Robert McNamara was the person who would run to a neighbor’s house if an alarm went off. He would always ask about an employee’s elderly mother. And he loved driving around the Village of Flower Hill — “just checking things out,” he would say.
McNamara, the mayor of a 1.6-square-mile village with 4,795 residents, died of complications of pneumonia on April 15. He was 76.
“He really wanted to make this world a better place and felt it was important to give back to the community,” said his daughter, Susan McNamara of Port Washington. “His legacy was to be a good person and that will come back to you tenfold.”
Having served as a village trustee since 2012, McNamara became mayor in 2016 when former Mayor Elaine Phillips was elected to the state senate. McNamara was elected mayor in 2017 in a special election and again in 2018.
“When I asked him to join as a trustee, he said what? He didn’t see himself as that,” Phillips recalled. “He said: ‘Do you think I'm qualified? I said: ‘Bob, you are more than qualified.”
During his eight-year tenure, officials and his family said McNamara helped create the village’s dog park, improve pedestrian safety and streamline the building permit process.
His biggest legacy, Deputy Mayor Brian Herrington said, was leading the village to implement regulations in 2017 to require those operating large construction projects to pay an impact fee, a measure Herrington estimated to have brought in $200,000 in revenue.
“Bob really led the charge to implement a fee on those large-scale construction projects, which could be then applied to fixing the infrastructure in place, so the taxpayers weren’t paying for it,” Herrington said.
With McNamara, it wasn’t always about business.
Village administrator Ronnie Shatzkamer said the mayor was “the definition of a gentleman,” who constantly asked her about her 96-year-old mother.
“He wasn’t like warm and fuzzy. But he’s just there for you,” Shatzkamer said, her voice cracking with emotions. “He was very smart but not in your face about it. He would give me suggestions on how to do things better, and I didn’t even realize that I was being corrected.”
As a neighbor who lived across the street from her in Manhasset, Phillips said McNamara was the one who watched out for others.
“Once, my daughter was home alone, and the house alarm went off. Who came running? Bob McNamara,” Phillips recalled. “If me and my husband were working late and no one was there to let the dog out? [You could call] Bob McNamara.”
In recent days, Herrington thought about the moment when McNamara asked him to be his deputy mayor in 2016.
“I was flattered. … He thought we could be a team, build a great village and do great things,” said Herrington, 41, whose voice broke and resumed after a long pause. “He would refer to me as a kid. And I just am going to miss moments like that with him.”
McNamara was born on Jan. 24, 1944 in Brooklyn and grew up in Munsey Park. Earlier in his career, he worked for the Diners Club, a charge card founded by his father, Frank McNamara. Then he worked in the credit card industry with Citibank and First Data Resources, a financial services company.
Until the postponed March village elections take place, Herrington said he would assume the mayor’s responsibilities.
In addition to his daughter, McNamara is survived by his wife, Virginia, and sons Keith of Golden, Colorado, and Timothy of Old Brookville.
A virtual funeral Mass was celebrated on April 17 at Holy Rosary Church in Ireland.