Herbst steps aside after 48 years of public service

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Vernon - posted Thu., Oct. 17, 2013
Marie Herbst receives a standing ovation at her last meeting as a member of the Vernon Town Council on Oct. 15. Photos by Steve Smith.
Marie Herbst receives a standing ovation at her last meeting as a member of the Vernon Town Council on Oct. 15. Photos by Steve Smith.

At its meeting on Oct. 15, the Vernon Town Council recognized its members who will not be returning after the elections in November. Mayor George Apel acknowledged each council member and presented them with a Town Council proclamation, thanking them for their public service. Council members Judy Hany, Thomasina Russell, Steven Peterson and Dan Sullivan were each individually honored, as Apel read the proclamation along with a brief synopsis of their public service careers.

The most notable was Marie Herbst, who began in 1965 as a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission. She was first elected to the Town Council in 1975, and served as Vernon's mayor for four terms.

In 1987, she was elected as a 35th District state senator, representing Vernon – an office she kept until 1993. She returned to the Town Council in 1995, completing an unexpired term, and then was re-elected nine consecutive times to the Council.

As she accepted her proclamation, Herbst, a lifelong Democrat, joked that it was rare that she would stand next to a Republican.

Apel said he began with the Town Council in 1993, and while he was serving with Herbst, she had her hands full trying to keep a rookie in line.

Herbst said that her husband of 69 years, Paul, made her service to Vernon possible, because he was "kind enough" to take care of their family of five children. She added that she enjoyed her time in public office. "It was, in all honesty, a journey of love," she said. "I love this town."

Herbst said she grew up in Mount Vernon, N.Y., and was a member of the Sacred Heart parish there. When she came to Vernon, her parish was also named Sacred Heart, which she saw as a "guiding light," telling her that being a part of Vernon was the right thing to do.

She added that she has always felt supported by the people of Vernon, especially after her son was injured. "That's when I really and truly understood what kind of people live in this town," she said.

After the meeting, Herbst joked (or perhaps only half-joked) that with her free time, she might still come to council meetings and badger the council in citizens' forum.

Herbst said her family had actually urged her to run for another term, but she felt it was the appropriate time to step back. Naturally, she has mixed emotions, but there is also a sense of relief about knowing that she is doing the right thing at the right time.

"At my age, there comes a time," she said. "There's a time, and you have to feel it and do what your heart is saying."

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