State’s ‘longest-serving’ supervisor sees namesake forever ingrained into the facade of town building
By Susan Risoli
With laughter, a few tears, memories of the past and a nod to the future, Smithtown Town Hall was dedicated Sunday in honor of Patrick Vecchio (R) and his nearly 38 years as Smithtown supervisor.
The event fulfilled a resolution, passed by town council members in March, that the building at 99 W. Main St. be dedicated in recognition of Vecchio’s lifelong record of public service.
In an interview after the ceremony, Vecchio said he felt “overwhelmed and humbled” by the praise.
When asked if his job was still fun after almost four decades, the supervisor said, “Yes, it is. At the end of the day, I’ve done something for people. And that’s the guiding principle of my life.”
Vecchio shook hands and hugged those in attendance, urging them to get something to eat from the Italian buffet of mozzarella sandwiches and almond cookies set up after the formal dedication.
As passing motorists tooted their horns and a crowd lined the sidewalk, legislators spoke warmly about Vecchio, peppering their remarks with wisecracks. Drawing laughs and applause from the audience, state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) feigned surprise that Vecchio arranged for a reception after the ceremony, because “he’s cheap, he wears it like a badge of honor.”
But the supervisor’s thriftiness is a good thing, Flanagan pointed out, because it means he’s mindful of Smithtown taxpayers.
“He never forgot, never forgets, never will forget where the money is coming from,” Flanagan said.
On a more serious note, Flanagan said Vecchio has been an effective supervisor because “we need leaders, we need people who are not afraid to mix it up.”
State Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) said Vecchio should be acknowledged for the advances Smithtown has made in protecting the environment.
“You have earned this honor. You have earned it,” he said, addressing Vecchio directly.
Smithtown historian, Brad Harris, called Vecchio “a feisty guy … ready to take on an issue or political opponent. He does battle for the people of Smithtown.”
He noted that Vecchio is the longest-serving town supervisor in the region, “and for all we know, the longest-serving supervisor in the state of New York and probably the nation.”
However, Harris said to laughter from the crowd, “It’s just not true that he was here when town hall was constructed in 1912.”
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) quoted legendary film siren Mae West, who said, “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”
Vecchio, Bellone said, has served Smithtown the right way.
The town is “an amazing place — a place filled with incredible beauty, natural resources, wonderful people … the history of Smithtown is the stuff of legends,” Bellone said.
Looking over at Vecchio seated in the audience, Bellone said, “I’m excited to see the continuing story of this legend.”
Noting that Vecchio is a former boxer who stood up to opponents in the ring before he entered the political arena, Bellone said people have been trying to “knock the supervisor out ever since, but he’s still standing.”
Smithtown Deputy Supervisor and Councilman Tom McCarthy (R) and Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) read the council’s resolution to dedicate the building in Vecchio’s honor.
Vecchio’s first word after hearing the tributes was “Wow.”
“My heart is overwhelmed with all of you folks,” Vecchio said, taking his turn at the microphone. “I’m going to cry.”
Vecchio praised the “unsung” heads of departments in town governments.
“You might not know who they are,” he said. “But they are the glue that holds this town together and makes it the best town in New York state.”