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Smitthown

Councilman Tom McCarthy shouts in anger during the meeting. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.

The Smithtown Republican Committee was anything but united this week at their convention while deciding which GOP candidates to support for town board positions.

It was revealed earlier in the week Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) was a contender for the GOP’s Smithtown supervisor nomination, although at the committee’s meeting Tuesday night, May 30, it was clear leadership believed Wehrheim is not the only change they have in mind.

After a roll call vote the results gave Wehrheim the comittee’s nomination instead of current Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) who announced his intentions to run for another term last month. Incumbent councilmembers Tom McCarthy (R) and Lynne Nowick (R) also lost the comittee’s nominations for re-election from their party, with the committee voting to support Robert Doyle, a retired Suffolk County detective from Nesconset, and Thomas Lohmann, a Suffolk district attorney investigator. None of the incumbents came out of the meeting defeated though, and are determined to claim victory in the primaries this fall.

“You’ll get an opportunity in September to vote the way you all want,” Nowick said at the meeting. “Here’s the problem…nobody is interested, if they were interested they would be here tonight. This shows a lack of unity in the leadership.”

Councilman Ed Wehrheim listens to a protester Tuesday night at the Smithtown GOP convention. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.

Nowick was referring to the amount of proxy votes submitted — the majority of which went to challengers and not incumbents. She and other members of the party said the committee decided these changes last minute, and several members who sent in their proxy assumed the chairman would be casting their votes for the incumbents.

“You fixed this with proxies that no one even knew who they were voting for,” McCarthy said at the meeting. “Everybody gets blank proxies, they didn’t know they weren’t voting for their incumbents. It was a sham by you Bill [Ellis] and your lack of leadership. This committee was lied to. You led us to another split of the Smithtown Republican Party. You don’t know what the heck you’re doing.”

Ellis is the current chairman of the Smithtown Republican Committee, and said before the meeting he was confident that many members of the party wanted these changes.

“A lot of people support this,” Ellis said in a phone interview. Of the 180 members, Ellis cast proxy votes for dozens. As for the most controversial decision to try and unseat Vecchio, who was supported by the party in each of his previous campaigns over his 39-year tenure running the town, Ellis said he believes it’s the right decision.

“[Wehrheim] is the best man for the job,” he said. “The supervisor is 87 years old, and he’s not necessarily functioning like he did in the past.”

Ellis said there were several political reasons that led to the decision but would not go into any details.

As for the current leader of the town, he’s not swayed at all by the turn of events.

“I’m determined to get those signatures and win the primary,” Vecchio said in a phone interview. As for the decision made by Ellis and the leadership Tuesday night, Vecchio said he certainly doesn’t see it “as an example of a participatory democracy or very democratic at all.”

Marlene Wolke, who served as Vecchio’s secretary for many years, nominated him at the convention.

“I would be proud to nominate Patrick R. Vecchio who has served this town faithfully for the last 40 years,” she said. “He has done an outstanding job, I was proud to have served under him.”

Joanna Betts also spoke in support.

“I’m perplexed why we’re doing this when the town is run so finely by him,” she said.

But regardless of the divide in the party, Wehrheim came out the winner of the night, and thanked members for their support — despite having to wait several minutes for members to stop yelling in protest and calling for him to step down.

“I will say that this was a very difficult decision for me,” the councilman said at the meeting. “But I made it on behalf of this committee and the Smithtown community. I’ve worked 45 years serving this community and I will continue to do so with honor and integrity.”

It’s clear this primary will be anything but business as usual.

“This is no different than an election in the U.S.S.R, it’s fixed in advance,” McCarthy shouted at the end of the meeting.

“Mr. McCarthy I think needs to take a tranquilizer,” Ellis said in response.

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Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio, left, guards then-Senator John Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy. Photo by Kevin Redding.

As soon as you set foot in the second-floor town hall office of Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R), you’re absorbed by the New York City cop-turned-public servant’s accomplished and historic career, on full display in frames and cases around the room. 

“You’ve got to take a look at these walls,” the 86-year-old says proudly, from behind his wooden desk.

Dozens of black-and-white photos of famous politicians, public figures and entertainers from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s decorate the walls, all of which feature a younger yet instantly recognizable Vecchio, side-by-side with everyone from astronaut John Glenn to Queen Sikrit of Thailand to Marlon Brando to Prince Charles to Sammy Davis Jr.

The photo that stands above the others, both in placement and impact, is the giant one that hangs on the wall behind his desk, which shows then-Senator John F. Kennedy (D) and Jackie Kennedy sitting on the back of a convertible waving to a Manhattan crowd while a 30-year-old Vecchio, serving in a special security squad that protected visiting dignitaries, stands alongside the vehicle patrolling his surroundings.

“That was October 1960, a week before he [Kennedy] was elected president, in the lower end of Broadway,” Vecchio recalled.

Vecchio works at his Smitthown office. Photo by Kevin Redding

As a member of the Bureau of Special Services from 1959 to 1966, the Smithtown supervisor said he was assigned to Kennedy on numerous occasions when he was senator, president-elect and president, as he visited New York often. Overall, Vecchio said he guarded Kennedy — whom he considers one of his favorite presidents — about 10 times.

“Occasionally, he would go to a play in Manhattan and so three or four Secret Service men, myself and others would go with him to the play,” he said. “He would come into the city, sometimes alone, and his plane would land at Marine Air Terminal at LaGuardia and he would go directly to the Carlisle Hotel.”

While Kennedy and Vecchio never exchanged words, as the young New York City cop took his job providing security very seriously, he said he remembers Kennedy well.

“I could describe him as my mother once did: He looked like a Ken doll, Barbie’s boyfriend,” he said with a laugh. “I always remember he had a golden tan, he was slim and tapered, and he would smile and give a nod to all around him as he entered or left a room.”

Before Kennedy, Vecchio guarded President Dwight D. Eisenhower (R) in late 1959 and early 1960, to whom he was introduced personally. The photo of them standing shoulder-to-shoulder hangs on the wall.

“I have a vivid memory of Ike coming down the elevator inside The Waldorf Astoria New York hotel in Manhattan,” Vecchio said. “I’m just a kid from Brooklyn and the Secret Service agent, a guy from Queens who headed the Secret Service at that time, said to the president, ‘Mr. President, this is detective Vecchio, he’s been on board with us for three days,’ and Eisenhower reached over and shook my hand.”

Vecchio said he couldn’t help but be elated.

“Let me tell you, for a young guy from Brooklyn never having seen a president, no less meet a president, for him to shake my hand was just … awesome,” he said. “I was [starstruck]. The only other person there was the general that accompanied him … so it’s just me, the president of the United States, the general and a few Secret Service men.”

It was in 1967 that Vecchio moved to Long Island and served as head security of former New York City Mayor John Lindsay, who would help steer him into politics. From there, Vecchio went on to make his own impact as a leader, starting in 1978 when he was appointed Smithtown supervisor.

Smithtown Fire Department got a mother and her two children out of their house safely after it caught on fire last week. Photo from Smithtown

By Victoria Espinoza

Smithtown Fire Department responded to a smoke detector alarm coming from a residence in the early hours last Tuesday, Aug. 24.

The department got to a home on Sterling Lane at 3:11 a.m. Smithtown Third Assistant Chief Patrick Diecidue observed heavy smoke coming from the residence and quickly upgraded the call to a working structure fire.

With the possibility of residents in the home, Diecidue, along with the first responders on the scene, took out the front door and immediately proceeded to search the house. They were able to quickly remove a three-year-old girl from a bedroom and brought the child out for medical attention.

Additional arriving units continued the search and found a mother and her 3-month-old infant son on the bathroom floor. They were removed from the residence, and the department said they had inhaled a considerable amount of smoke and were in cardiac arrest.

While firefighters said the smoke was heavy, the fire was limited and quickly brought under control.

Members of the Hauppauge, Kings Park, St. James, and Nesconset fire departments responded to the scene to help, as well as the Central Islip-Hauppauge Volunteer Ambulance Corp.

The victims were treated on the scene and then transported by ambulance. The mother was initially taken to St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown while the children were taken to Stony Brook University Hospital. The mother was later transferred to SBUH for additional care.

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