Cover Story

CLARA DATRE

First Woman President of Long Island Builders Institute

Breaks Through the Glass Ceiling

By Sally Gilhooley • Photos by Andrew Sheahan

“LIBI is finally building clout and we can’t stop now,” declared Clara Datre, president of Daytree Custom Builders of Ronkonkoma, who was sworn in as president of the Long Island Builders Institute (LIBI) by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone at Villa Lombardi’s in Holbrook in January. She is the first woman president in the 70 year history of LIBI, the association of building professionals that Datre said, “is constantly working for their members and the betterment of the building industry.”

Well-known as an innovative leader who gets things done, Datre hit the deck running saying that as president one of the most important words will be GROWTH. She outlined her plans for open communication with members and suggested workshops about the building process, securing approvals and permits and proposing new ways to grow membership. In an article she wrote for Builder & Remodeler, January/February 2012, Datre said, “By educating the public through lots of press as to LIBI’s vital role here on Long Island, we can get more builders and subs reading about us… I will emphasize why the building industry is so important for Long Island and its economy.”

Political Activism

Datre, who made a run for supervisor of the Town of Islip in 2007, also plans to focus on LIBI’s Political Action Committee (LIBI PAC). She said, “Legislation at the state level can help make or break the small business person. Therefore, for the first time in LIBI history, I will be scheduling a ‘Local Lobbying Day’ this spring in addition to the lobby day that some of us do in Albany with the New York State Builders Association.”

In the past, Datre explained, by having the undivided attention of senators and assemblymen where builders can voice concerns, LIBI PAC has been able to grow their funds and make substantial donations that have attracted the attention of political leaders.

Asked if she had any plans to run for public office in the future, Datre answered, “If I were 10 years younger I would, but it took me away from my family and my grandchildren and I really missed them then. We couldn’t spend much time with them while we were campaigning.”

Teaching Career

A North Babylon native and a graduate of St. John’s University, Datre taught Spanish at East Islip High School for almost 20 years while also working part-time in her husband Tom’s construction business. She says, “After I had breast cancer in 1987, I made a lot of changes and I began to work full time in our business.”

LIBI Charitable Endeavors

Datre is the immediate past president of Long Island Home Builders Care, Inc. (LIHBC), a non-profit initiative of the Long Island Builders Institute (LIBI), which has spearheaded the Gregory Mancini Memorial Scholarship Fund to benefit children and grandchildren of LIBI members and their employees. The Fund is designed to help Long Island high school graduates who will pursue a career in the building industry. She says, “As president of LIBI, I had to step down as head of LIHBC but I am on the Board. We are already planning a special project for Thanksgiving to feed the needy.”

Together with Lois Fricke, operations director for LIBI, Datre has set up another charitable arm of the organization, Long Island Home Builders Care Development Corporation (LIHBCDC), a 501 (c)(3) non-profit, whose primary role is building new homes for returning veterans. Recently, on property donated by Mark Baisch of Landmark Properties whose father was in World War II, a three bedroom high ranch in Sound Beach was sold to veteran, Omar Domench, at a price well below market value. The Domench family is now living in their new home constructed using volunteer labor and donated supplies.

Future LIHBCDC plans include homes built as joint endeavors with the Long Island Housing Partnership. These homes will be adapted as necessary with wheelchair access to all levels, open floor plans and maintenance-free with floors and other surfaces selected for high durability.

Explaining her focus on building for returning war veterans, Datre said that LIBI wants to give back adding, “I can’t let the ball drop on some of those projects that I’ve started with the builders. We are beginning work on our next home and there is a lot of effort that has to go in at the very beginning.

“Members who want to donate their time and/or labor to a charity will have many opportunities next year through the Long Island Home Builders Care Returning Veterans Program,” she said adding, “I will take LIBI’s image two giant steps forward as LIHBCDC builds a home in Ronkonkoma for another returning vet and, if we complete our negotiations successfully, we may possibly have more land in Islandia to build out a six home sub-division to be called ‘Veteran’s Way,’ ” says Datre.

Clara Datre is married to Thomas Datre, owner of Datre Construction Company, Inc., and President of LIHBCDC. The Datres have three children: Tom Jr, Gia and Carla and 14 grandchildren.

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