2017-12-14 / Front Page

Ex-council president left mark on town

DAVID LONG: 1952-2017
BY TIM RIEL


David Long, center, cuts the ribbon unveiling the new Town Hall in August 2007 alongside U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, from left, Town Clerk Arlene Petit, Councilman Julio DiGiando and state Rep. Bruce Long. David Long, center, cuts the ribbon unveiling the new Town Hall in August 2007 alongside U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, from left, Town Clerk Arlene Petit, Councilman Julio DiGiando and state Rep. Bruce Long. David Long, the former council president who balanced his civic duty with stand-up comedy and rock and roll, died last Thursday at Rhode Island Hospital. He was 64, just four days before his birthday.

“Even though this position doesn’t exist, he was the mayor of Jamestown,” said Mary Meagher, who knew Long for 27 years.

Long served on the council from 1999-2007, including four years at the helm. He had the scissors for the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the newly opened Town Hall in his final year. The picture of him alongside U.S. Sen. Jack Reed at that ceremony was displayed Monday night during the council meeting.

“He was the first president to preside in these chambers,” Meagher said.

Long’s legacy to Jamestown will be his leadership during the timeless controversy on where to locate the highway barn. After eight years of debate, the town voted to build the barn at Taylor Point to replace the dilapidated Fort Wetherill structure. Although the issue lingered throughout Long’s entire tenure, his colleagues agree he was the driving factor in the outcome. Without that leadership, Barbara Szepatowski quipped, the issue might still be unresolved.

“He was the one person who would make things work,” said Szepatowski, who served with Long for five years. “If everything was in a tizzy, he would make us discuss it. He made people understand why it was important.”

For his unparalleled contribution to the highway barn, Long, in his humble demeanor, simply replied, “I’m just happy for the town.”

Although the stories seem to point otherwise, it wasn’t always easy for Long, who contracted polio as a toddler and struggled through life with the crippling disease.

As a sickly homebound child, however, he discovered his talent for music, teaching himself to play the piano, ukulele, recorder and flute. That led to gigs with the bands Growing Up Different and Face Dancer in the nation’s capital until the 1980s, which is when he returned to Jamestown — a childhood summer retreat for his family — and became a pillar of the community. He also was a devoted father to his twin daughters, Jesse and Sofie.

“Some days he was in a little bit of pain,” Szepatowski said, “but that never prevented him from doing anything.”

“He was a rock star,” Meagher said. “He loved this town. He knew everyone and everyone knew him.”

Long’s last public appearance was at the Christmas tree lighting two weeks ago. According to Szepatowski, his death will be a loss for Jamestown, although his contributions to his community will live forever.

“He was just cool,” she said. “It’s the best way to put it.”

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