A mainstay at Southampton Village Hall for the past 12 years, Village Administrator James Van Nostrand, will retire in November, leaving a void that will be hard to fill, according to former village mayors and trustees who have worked with him.
His last day on the job will be November 6, two days after his 13th anniversary as administrator. And though he lives in Manorville, he will continue to have a presence in the village as the president of the Southampton Rotary Club and through the friendships he’s developed in Southampton over the years.
Mr. Van Nostrand said recently that he would have liked to continue in his job, but he suffers from Parkinson’s, a progressive degenerative disease that will increasingly make work difficult for him. His speech and walking are already affected and they’re going to get worse, he said. He chose to retire early, he said, so he can concentrate on his health and his family—including his first granddaughter, 1-year-old Madison.
“I’ve worked a long time, and it’s time to take care of myself,” said Mr. Van Nostrand, who was diagnosed in 2001. He is 62 years old, just three years short of retirement age. “I’d rather stay on and keep working, at least to 65, but I can’t.”
Mr. Van Nostrand was born in Port Washington and raised in Hicksville. He later lived in East Patchogue and Ronkonkoma and built a home in Southampton, which he lived in until 1992. Now he lives in Manorville with his wife, Julie.
Before becoming village administrator in 1996, Mr. Van Nostrand worked in the private sector. He earned a bachelor of science degree in psychology from New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury in 1970 and went on to become an employee relations manager in New York City for four years at Citicorp, then known as First National City Bank. From there, he was recruited and became director of employee relations at the Union Pacific Corporation in 1974.
In 1980, with a nephew as his financial backer, Mr. Van Nostrand decided to pursue a dream: He opened a restaurant, Jimmy Van’s Aubergine Restaurant in Huntington. Aubergine is another name for eggplant, and the restaurant was lavender-colored. But the restaurant didn’t work out as well as he hoped and it closed the following year. But Mr. Van Nostrand didn’t miss a beat and by the time the year was out he became vice president of human resources for Chase Manhattan Bank. He stayed with Chase until 1985, when he left to become a vice president at Lynch Homes in Southampton. That lasted until 1988.
“The building business fell apart,” he said. “The floor dropped out of it. I was overstock, so they didn’t need me anymore.”
He then became a manager at Florence Corporation, a building materials supplier, and later at Forst & Silverblank custom builders in Bridgehampton. He didn’t stay there long because then-Mayor Doug Murtha recruited him to the village administrator post. They had known each other because Mr. Van Nostrand was the president of Southampton Little League and Mr. Murtha was on the board of directors.
He took the job, replacing Howard McElroy, and was the first administrator to hold the post for more than six years.
“I liked the job and the job liked me, I guess,” he said.
“I was very happy to get him,” Mr. Murtha said this week, adding that he had to ask four or five times for Mr. Van Nostrand to “please make a decision and make one I would like.”
Mr. Van Nostrand is a well-loved guy, who is always nice and always calm, Mr. Murtha said. The former mayor credited him with helping to assemble a team in Village Hall that would see a new police department and new library for the village.
“He’s one in one hundred,” Mr. Murtha said, “one of those people, and there aren’t enough of them.”
“Doug made a wise decision when he hired him ...” Mr. Murtha’s successor, Joseph Romanosky Jr., said last week. “Everything he did, he did it with an eye toward what was fair; what should have been done and represented the village residents.”
Mr. Romanosky pointed out that Mr. Van Nostrand was with the village during the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He said Mr. Van Nostrand stepped up to the plate, developing communication between the village, hospital and schools, and making sure mail to Village Hall was screened. He said that Mr. Van Nostrand gave so much to the village that there is no way to pay him what he is worth.
“He was the vehicle that we needed to move things forward,” Mr. Romanosky said. “People don’t realize what a pivotal position that is.”
Current Mayor Epley credited Mr. Van Nostrand with helping him get acclimated to Village Hall.
“You’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with, and Jim, having worked under two previous mayors, understood all the workings of the village,” Mayor Epley said.