May 18, 2020
Dear NCBA Members:
Happy Monday everyone! I hope you enjoyed the beautiful summer weather this weekend. As June is quickly approaching, I am nearing the end of my NCBA presidency. I would like to take this time to share with you my final President's Column that was featured in the May issue of the
. A digital copy of the issue can be found
NCBA Presidential Farewell
It seems like a century ago when I started my term as NCBA President. I remember our BBQ at the Bar last September, with members and guests densely populating the lawn and our Domus Ambassadors sharing the history of our incredible building. The whole world was ours to enjoy, brimming with adventure and opportunity. Our trip across the pond to hobnob with our colleagues in London will always stand out as one of the greatest travel experiences of my life.
I am winding down my presidency under very different circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we live and work in profound ways. Domus, the home of the Association for 90 years, is temporarily shuttered. Rather than packing for travel abroad, we started suiting up in masks and gloves just to leave our houses. At a time when I should have been easing comfortably into the position of Immediate Past President, I found myself thrust into the position of having to mobilize personnel and resources to deal with an unseen enemy threatening to destroy everything we built over our 120-year history.
With Domus closed and events canceled, we needed to quickly adapt to a new stay-at-home world. With the courts open only for emergencies and our clients suffering financially, many of our members were scared for both the present and the future. This was a time of need, for the NCBA members and for the community at large. It was a time to step up to meet unprecedented challenges.
And step up we did. I can’t adequately thank all the people who enabled this Association to confront and overcome the obstacles we faced. But I will do my best. First and foremost, Liz Post, NCBA’s Executive Director, was incredible. I couldn’t have asked for a better soldier-partner. We were in the foxhole together, on a daily basis, on days, nights and weekends. Even when COVID-19 hit Liz personally, she continued to fulfill all her duties at the very highest levels. We are so blessed that she was our Executive Director during this time of crisis!
In order to provide information and professional education to our membership, we needed to transition the Nassau Academy of Law. Jen Groh, our NAL Director, was tireless in her efforts to quickly create and expand our CLE on Demand and virtual Academy of Law to allow members to access Academy programs from their home computers. Thank you, Jen, not just for that, but for always having my back throughout my term. You are truly a treasure, both to me personally and to this Association. Under the leadership of Jen and our terrific Deans, we have created cyber-resources that will bring value to our members long after the Coronavirus has gone away.
NCBA’s committees are the backbone of the Association. With our committees prevented from meeting in person, we needed to offer virtual alternatives. Stephanie Pagano, our Committee Liaison, was the key staff player in making that happen. Working with so many of our amazing committee chairs, we quickly arranged Zoom meetings for countless committees. I want to express my appreciation to Stephanie for her outstanding work, and to all the committee chairs for their tremendous accomplishments! Many of you reinvigorated committees, and your efforts were not unnoticed. Thank you for your service, and a special thanks to those of you, like Jenn Koo, who took on so many special projects at my request.
In April, I held the very first virtual meeting of the NCBA Board of Directors. While strange to me at first, it went quite smoothly. My thanks to Patti Anderson for facilitating that, and for all she did for me throughout the year. Whenever I had questions, she had answers. I also want to thank the Board of Directors, and especially members of the Executive Committee, for all they did. Elena Karabatos, as our Immediate Past President, was a wonderful resource to me, especially during the early part of my term when I most needed a guiding hand. Likewise, my thanks to Past President Chris McGrath. You were always there for me as a wise adviser, and I am looking forward to awarding you the Distinguished Service Medallion at our rescheduled Annual Dinner Dance Gala.
Of course, none of this could have been accomplished without technology. The MVP of all that was Hector Herrera. I stand in awe of all he does for us, and sometimes suspect he may have cloned himself to be everywhere we need him at all times. While we have been away, he has lovingly maintained Domus so that we can one day soon return to our beloved home of bricks and mortar.
The unique circumstances of the pandemic have required special efforts. I appointed two Presidential Task Forces. I want to thank Bill Croutier, Jr., for leading a COVID-19 Supreme Court Task Force to work with Judge Norman St. George, and Martha Krisel for leading a COVID-19 Community Response Task Force. Both groups will play an important part in helping us all to deal with the difficulties we face ahead. I also want to express my appreciation to Past NAL Dean Tom Foley, who accepted my appointment as de facto “Tech Czar” to assist Hector in educating committee chairs unfamiliar with virtual platform logistics. Also, my thanks to Sam Ferrara for moderating our Virtual Town Halls to explain to the members the changes occurring in the Nassau courts.
Throughout our period of quarantine, we were able to provide enormous value to our members and the profession. None of it could have happened without Ann Burkowsky, our Communications Manager, who was a monumental asset to me in keeping our members informed. And how could I have functioned without our tireless Membership Coordinator Donna Gerdik? Donna, you and I were a great team! But every other NCBA staff person contributed much to our success―Barbara Decker, Carolyn Bonino, Pat Carbonaro, Pat King, Beth Eckhardt, our WE CARE Coordinator Bridget Ryan, Gale Berg and the staff of the Mortgage Foreclosure Pro Bono Project, Cheryl Cardona and Christine Stella, and Bob Nigro and the staff of the Assigned Counsel Defender Plan. I could go on about the contributions of each and every one of you, because I know what they were and I will never forget them. With the help of all these amazing people and others―too many to mention―the NCBA brought even greater value to our members than ever before.
I want to thank my partners, Marc Gann, Gerard McCloskey and Dave Barry, and all the staff at Collins Gann McCloskey and Barry, who supported me throughout my term. It has always been my philosophy that a President, as with any good leader, puts the interests of the organization he leads above his own. You need incredible partners to support such sacrifices, and I am blessed to have the partners I do. Perhaps most of all, I thank my wife, Kathy, and all my family, for being there for me while I careened from one NCBA function to another during most of the term of my presidency (at least until we were all forced to stay at home).
Now, our President-Elect and the other members of the Executive Committee will pick up and carry the ball forward. I wish the very best for them. I will carry the memory of my term, and of so many of you I so enjoyed working with, in my heart forever. It was one of the greatest privileges of my career to have served as your President. I look forward to seeing you all at Domus in the near future and, ultimately, for many years to come.