November 15, 2013

Former Keene supervisor dies


---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — Colorful and outspoken former Keene Town Supervisor Robert R. Purdy died Wednesday.

Purdy, 78, was also the former Essex County Disaster Preparedness director and former executive director of the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board.

Although he was a longtime resident of Keene, Purdy had moved to Elizabethtown several years ago, where he died at home Wednesday morning.

He had endured health problems, including heart disease, for many years.

A memorial service is planned for him at Keene Valley Congregational Church on Saturday, Nov. 23, at a time yet to be scheduled.


Former Schroon Town Supervisor John Kelly served with Purdy on the Board of Supervisors for many years.

“Bob and I were great friends,” Kelly said Thursday. “He was a good town supervisor, also very involved in the county government.”

Kelly said Purdy was good at securing grants for Keene, including one to rebuild the town water system.

“He was a good fire coordinator for the county. He was very active on the state level, with both the Association of Towns and Association of Counties.

“He was a good friend, and he had a lot of friends from all over the place, from all over the country.”

Kelly said Purdy was vocal on issues he thought would benefit his constituents.

“You knew where he stood. He wasn’t bashful.”


Purdy experienced some difficult times in his life, including fires at his home and barn. He faced questions about his use of expense accounts and an official credit card from the Review Board and Town of Keene, but no charges were ever filed.

He lost his job as Disaster Preparedness director after he didn’t pass the state Civil Service exam for the post. He said the test did not take his years of experience in the emergency services field into account. The position is now called Essex County Emergency Services director.


Purdy served as Keene town supervisor for 17 years, during two separate time periods, 1970 to 1982 and 1992 to 1997, leaving office for the last time in 1997.

He was Disaster Preparedness director from 1984 until 1991 and Review Board director for 1981-82.

He planned a run for state senator in 1984 but never filed the independent petitions he had circulated to run against incumbent Republican Ronald Stafford of Plattsburgh.

Purdy also had an unsuccessful State Assembly run against incumbent Andy Ryan of Plattsburgh in 1974.

Starting his political career as a Democrat, Purdy later switched parties to Republican, saying he agreed more with GOP philosophies.


Purdy operated an auction service out his barn in Keene Valley for many years. He was a veteran of the U.S. Air Force.

Purdy was praised for his actions during the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, when he took charge of rescue operations after a bus carrying 48 people overturned on icy roads in Keene.

Purdy began work on an Essex County Enhanced 911 emergency-call system in the early 1990s. The system became a reality in 2008, 11 years after he left county service.

In 1980, Purdy began a drive to allow Off Track Betting in Essex County, something that eventually came to fruition. An OTB parlor is now located in Ticonderoga.


County Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) said the board plans a memorial for Purdy when it meets Monday.

“The Board of Supervisors has offered our sincere condolences to the family of Bob Purdy. He served with both my father and grandfather on the Board of Supervisors.

“We will lower the flag to half-staff at the County Government Center.”

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