Chamber president profile: Farmingdale's Debbie Podolski
Editor's note: This originally ran as part of our Town Focus: Farmingdale series on May 7, 2012.
Debbie Podolski, 57, of North Massapequa
Community associations: Farmingdale Chamber of Commerce president; on the Farmingdale Breakfast Rotary Club; director of the Farmingdale Public Library; on village’s Downtown Revitalization Committee.
Do you have your own business in the area?
No, I’m not a businessperson, so me being a chamber president is very interesting, but great because I don’t have an agenda. I just carry over what I do here at the library as being a resource for the community and to the chamber. When I talk to business people I’m not after business, I’m not there to get an account, I’m really there to serve them, which is the way I feel as director of the library. I serve the community.
How long have you been the chamber president?
How long have you lived in Farmingdale?
Well, I live in North Massapequa, which is in the Farmingdale school District. I’ve lived here since 2003.
Tell me about your family. Are you married and do you have any children?
I was recently widowed. Last year, my husband died. Fred Podolski. I was married before that and I have a son, Erik Jaszcar, who is 33 and lives in Manhasset, which is where I used to live before coming to North Massapequa with Fred.
How did he die?
He had prostate cancer. He worked for Nassau BOCES and he died October 1, 2010. It was a second marriage for me and that’s a book [long story] -- that romance story and to have it cut short like that was devastating.
How long were you married?
Seven years. He is what brought me to this area. He actually encouraged me to accept a position here and I’ve been here [Farmingdale Public Library] for 10 years and it’s been great. When you come from different locations on Long Island you don’t really know about Farmingdale. It’s like the best-kept secret.
What made you join the chamber?
Honestly, somebody dragged me in. It’s very interesting. With all the organizations that I belong to, I think they thought because I was a librarian I could take good minutes, so in every organization I was picked secretary and I said I could do more than be secretary. I think people in those groups saw what I was capable of and they elected me president.
How many members are part of the chamber?
Now, we’re up to 200 members, which is phenomenal. Back in the heyday there were a lot of chamber members, and then as the economy waned it went down. When I first became president, we had about 160 and then it dropped to 140. Now, we’re back to 200 because we just did a great promotion of MapToons and we’re having a big event on Thursday night at 6 p.m. at the Bethpage Federal Credit Union to unveil the MapToons map. It’s a cartoony kind of map of Farmingdale.
Where are you going to put those maps?
There’s going to be a laminated map here at the library for people to see. We’re putting them in the schools and we’re distributing them around the community.
And what is that going to look like?
People pay to put their ads or their logos on the map and it’s a way for people to know where businesses are located and a way to promote them.
When you first moved here, what was notable about the community?
Oh, the library stands out. It’s such a resource in their community and it’s a credit to the people that helped get it built. It’s just such a beautiful building. The community is very large. There’s 41,000 people that belong to the Farmingdale School District and it’s still a great place for young families to move to. It’s still affordable, it’s convenient to transportation and the Bethpage State Park and the train station.
What is it that you love so much about the community?
The people here are really down-to-earth. They’re really house proud. They take care of their properties and anytime there’s a change in holiday the lights and decorations go up. It’s cute to see. There’s also something here for everybody. There’s so many sports and leagues for kids.
Tell me about the plan to revitalize Main Street.
The idea is to connect the train station area to Main Street because that’s the jewel in the crown. If you have proximity to the train station, that’s golden. The problem in Farmingdale was that once you got off the train station you didn’t know where you were. There was no retail, there was no commercial. There was an old warehouse, but it didn’t connect to Main Street and to all the businesses that are there.
What challenges do you think the community faces?
A lot of people don’t like change. They’re afraid that there’s going to be urbanization. People are afraid of who’s going to move in. Change is difficult, especially when you’ve lived here for 40 or 50 years and you’ve enjoyed the kind of lifestyle that was the reason you came out here, but you have to weigh change and your fears versus a downtown that’s deteriorating. A shot in the arm with new people coming in might be a good thing.
How would you define the character of the community?
The people here are very hardworking. They care about their community, they’re loyal to their community and they want the best for Farmingdale. I think they grew up here, they want to stay here, they want their children to stay here and they want the best for the community as a whole.