MAMARONECK, N.Y. - It's no wonder Joseph Russo knows exactly how far Harbor Island is from Montauk by both land and sea, considering the Mamaroneck harbor master made the 89-mile boat trip 17 times by the time he was 28.
By then, Russo, 58, had developed a growing curiosity about the sea. The 44-year Mamaroneck resident wanted to learn more.
"I was 28 when I took the exam for the US Coast Guard Captain's License in New York City," said the father of two, who took one month of night classes in New Rochelle to prepare. "It was the hardest test I ever took, but I passed."
Nearly 30 years later in 2008, he used his license to become harbor master at Harbor Island.
"I told them, 'I know Harbor Island, I know what it needs and what improvements to make,'" said Russo, who was born in Cooney Island and moved to Mamaroneck when he was 14.
Now, boaters can see Russo patrolling the water in his power boat or in his office on the east basin of Dock S. Although there is a lot of administrative work involved in docking more than 600 boats, Russo gets out on the water as often as possible.
"Sometimes I'll just go out for a ride at 11 p.m. to check things out," said Russo, who has help from five Village of Mamaroneck harbor patrol boats and one fire rescue boat between May and November.
"We work along with the harbor patrol in enforcing laws and regulations," said Russo, who monitors all the laws of the sea, including the speed of boats coming in and going out of the harbor.
If Russo whistles at you, you're probably speeding.
"We're in charge of all the administrative work that goes through the harbor, he said.
Although Russo didn't change careers immediately, he continued to enjoy Harbor Island's 9.5 miles of coastline with his son and daughter, who currently dock their boats there.
"Every time I go out on the harbor, whether its fishing with my kids or just patrolling the harbor, I never get enough of it," he said.
Russo worked at Texaco World Headquarters in Harrison as a maintenance supervisor until he was 51. When the company was bought out by Morgan Stanley and moved to California, Russo decided to stay in Mamaroneck. Seven years later, he filled the position he currently holds.
"I love coming to work," Russo said. "I like seeing the people around here, which makes my job easy."
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