On a drizzly Monday morning, several hundred mourners gathered to pay their respects for Andrew Sandler, the former district manager for Community Board 7 who had died two days before. It was hard to peg the numbers. There were 200, perhaps close to 300 people at Sandler’s funeral, with elected officials on the city and state level personally paying their respects.
The large numbers seemed to reflect the respect he carried across communities of Norwood, Bedford Park, and Riverdale. It could also be what Sandler symbolized: the unsung heroes who operate in government.
Sandler was cut from that cloth, spending years working on citizen complaints from the time he began working for then Councilman Oliver Koppell followed by Councilman Andrew Cohen. His experience certainly laid the groundwork for his time spent as district manager for the board, drafting letters, hearing complaints, and acting as a facilitator for positive change. It was a behind-the-scenes role that befitted Sandler’s nature of working on behalf of citizens, away from the spectacle often attached to elected officials basking in attention.
Across the Bronx, officials on the local, state and federal level hire staffers to answer citizen complaints. Some are better than others. And even as the staffer works the phones, visits a problem site, stubbornly sticks with the issue with plenty of follow through, they’ll likely know that it’s the elected representative they work for who will take most of the credit. In the many press releases thrown our way, seldom does the elected official thank the men and women working on their behalf. It would behoove lawmakers to consider adding their staffers to press releases to publically thank them for playing a major role. One takeaway from Sandler’s death (he was only 31 years old), is that there are never any guarantees. Death lurks all over; it can take us at any given moment.
In many ways, working behind the scenes is a thankless job. Sandler didn’t mind. It takes guts to be selfless, knowing that the work one does comes from the heart. Results were Sandler’s juice.
His respect extended beyond his funeral. On the Norwood News website shortly after publishing Sandler’s obituary, a stream of comments characterized Sandler as a go-getter with the community in mind. “I knew Andrew since his days with [Councilman] Koppell,” wrote Walter Algarin. “[T]he consummate public servant, he possessed vigor and idealism when righting a wrong. He will be sorely missed in the borough he loved! Rest in peace my friend.”
Yes, rest in peace, Andrew. You leave this borough on a high note.