For two decades, Hartford village Mayor Jim Piper has led his community by example in something he has always believed in -- a person's responsibility to make his community a better place.

For two decades, Hartford village Mayor Jim Piper has led his community by example in something he has always believed in - a person's responsibility to make his community a better place.

"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give," Winston Churchill once said. It's a philosophy and a quote Piper highlighted in the letter of resignation he read at Hartford Village Council's December meeting.

After 18 years with the gavel, and at the age of 73, Piper is ready to head south for the winter and relax.

"I retired from my job in 1997," he explained. "Now I think it's time to actually retire."

During Piper's tenure as mayor, the village constructed a sanitary sewer system, settled a property dispute over the town hall building, acquired the Hartford school building, started the Hartford Community Center at that property, expanded the village police department and created the positions of village administrator and village fiscal officer.

Piper and his wife, Linda, moved to Croton in the early 1980s.

"I've seen a lot of improvement over the years in the way people take pride in the community, and their property," Piper said. "I've seen people draw together more to accomplish things. I hope it stays that way, people working for the community instead of just for themselves."

The thing that hasn't changed, Piper said, is Croton's small-town atmosphere.

"This is still a place where people can escape the hectic pace of the city," he said. "I'd like to see the town hold onto that."

The challenges of being mayor of a small town, Piper said, are what most would imagine: getting residents involved and hearing positive direction at public meetings rather than only complaints. Piper noted those challenges are balanced, however, by "the opportunity to work with wonderful people" to do good things for the town.

Piper passes the mayoral torch to council president Greg Retherford, who has lived in the Croton area for decades. Greg and Deb Retherford moved into the village in 2004.

"To be honest, I thought I might someday run for mayor," Retherford said. "But not as long as Jim was in office, because he was doing a good job."

Retherford was elected to his council seat in November, but was already finishing out a term he was appointed to about three years ago. He said he just wants to do the best job he can for the village and continue the good things happening there.

Piper calls Retherford a hard worker.

"If he gets the cooperation I've had, things will be great," Piper said. "He is a very conscientious person and he wants this to work."

Both Piper and Retherford feel the new community center is one of the most exciting things on the horizon for the village in the coming months and years. The town currently allows use of the gym and cafeteria by groups like the Northridge Youth Athletic Association (NYAA), with the school itself closed off to most activity. Both men hope the outside of the center can be improved through grants and donations, as the inside gym area is being repaired.

"We're looking for people to volunteer up there," Retherford said. "There's plenty of work to be done."

Piper plans on being one of those volunteers.

"I still want to come back and be involved in the community center," said Piper, who will spend the cold months in Florida visiting friends and family. In his letter of resignation, he wrote, " I will always be interested and willing to help in any way."