CLIFTON SPRINGS — Oh, it sounds corny, which Clifton Springs Mayor Bill Hunter will be the first to admit.
But Hunter, 84, who has served as mayor of the village for 26 years and is retiring Wednesday, believes it.
“I just really, really enjoyed my time but it’s because of the village,” Hunter said. “I sound sappy, but good God, I was born and brought up here and raised four children. I have a love for the village of Clifton Springs. Every time it became time to run again I said, ‘Oh well. What else have I got to do?’
“I worked very hard because of my village.”
Hunter, who taught American history in Canandaigua until retiring after 32 years with the district, was first elected mayor in 1995, although he had served on the Village Board in the 1970s. At the time, he was also selling real estate and so quit the board, as he felt it was a conflict of interest.
And he has overseen a lot of change over the years, from the building of a brand new firehouse to the complete rebuild of streets, a pickleball/basketball court, new solar power field, the closing of a water reservoir and selling of that property, and more.
Hunter also kept a watchful eye over the everyday stuff that tends to be overlooked but helps make a village special, such as keeping the sewer plant in “super shape” and up to date, laying thousands of sidewalks and replacing trees.
A history teacher by trade, he was a math teacher when it came to village finances.
“One of the things I’m proudest of in 26 years, I’ve never returned a phone call,” Hunter said. “Were there times I didn’t want to return a phone call? Amen, brother. I always felt that I worked for the people and the people deserved an answer.”
And he places credit where credit is due.
“Our employees, honestly, do a great job,” Hunter said. “The village has very, very good help. I can’t say enough about it.”
Village Clerk Lori Reals said Hunter has put his heart and his soul into serving the people of this community for 26 years and is a guy who gets things done. It doesn’t matter what.
“We’ve watched him meet tour buses, shake hands with sixth-graders at DARE graduation,” Reals said. “If he’s invited to something, he does his best.”
All the while, maintaining a self-deprecating sense of humor. After a bit of give-and-take with Hunter over the village newsletter, which Hunter initiated during his tenure of him, Deputy Village Clerk Linda Rider ended up on this occasion, and others, laughing.
“He has the best sense of humor,” Rider said.
A storyteller, Hunter explains how a few of the people behind the scenes over the years helped get things done in the village, including conversations and motivations and, his voice dipping to a conspiratorial whisper, “it’s not for the paper because it’s too involved” followed by a laugh.
And there are many stories to be told. How about the memorable time a few years back when thousands of crows found the village home, which prompted a few days of “finding out how to get rid of them.” And they had to find out fast because the people were none too happy about their new, noisy neighbors.
“They didn’t last too long and they couldn’t last too long,” Hunter said.
And he can take a joke as well as criticism.
His wife works the polls for village elections, during which a big vote will have 200 votes. He asked her about one election and she said one person wrote, “Anyone but…” as he laughed in the retelling.
You can fill in the blank.
“I knew exactly who it was,” Hunter said.
Hunter said he will miss the job, but the time is right to retire.
“I think it’s important to know it’s time and I’m leaving on my own terms,” Hunter said. “I’m going to miss the people. I have a pretty good interaction with the people. I think (and he places extra emphasis on the word think) the people like me.”
Reals said no matter your purpose for being in Clifton Springs, Hunter wants it to be a positive, pleasant experience.
“I don’t know that you’ll find a person who loves Clifton Springs like Bill Hunter loves Clifton Springs,” Reals said. “He truly cares about all the people who work for him. He cares about all the people who live here and have businesses here or come here for work or come here to visit a loved one in the hospital.
“He’s made a huge difference in the community, with lots of things big and small.”
Longtime Clifton Springs Mayor Bill Hunter officially retires March 31, a day before the village’s fiscal year begins April 1.
The Village Board is expected to appoint a mayor early in April.
The mayoral appointee will have to run next year for a full term.