Now that he has retired from the North Syracuse Department of Public Works, Gary Wilmer will have a lot more time to take his 1968 Pontiac GTO for a cruise. (Courtesy of Carole Wilmer)
According to his wife, Carole, Gary Wilmer’s idea of fun is tooling around the village of North Syracuse and taking note of which streetlights are out so he could fix them the next work day.
But Gary will have to find some new hobbies: After 39 years, North Syracuse’s Department of Public Works Superintendent is retiring. His last day is June 1.
“He’s going to miss it immensely,” Carole said of her husband.
The feeling is mutual, according to North Syracuse Mayor Gary Butterfield.
“It’s been a joy to have him around, and we’re going to miss him,” Butterfield said.
A lifelong resident of North Syracuse, Gary Wilmer has devoted much of his life to public service. He has spent 28 years in the North Syracuse Fire Department, taking off a few years here and there when he and Carole had children. He will continue to volunteer with the fire department, Carole said.
“He’s always had a sense of community,” Carole said. “His dad was in NAVAC for many years. That’s where he got his community service. … He’s always been in community-oriented situations.”
Gary’s service has not gone unrecognized. He was named to the North Syracuse Central School District Wall of Distinction in 2007, and he is well-known for his work around the village: maintaining the flowering baskets that line the streets — and keeping those streets clean and in working order.
“We always brag that the village streets are cleaner,” Butterfield said. “When people wake up in the morning to go to work after snowfall, the roads are clear.”
Butterfield and Parks and Recreation Director Teresa Roth both said Gary Wilmer goes above and beyond in his work.
“He’s one of the more accommodating guys you’ll find,” Butterfield said.
“The guy is one of a kind,” Roth said.
Gary Wilmer has also been a great help to the North Syracuse Family Festival, which takes place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Saturday, May 26, at Lonergan Park.
“He is definitely the go-to, from building floats for parades to [helping with] the Family Festival,” Carole said.
“You name it — he’s always there,” Butterfield said. “Kind of an unsung hero.”
For last year’s holiday parade, Gary Wilmer helped build a “Polar Express”-themed float. Roth said Gary intends to build onto it for the 2018 holiday parade, and the float is being re-worked for this weekend’s Family Festival as well.
“He promised Teresa he wouldn’t leave until after this year’s Family Festival. He didn’t want Teresa to freak out,” Carole laughed.
“He’s already said he’d come back and help with the festival and the holiday parade,” Roth said.
Roth said she has worked closely with Gary over the 13 years she has worked for the village.
“I’ve never worked with a better person,” she said. “I’m going to be at a loss without him.”
Carole said she and Gary were high school sweethearts.
“We both grew up in North Syracuse just a couple streets apart,” she said.
Carole and Gary have raised five children together: Kyle, Christine, Katie, Casey and Carrie.
“They all grew up in the village and went to the schools, and they’re all still local,” Carole said.
Now that he is retiring, Gary will get to spend more time with his four grandchildren, Cayden, Seany, Cierra and Calie.
He’ll also catch up on yard work and projects around the house. Carole said Gary recently built a natural gas fire pit in the backyard.
Gary will have more time to cruise around in his 1968 Pontiac GTO, too.
“That’s the same car we had in high school — not the same exact car, but the same type,” Carole said. “That’s our Sunday ice cream car.”
Ashley M. Casey is a reporter for The Baldwinsville Messenger and The Eagle Star-Review. She graduated from Le Moyne College in 2012 and previously worked for the Scotsman Press.