CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — People that love old homes know they present a comforting feel to an area, that they are fragile, and that they require care. A volunteer who leads an appointed municipal body that helps preserve such homes makes that person special.
On Monday the Clifton Park Historic Preservation Commission joined with the Town Board to honor its now-retired longtime chairman Mark Kazmierczak for his years of work strengthening the Commission’s place in the community, within town government and making it a model for other municipalities to copy.
Kazmierczak was chairman from 2008 to 2015.
The town’s interest in preservation began in 1975 when the Vischer Ferry Historic District was established and placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Nearly 20 years later the Clifton Park Historic Preservation Commission was established.
An architect by trade and semi-retired at the time, Kazmierczak joined the Commission as a member in 2007 because he liked old buildings and believed in preserving them. He was quietly appointed the chairman of the Commission by the Town Board member and liaison to the Commission Sandy Roth.
For the next seven years, Kazmierczak reenergized the Commission and formalized how it operated. He made sure each meeting had an agenda, saw that minutes were taken, gave it more of a presence in the community, and casually discussed the value that its work gave to the community with every public official he could.
In the meantime, he took a part-time position in the town’s building department where he kept an eye out for preservation possibilities.
At Monday’s meeting town historian John Scherer, an advisory member of the Commission, recalled Kazmierczak’s work on its behalf.
“I remember when Mark came to his first meeting, he was really interested. He really got into these historic buildings,” Scherer said. “And of course his knowledge as an architect was invaluable to the Commission. We really relied on his expertise in that area for a long time.”
Scherer recalled how Kazmierczak made a photographic file of the more than 300 historic homes in town and how that file formed the basis for putting some of them on the town’s historic register.
“He is well deserving of the preservation award, and the Commission is pleased to present it to him,” Scherer said.
He added that the Commission, its mission, and how it operates in conjunction with the town is being used as a model by the towns of Malta and Wilton.
“We have something here that people are interested in,” he said.
Scherer was joined by Supervisor Philip Barrett in thanking Kazmierczak for his years of service.
“We’re so pleased to have so many people who are interested in this topic,” Barrett said. “It’s very important to the town. Preserving history is something we hold very dear.”
Councilman James Whalen, the current Town Board liaison to the Commission, described how Kazmierczak helped make the organization a resource for historic homeowners.
“The trust we have in Clifton Park is very collaborative and the Commission and the town work with residents on the historic significance of their house, what the commission does, and the easement program that we have,” Whalen said. “There’s a reservation out there sometimes with many residents. The Commission wants to work with them and educate them on what’s available, and I think once we get over those hurdles with homeowners it becomes a very collaborative process.”
In accepting the award Kazmierczak gave his thanks to a number of others who helped make the Commission what it is today.
“I’m honored to receive this recognition, but I first want to thank my wife, Mary, for her patience during all the hours I spent on the computer putting things together,” he said. “I also want to thank all those on the Commission, their husbands, wives, whomever, for the hours and hours they put in on whatever the project was and for allowing them the time they spent on them.”
As part of his remarks, Kazmierczak made note also of the strong support the Commission has received from town officials like Barrett, Whalen and town attorney Tom McCarthy.
“This award has all of their input plus that of the members of the Commission. I thank you all for allowing me to do this. I enjoyed it,” he said.
Afterward, he was asked how he had moved the Commission to a more visible place in the town.
“I saw all these old homes and asked if anyone had gone up to the front doors and spoken with the people living there and no one said they had so I decided to do it,” he said. “I just wanted to open a conversation and show them we were there to help them with preserving their homes if they wanted; that we would listen.”
Asked what the one thing was he’d remember most about being chairman, Kazmierczak said it was getting new members to see the benefits of a collaborative effort.
“I would tell them, the word to use is should, not must,” he said. “You’ve got to be reasonable.”