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North Hempstead town clerk returns portrait to artist

A portrait of Leslie Gross, the outgoing North

A portrait of Leslie Gross, the outgoing North Hempstead Town Clerk, will be returned to the artist who gifted it to her in 2010 since Gross lost her re-election bid. (Nov. 22, 2013) Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

One item will not be kept for posterity during a transition underway at the North Hempstead town clerk's office: an oil-based painting of Leslie Gross, who was recently defeated after six years as the town's keeper of records and archives.

In 2010, Ed Balcourt, a Port Washington-based artist, surprised Gross with his portrait of her. Gross had hung some of Balcourt's artwork in the clerk's office in Manhasset and he presented the painting during a reception held on his behalf.

Gross, citing her status as a public official, offered the portrait as a gift to the town; and it has hung in the lobby of the clerk's office since.

Gross, who lost to Nassau Legis. Wayne Wink Jr. (D-Roslyn) earlier this month, recently requested the portrait back from the town, in the hopes of returning it to the artist.

"There is no value of it to the town," said Gross, a Democrat who switched party lines in May and ran alongside Republican Councilwoman Dina DeGiorgio, who lost to Nassau Legis. Judi Bosworth (D-Great Neck) in the race for supervisor. "It was a very nice gesture; the town certainly doesn't want it, they certainly do not want a picture of me in this office once I'm gone."

The town passed a resolution at Tuesday's board meeting authorizing the portrait's return. "I know he and his family will take care of it," Gross said.

Balcourt, 91, said in an interview Friday that Gross was his first political subject and the first subject to return a portrait.

Balcourt, who teaches senior citizens art classes and has work on display at the Hempstead House, part of the Sands Point Preserve, said he might display Gross' portrait in one of his classrooms in Port Washington.

Balcourt said he was "sad" Gross lost, but he described Wink as a "good friend."

He said he might even "surprise" the next town clerk with a portrait.

"It's really heartbreaking to see that they were running against each other," Balcourt said. But he added: "I'm not going to tell you who I voted for."

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