To the Editor:

It was 1993 when I experienced New Milford for the first time. Some friends and I came to see a band at the old Riley's Red Barn, known now as The Cookhouse.

Seeing that I’m a native New Yorker, I had no idea where we were going, nor heard of the town called New Milford. If memory serves, I said that I would never live this far from civilization. LOL.

Well, fast forward six years to July 1999. I got married to a gal from Connecticut that brought me back to this wonderful, quaint New England town, where we bought a home and began planting some roots. I got involved immediately in different organizations and charitable groups, meeting great people along the way, including Billy “Mo” Buckbee.

I’ll never forget my children asking me, “Dad, is that Santa Claus?” the first time they saw Billy, with his big white beard, tall stature, larger-than-life smile and belly laugh. Of course I said, “Yes,” explaining that Santa is always watching even when it’s not the Christmas season, as we walked over to introduce ourselves.

Don't ask me how, but after meeting Billy, I knew we would become friends. Billy had then as he does now, a very approachable demeanor that has transformed into his open door style of representing his district.

I have come to learn so much about his moral principles and outstanding integrity, as he sits on the board of several non-profit organizations such as the homeless shelter, Stand Up and Play Foundation, which provides a device for the disabled to play golf, and the Timmy Spada Foundation, which provides assistance for the mentally ill and suicide prevention.

Let’s not forget Run Santa Run, which was initiated by Billy to raise money for the diabetes foundation after his near-death experience with the disease. This event has become a great success year in and year out, with the proceeds being donated to several non-profits, as well as collecting toys for the Marine Corps Toys For Tots program.

That alone should be enough to describe the type of character and devotion Billy has for what he believes in. When I asked Billy at the recent 9/11 ceremony how things are going at the Capitol, he replied, “I'm getting a lot done, but want to do more.”

He’s constantly fighting for the needs of veterans and senior citizens, as he is truly a representative for the people and not your run-of-the-mill politician. I feel and believe we need Billy's experience in these tremulous times. Who else knows us better and what our needs are than our very own homegrown Billy Buckbee?

Warren Hengel

New Milford