Former Westchester County Executive Andrew O'Rourke has died, his successor Rob Astorino announced Friday.
"Andy O’Rourke left his mark on our county and will be remembered by those who knew him for so many things," Astorino remarked in a statement. Examples he included range from getting the Westchester County Center in White Plains rehabilitated, working on the North County and South County trailways, and creation of the terminal for Westchester County Airport.
O'Rourke, 79, passed away Thursday night at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx, Astorino spokeswoman Donna Greene confirmed.
According to O'Rourke's biography, his achievements also included helping to create Croton Point Park out of a former dump.
O'Rourke was the 6th county executive, from 1983 to 1997, according to his county biography. He was appointed to replace Alfred DelBello, who became Lt. Governor that year. O'Rourke was then elected in his own right in 1985, winning re-election bids in 1989 and 1993. He did not run for another term in 1997 and was succeeded by Andrew Spano.
Prior, O'Rourke served in the County Board of Legislators (1973 to 1982) including as chairman, and as a Yonkers city councilman from 1966 to 1973.
O'Rourke, was a Republican and ran against then-Gov. Mario Cuomo in his 1986 re-election bid, according to The New York Times.
After stepping down as county executive, O'Rourke was appointed to the New York Court of Claims by Gov. George Pataki, and in 2000 he was elected to the state's Supreme Court.
Astorino, who volunteered for O'Rourke's election campaigns as both county executive and as Governor of New York, recalled how he was appointed by him to the Board of Ethics in 1995 and how he got his advice shortly after being elected to county executive in 2009.
"As his illness progressed, I visited him, most recently a few weeks ago," explained Astorino in a statement. "Those who knew him will remember him for his extraordinary wit and charm as well as his compassion for all."
Flags on county property will be flown at half staff, Astorino announced.
O'Rourke was praised Friday by county legislative leaders in both parties.
“The residents of Westchester County were truly fortunate to have been led by such a wise and visionary public servant for so many years," Board of Legislators Chair Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers) replied in a statement. "Andy O’Rourke never forgot his humble beginnings in Yonkers, and many of the county programs and services that help Westchester’s less fortunate were initiated at his direction. He recognized that Westchester consists of a wide spectrum of people from different cultures and ethnicities, and that our future prosperity and security would be the result of all of us working together toward those goals."
“On behalf of the Republican Legislators, It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the passing of former County Executive Andrew O’Rourke," Minority Leader Jim Maisano (R-New Rochelle) said in a statement. "As County Executive, Chairman of the Board of Legislators, Yonkers City Councilman and New York Supreme Court Justice, Andy O'Rourke always served the people of Westchester County with visionary leadership, dedication and compassion. His actions and commitment to this county were directly responsible for dramatic improvements to the Westchester County government. A true gentleman, Andy O'Rourke was always charming, witty and gracious to everyone he encountered and one of the greatest public speakers that Westchester has ever seen. The residents of Westchester County owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. O'Rourke and his legacy will be that he truly made Westchester a better place for all its residents.”