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Copake leaders praise longtime public servant Vana Hotaling

Vana Hotaling. Photo by Jeanne Mettler

COPAKE—“You’re the best.”

That’s how former Copake Supervisor Jeff Nayer summed up the essence of Vana Hotaling at the January 14 Town Board meeting, which started off with a tribute to Ms. Hotaling via Zoom.

Vana, as she is popularly known, started working for the Town of Copake January 1, 1994, when she was elected tax collector. In July 1998 she was appointed deputy town clerk.

When the town combined the positions of town clerk and tax collector in January 1999, she was elected to the post and served until December 31, 2011. In January 2012 she was again appointed deputy town clerk/tax collector and served until she retired December 31, 2020.

‘Vana Hotaling … is much loved by the people of the Town of Copake.’

From a town proclamation

Read by Supv. Jeanne Mettler

She has been on the job in Town Hall for the past 26 years and has served during the administrations of five supervisors of varying political persuasions: the late Harold Boice, Angelo Valentino, Reggie Crowley, Jeff Nayer and Jeanne Mettler, the current supervisor. It was Ms. Mettler who arranged the tribute, which included the three living former supervisors, all of whom sang the praises of Vana, along with Town Board members.

Ms. Mettler told Vana, “It is my lovely honor to honor you.” “The people love you” and “you will be remembered for your kindness and goodwill.”

Mr. Nayer, like many who spoke, remembered the lure of the jar filled with candy that Vana always kept filled in her office. He thanked Vana for all her help and said he was sorry the tribute had to be done on Zoom and not in person because he knew they “could fill Yankee Stadium with people wanting to wish her well.”

The only thing Vana did not succeed at, Mr. Nayer said, was “trying to teach me to be nice.”

Mr. Valentino said he is sometimes asked how he was able to accomplish so much during his tenure as supervisor. He said the key is to “surround yourself with good people and at the top of the list is Vana Hotaling.” He called her “the heart of Copake” and said she was “always pleasant to everyone—good or bad.” Even if they were angry when they came in, when they left they were smiling, “that’s the way she took care of everyone.”

Mr. Crowley kept his remarks brief due to a bad case of laryngitis and simply offered his congratulations.

Supervisor Mettler introduced a resolution in the form of a proclamation laden with “Whereases,” which said in part…

“…while in office Vana Hotaling treated everyone with kindness and respect, and she is much loved by the people of the Town of Copake…

“…whenever she ran for office Vana Hotaling always received the highest number of votes of anyone on the ballot, which is a testament to her dedication and what an excellent job she did for the people of Copake…”

The proclamation recognized her continuing service to the town on the Parks and Recreation Commission and also the Town Hall History and Art Committee.

The Town Board expressed its gratitude to Vana, its congratulations upon her retirement and proclaimed Saturday, January 16, 2021 as Vana S. Hotaling Day in the Town of Copake.

The daughter of Frank and Ethel Stang, Vana grew up in Copake, where her father ran the local gas and service station, Frank’s Garage, in the hamlet.

She graduated from Roeliff Jansen High School in 1963 and went on to study at the Colonna Beauty School, where she became a licensed beautician.

She went to work for Marge McClurg at the Taconic Beauty Shop in Marge’s house on Route 22 in Hillsdale.

“Marge gave me my first haircut,” Vana told The Columbia Paper by phone this week. She said she and Marge were the best of friends. Many of their customers were teachers at the Roe Jan School just down the road. We ran “a nice shop,” she said, recalling that she loved her customers and they became her friends.

Vana married Ray Hotaling in 1964; they had two sons, Dwayne and Vance.

She worked part-time at the beauty shop from 1966 to 1994, nearly 30 years. She was approached by then Town Board member Harold Boice about running for tax collector in the 1993 election on the Democratic line. Mr. Boice, also a Democrat, ran successfully for town supervisor in the same election and they both took office in January 1994.

Since her new job and subsequently the combined town clerk/tax collector position was full-time, she left the beauty shop. The town job offered her security, as long as she was elected, and benefits. She said politics and political party are not important, “Vote for the person,” is her practice.

Asked why she decided to retire, she said, “I’m 76 years old. It was time.”

Her future plans include spending time with her grandchildren, two of whom live with her. She also plans to join the Copake Grange and take an art class. Her current medium is acrylic paints, but perhaps she’ll try water colors. She recently joined the local Knit Club but it was forced to suspend gatherings due to the pandemic. She looks forward to the college graduation this year of one of her grandsons and the high school graduation of another.

What she will miss about her job at Town Hall is the people.

She noted, “I enjoyed the people. I met all kinds of people. I always said, that’s what I’m here for—the people.”

And they loved her for it.

To contact Diane Valden email

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