A mainstay on the Watertown Town Council, Steve Corbett, had his final meeting in December after a decade in town government.
His focuses have been economic development, the disabled and he served on the building committee for the new Police Station, but Corbett said he did not come in with any particular ax to grind.
“I never really tried to look for attention. I was one of nine. You really can do nothing by yourself. You are part of a team,” Corbett said. “I am most proud of having steady governance, sound fiscal governance and providing high quality services.”
Looking back, Corbett said he was proud to be part of the council that passed the Strategic Framework for Economic Development, the Comprehensive Plan, the Pleasant Street Corridor District zoning changes and other zoning studies and changes.
Corbett served on the Commission on Disabilities and pushed for the Town Council meetings to be broadcast with subtitles for the hearing impaired.
At the same time, Corbett was not afraid to be the lone, or one of the few to vote against the majority on an issue.
“I never thought of it as being a popularity contest,” Corbett said. “I don’t think it is right when people do it for a political reason. I would do the right thing whether it was popular or not.”
Corbett said he believes many issues are decided by dealing with the “squeakiest wheel,” but he did not think that was always the right way to go.
“There are a lot of people who can’t come, or don’t want to come to meetings, and we represent them, too,” Corbett said.
Corbett always faced a challenge to being elected to the council. The first time Corbett ran, he narrowly lost to current fellow councilor Susan Falkoff.
“I came in fifth and Susan came in fourth. I had a recount because I believe she won by five votes. I picked up two, so I lost by three in ’03,” Corbett said. “In ’05 I ran and won.”
Each of the times he ran, Corbett said he faced challengers.
“We definitely have a very active, engaged community,” Corbett said. “It raises the stakes on any decision. I am not sure why – if it is our proximity to Cambridge and Boston.”
Corbett, who grew up in Watertown, said he has seen the character of the town change from when he was growing up with it was a blue collar, working class town.
“It has changed,” Corbett said. “Now we have a different group of people.”
One of the hottest subjects of debate in town has been the new developments coming to Watertown. The changes, especially the revitalization of old industrial properties, was inevitable, Corbett said, due in part to the close proximity to Boston.
“We had large tracks of land we didn’t redevelop,” Corbett said. “I think we will look back at the large residences and and they will fit into town.”
The development has also been a big boost for the town financially, he said.
“If you look at the economic development, and what it paid for, people would be staggered,” Corbett said. “People don’t now the level of funds that comes into town that pays for services and union raises.”
Having served for five terms, the last three as Council vice president, Corbett said he was ready to leave, as was his family.
“My wife was fine (if I had run again) but the rest of the family wanted me to stop,” Corbett said.
After stepping down from the Council, Corbett said he will continue to be busy with his work as a residential construction manager. He will also help out with his son’s volunteer work.
“I will work more with Habitat for Humanity,” Corbett said. “My son is president of the club at Malden Catholic.”