Joe Blake to Retire From Board of Selectmen

After more than 34 years on the Board of Selectmen, Joseph Blake is retiring in October.
He will be 80-years-old and have spent 34 ½ years on the BOS.
“I hope I have satisfied most of those who voted for me and I thank them,” Blake said in an exclusive interview with The Orange Times.
“I tried not to put politics into it. You need to look at the issue and do what’s best. I wish Washington would do that,” he said.
{{more}} “I have never been a puppet. I told the town committee I was going to vote my heart,” (when they nominated me.)
He said that his family is happy he is retiring.
“I am very happy he is retiring,” said Kate his wife of 47 years.
Blake said his two daughters Christine and Stacey, “keep asking me if I really mean it.”
He sat in his kitchen with memorabilia of the past 34 years. There was a story from the New Haven Register with a picture of a very young Blake shaking hands with state Rep Patrick O’Sullivan, a proclamation from the town on Blake’s 25th anniversary on the BOS, and numerous newspaper clippings on prominent stands Blake has taken over the years.
Blake was serving on the sewer commission when he was first appointed to fill out newly elected Patrick O’Sullivan’s seat. O’Sullivan had been elected as state Representative for the 114th District. It was April, 1979.
“Ralph Capecelatro (first selectman) called me up and told me I was the (Orange) town committee’s choice. He told me I was too opinionated. I told him if he didn’t appoint me I would run and win the seat. He appointed me and we got to know each other,” Blake said.
In nominating Blake for a senior center Living Treasures Award in 2010, Selectmen Mitchell Goldblatt called Blake, “the consummate public servant dedicating himself to his town, his fellow veterans, his church and his family.”
Blake remembered his first run in with Capecelatro.
“It was when he wanted to automatically accept an oil bid from Vadney Oil. He didn’t want to put it out to bid,” Blake said, saying that was when such contracts began to go out to bid.
Blake said under Capecelatro the selectmen meetings were always held in a small room upstairs.
“You never knew what was going to be on the agenda until you walked in and were handed it. That caused controversy and John Donahue went to the Freedom of Information and he won,” Blake said. Moving forward agendas were properly posted in advance of meetings.
Blake said Donahue also opposed Capecelatro being the town leader and the state Republican leader at the same time.
“He had a red phone in the office and when it rang he knew it was about Republican matters. John challenged that as well,” Blake said. The red telephone was removed from the office.
Blake said he has served under six first selectman. Capecelatro, Dottie Berger, Robert Sousa,  Goldblatt and James Zeoli.
He said the longest meeting he attended went until 1 a.m. under Berger.
Blake said he ran once for the top seat but didn’t feel he was a worthy opponent to Berger.
“Dottie had tremendous credentials. I didn’t have a chance,” he said.
During his tenure on the BOS he has served on an innumerable number of committees chairing many of them. They include Town Personnel, Municipal Building Renovation, Silverbrook Senior Housing, Library Building , Firehouse Building and Mary L Tray Space Allocation. He is also a  member of the American Legion Post #127 and has served on the  Holy Infant Parish Council.
Many praise Blake for his years of service to the town.
“In his more than three decades of service on the Orange Board of Selectmen, Joe has helped to guide the way as they have sought to meet the demands of a changing community while preserving its unique history,” U. S. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro said.
“Whether on the Board, serving his nation, or through his involvement in any number of local organizations, Joe has made a difference in the lives of many while helping to shape the very character of the Orange community.  Personally, I would just like to thank him for his many years of friendship and support.  I have no doubt that even though he will no longer be serving on the Board of Selectmen, Joe will continue to be an active member and advocate for the Orange community,” DeLauro said.
“Joe is a terrific guy. He has operated under the philosophy to do right for the town,” First Selectman Jim Zeoli said.
“He never forgot his West Haven roots yet he moved forward in Orange. He was very generous with his time to the community,” Zeoli said.
“Joe has been someone I looked up to for a long time when I was working my way up the ladder. He has been a close friend,” Goldblatt said.
“I will miss his presence on the board.”
Trish Pearson has served on the Board of Selectmen alongside Blake. She is also the Democratic Town Committee Chairwoman.
“Joe is the “dean” of the Board of Selectmen. As the senior most member he has provided the continuity and historical perspective that small town government needs. He makes decisions and recommendations based on what he believes to be in the best interest of all our residents,” Pearson said.
Goldblatt concurred.
“While we haven’t always agreed he always puts the best interest of the town first,” Goldblatt said.
“Joe is a man of high principles and integrity, respected by members of both parties and beloved by generations of Orange residents. We will miss his presence on the Board of Selectmen, but as our elder Democratic statesman, we will continue to seek his opinion and counsel on issues on the local, statewide and national levels,” Pearson said.
Area legislators praised Blake’s dedication to Orange.
“Joe Blake was one of the first people in town to welcome me with open arms,” state Rep. Themis Klarides said.
Klarides represents the 114th District.
“I will never forget his reaching out to do what’s best for the town of Orange, regardless of which party was involved. Joe is an example of what public service should look like and he will be missed,” Klarides said.”
“Joe Blake has dedicated much of his adult life to the betterment of our community. His years of service on the Board of Selectman is a tribute to the level of respect in which he is held by everyone. Joe’s approach has always been to place the welfare of the community ahead of any political consideration. He serves as a model for others in public service to emulate and will be missed by all,” state Rep. Pasul Davis said.
Davis represents the 117th District.
“Joe lived a life defined by service. We cannot possibly thank him enough for his decades of dedication, but we can aspire to live up to the high standards he set as a public servant.” state Sen. Gayle Slossberg said.
“As someone new to politics in Orange, Joe Blake’s name was one of the first that I heard and he was always spoken of with great respect and admiration,” state Rep. James Maroney said. Maroney represents the 119th District.
Blake led the fight for a traffic light at Graniss and Racebrook and Rt 34 and Dogwood Rd.
Blake remembers being the only Democrat asked to speak at Ralph Capacelerto  rememberance service.
“I was honored by that.,” he said. Blake said he had the room laughing.
“I remember Ralphs horse got away and was heading to Milford. After capturing the horse Ralph rode it back home.  The Milford mayor passed Ralph riding back and she commented no wonder taxes are so low in Orange they don’t even provide him with a car,” Blake said.
Blake said he had a few disappointments while on the BOS.
“We still don’t have  enough affordable senior housing in town. We need more like Silverbrook,” he said.
“I am disappointed that Stew Leonard’s did not come to town. The funding to oppose it came from a local market chain I believe,” he said.
He also doesn’t think a railroad station in town will be useful.
Goldblatt said Blake has brought a level of levity to the somewhat solemn board of selectmen.
“If you watch the board of selectmen’s meeting he frequently finds a way to say hello to his wife. Its usually when he sneaks a piece of chocolate,” Goldblatt said.
Pearson urges Blake supporters to watch for news of his retirement party.
“Long known for his dancing ability, we look forward to celebrating Joe’s long career in public service with an event sometime in the summer or fall, where he can again show off his smooth moves on the dance floor,” Pearson said.