Deena Lesser, a longtime commissioner of the Great Neck Water Pollution Control District and former mayor of Thomaston, died on Tuesday. She was 87.
Her daughter Julie Barkan described her mother as a “trailblazer” in the Great Neck area, who had always been dedicated to helping her home and the idea that people can effect change.
“There wasn’t anything my mother couldn’t see her way through,” Barkan said. “She believed that people make things happen.”
Lesser served in numerous capacities for the Town of North Hempstead, Village of Thomaston and the Great Neck area. She served as the mayor of Thomaston from 1989 to 1992, as town clerk from 1992 to 1997 and as a commissioner of the Great Neck Water Pollution Control District.
Steve Reiter, a commissioner for the Great Neck Water Pollution Control District, described Lesser as someone instrumental in rebuilding the district’s plant and in the sewer district’s consolidation with the Village of Great Neck.
She also helped prevent the organization from being dissolved, Reiter said.
“When you think about women like that and the impact they’ve had on local and town government, it’s just amazing what they’ve accomplished over the years,” Reiter said.
She also served as deputy commissioner for community services and as an assistant to four town supervisors between 1999 and 2015, including Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth.
Barkan said that while working in town government, Lesser helped forge Project Independence, worked on educational programs for family and domestic abuse and wed countless people.
“One of the favorite parts of her job as town clerk was getting to marry people,” Barkan said, adding that her signatures are also on both of her daughters’ birth certificates.
Lesser was born on April 11, 1930, and grew up in Brooklyn. She later moved to Little Neck, East Meadow and then Great Neck in the 1960s.
Before becoming the mayor of Thomaston, she was also on the village planning board from 1987 to 1991 and served as a village trustee from 1981 to 1987.
This article will be updated as more information becomes available.