help of the Museum Committee, it has grown to a lasting record of the history of our town.

In 2005, the Westerlo hamlet community was in desperate need for a system to provide clean drinking water. The town sought and was granted over one million dollars to begin Water District 1. With Supervisor Rapp’s leadership, the town has been able to provide safe drinking water to our hamlet residents who were without.

In 2010, Richard Rapp highlighted his accomplishments by seizing the opportunity and purchasing the Berne-Knox-Westerlo grade school from the school district. Through a series of grants, the town purchased the school building for $145,000 and spent an additional $165,000 of granted monies to transform an aging old school building into a functioning center of town government at virtually no cost to our residents.

Dick again encouraged a celebration of the town’s bicentennial in 2015.

Throughout all of this, Dick remained a devoted husband to Pat, father to Sue and Debbie, grandfather  and great-grandfather.

From their inceptions continuing on, Supervisor Rapp has been committed to supporting our fire company and rescue squad and their tireless volunteers.

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