Movers & Shakers

Mallory Braun, right, is set to open a new bookstore in Huntington Village. She was mentored by former Book Revue owner Richard Klein, left. Photo above by E. Beth Thomas;

A new independent bookstore is set to open on New York Avenue in Huntington Village after one entrepreneur’s yearlong journey to find a location.

In the last few months, Mallory Braun has held pop-up events at businesses such as Nest in Northport. Photo from The Next Chapter’s Facebook Page

Many business owners struggled to keep their doors open during the COVID pandemic even after restrictions were lifted. One of the stores that shut its doors for good during 2021 was the Book Revue in Huntington village.

However, former Book Revue store manager Mallory Braun, of Huntington, realized the importance of a community bookstore and launched a Kickstarter campaign on Nov. 1, 2021, to raise $250,000. Her hope was to open a new store in the village in the spirit of Book Revue. After 45 days on the crowdfunding platform, more than 2,200 people donated over $255,000.

Opening a new bookstore didn’t happen overnight though.

Braun has spent several months acquiring books and records that were donated and sold to her and stored them at a warehouse. While she waited for the right location, the business owner and employees ran pop-up stores over the last few months in locations such as the Huntington Fall Festival, Nest on Main in Northport, Glen Cove’s Southdown Coffee and more. The pop-ups were fun and successful, she said, and after the new store is open, she would like to do more.

“It allows us to build relationships with local businesses,” Braun said. 

Regarding finding the right location, the entrepreneur said she had to find a space that was big enough for the quantity of books she wanted to carry and hold events that she hopes to organize in the future.

She said there were serious talks about a few locations until they found the storefront at 204 New York Ave.

“This one was the one that has worked out, and it was the right choice,” she said, adding that it’s a five-minute walk from the old Book Revue building, in a northerly direction.

A grand opening date has not been chosen yet, but she said the store will open in time for the holiday shopping season. Braun added there is still a lot of work to be done. The Next Chapter employees are still shelving books and vinyl records at the future store, and Richard Klein, former Book Revue co-owner, has also been helping her prepare for the big day.

Braun, who specializes in used and rare items, is currently ordering new books. She said it would enable her to have authors visit for book signings, something she said customers enjoy.

“I don’t know how long it’s going to take to build up the same type of author as Book Revue had, but it’s important, and we’ve already been working on it,” Braun said.

She added that people have been volunteering to help get the store ready. Anyone interested in helping can reach the store by emailing: [email protected] 

For more information about The Next Chapter, visit the website www.thenextchapterli.com.

Al Kopcienski, right, with his great-grandson in a Miller Place Fire Department Ambulance. Photo courtesy Elizabeth Schwartz

Born 90 years ago this past Sunday, Al Kopcienski of Miller Place has led a life of uninterrupted service to his community.

Kopcienski’s sizable extended family flew in from around the country Oct. 22 to honor his life. On this joyous occasion, his daughter Elizabeth Schwartz thought it necessary to look back on her father’s life and reflect upon his achievements.

In an interview, Schwartz shared her father’s long commitment to the area. “My dad has been so invested in this community in a very quiet way,” she said. “The community needs to know. We need to remember people who are our unsung heroes.”

Kopcienski’s legacy of community service spans nearly a century. Among his many posts, he served as president of the Mount Sinai School District Board of Education, more than 60 years with the Port Jefferson Rotary Club, and the Miller Place Fire Department where he served as chief from 1967-68.

He lives by the Rotarian motto, “Service above self.” Schwartz said she and her siblings were also raised to follow this ethos.

“We were all raised — all eight of us — were raised with this mantra, ‘Service above self,’ that hard work is good work, that our job is to give to the community,” she said. “It is about community and not always about one person or self.”

Over the past nine decades, Kopcienski has witnessed firsthand the gradual transformation of the area. He said the little farming economy he once knew has gradually become a bustling environment.

“This area was a big farming area, and through the transition of years the farmers have disappeared,” he said. “The farming industry disappeared, and then the developers came in and started building houses.”

Despite the differences today from the undisturbed landscape Kopcienski knew growing up, he said young people can still derive vital lessons from his generation.

“One of my favorite sayings is ‘rest means rust,’” he said, emphasizing the value of physical movement and manual labor. “The service industry is well organized and has well-paying positions.”

While on the Mount Sinai school board, Kopcienski pushed for expanding opportunities for students pursuing professional trades. While today, many may place higher education at a premium, he still sees the value of these alternative career paths.

“There was a local superintendent of schools that would say, ‘All my kids graduate and go on to college,’” Kopcienski said. “I said to him, ‘What about the poor kid that can’t go on to college? What about the kid who went to BOCES, a trade school, where he spent half the day at school and then learned a trade?’” He added, “One of the problems we have is that people don’t want to get their hands dirty.”

Even at 90 years old, Kopcienski is still getting his hands dirty today, driving the ambulance for the fire department. He said he receives his fair share of raised eyebrows when arriving on the scene of an emergency.

“They say, ‘That old man’s driving the ambulance?’” he joked. Schwartz interjected, adding, “He comes home and tells us about all of the old people he drives to the hospital. And I said, ‘The old people, like 20 years younger than you, Pop?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’”

Despite the many changes he has observed over time, Kopcienski sees reason for hope. With 24 grandchildren, he now gets his chance to sit back, watch and follow the rising generation as it embarks on its path. 

Still, at 90, there appear to be no signs of rust or rest on this lifelong community servant.

Brookhaven Town councilman on redeveloping the Middle Country Road corridor

Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden), above. Photo from Brookhaven Town website
Part I

Town of Brookhaven Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) has worked on several major initiatives during his time at Town Hall. In Part I of this two-part interview, LaValle discusses the recent completion of paving projects in Selden, the need for sewers on Middle Country Road, his background in government and the influence of his family on his decision-making. 

Could you discuss the recent paving projects completed in Selden and your ongoing work with the Town Highway Department?

Well, that is a major, major issue in my area. I have the smallest geographic area in the whole town. Our districts are broken up by population — about 80,000 people in each district — but my area is a very dense, compact area. What that means is that, obviously, I have a lot of roads, a lot of neighborhoods, a lot of businesses.

One of the things that we did a few years ago was that we made a commitment that we were going to spend $150 million on the town end, which is $15 million a year for the next 10 years, in paving. We made a pledge to the community that that’s what we were going to do to try to help the infrastructure in the town. We’ve been on target with that.

How have you coordinated with Suffolk County to bring sewers into downtown areas within your district?

That is absolutely crucial for the growth of the business community in Centereach and Selden along the Middle Country Road corridor. Hundreds and hundreds of businesses that run up and down this road are unsewered, and even the houses there, every one has a cesspool.

Our big issue on Middle Country Road is that if you look at these lots, they’re all half-acre and acre lots. So what can you build on it? You can’t really get the nice restaurants that other areas have, and that hinders how we can develop and how we can move forward.

We’ve had a lot of success in redeveloping a lot of these lots throughout this corridor, but bringing [sewers] here allows us to take some of these beat up lots and have developers come in and combine them and build something new, whether it’s a two-story office building or a nice restaurant. Because with that sewer capacity, you have the ability to do that.

That’s really why it will be a huge game changer for this area. It will bring good new development down the road. When I was with [the late Suffolk County Legislator] Tom Muratore [R-Ronkonkoma], we kind of started that process to get the sewers going. Now [county Legislator] Nick Caracappa [C-Selden] has jumped into office and it’s really getting supercharged right now.

The county is going to be setting this up, but it gives the town the option — because I deal with rezoning — to be able to start talking to property owners and say, “Hey listen, we have sewers coming down here. If you put this lot together and this lot together, then we could do this.” That’s when you really start getting some exciting opportunities with new businesses and various other things that we want to come into the area.

To follow up, what is your organizational philosophy toward commercial redevelopment?

I think the big key is that when you look up and down the road, we have some small lots that are a quarter-acre or a half-acre — all beat up properties. Right now, anybody coming in and buying them asks, “What can I really do with them?”

Take a look at the property values on Middle Country Road. Some 37,000 cars drive down the portion of Middle Country Road in my area every single day; 37,000 is a massive number — a lot of cars. And great property values. It’s prime real estate, but for developers to come in, you need to have the sewer capacity to be able to build a two-story building on an acre lot, and right now you can’t do that.

If you’re a developer, you have to spend money to buy the property, then money to build it, and then you have to be able to rent it to make your money back. Let’s be very honest about it. That’s what developers do. That’s what businesspeople do, they’re here to make money. So you have to be able to attract them in. By giving them sewers, you will then give them the capacity that their money will go out to redevelop, but it’s also going to come back to them because they’ll be able to bring in new businesses.

We’ve come a long way in the last nine years. The big thing for me as far as developing properties is developing that relationship with the business owners and the property owners, being a straight shooter, telling them, “Hey, this is going to work and this is not going to work.” It’s about not wasting people’s time.

A mentor of mine once asked me, “What’s the most important thing in business?” At the time, I was young — like 24 or 25 — and I said money. He said, “No, not even close.” The most important thing in business is time. If you’re a service provider, it’s the time from when your order is made to when you provide that service to your client. Or if you’re a builder, it’s the time it takes to buy the property, to get through the zoning process and to finish off building. If it takes more time, it’s going to cost you more money.

For me, I like to be a straight shooter with the developers, with the property owners, with the businesspeople, and say if it’s not a realistic concept, don’t string people along, just tell them. If it is a realistic concept, then how can we get you from point A to point B? How can we get you from when you buy the property to when you develop the property?

What is your professional background, and how did you end up at Town Hall?

I started off many years ago, after I graduated college, as chief of staff for Dan Losquadro [R] when he was a [county] legislator many years ago [and is now town highway superintendent]. I worked with Dan for about two years and then I went into the private sector — I owned a title agency for about four years. We have since sold that business and I went into the mortgage business, which I still do to this day.

During that time a bunch of years back, I was asked to come back part time to the [county] Legislature to work for Tom Muratore. He was about a year into the job and was trying to figure out his way a little bit. I decided to come back and I was with Tom for about three years. Then the opportunity to run for Town Council came up.

I never really thought that I would run for office, even though my family had been in office. I didn’t think that was what I wanted to do, but I had a lot of friends and family and people in the community come up to me — because they saw all the work that I was doing with Tom — and they said, “Listen, you do a great job and we really need you to run for the Town Board. We think you could do a great job here.”

I took that run back in 2013 and I was fortunate to get elected. I’ve been a sitting town councilman ever since. It’s been nine years of working on a lot of things within the district and it’s really something that I’ve grown to love and enjoy.

How has your family shaped your approach to public service?

My brother, John [Jay LaValle (R)], was a town councilman and a town supervisor. My cousin, Ken LaValle [R-Port Jefferson], was a state senator for over 40 years. They had very different styles when they were in office. When I was a kid, I watched how they worked.

Ken was very statesmanlike in the way he went about things. John was very aggressive and would take care of business and kind of push things and run around with a lot of energy. I kind of look at both of them and have learned from both styles.

I think there are opportunities to be aggressive when you have to push things and show excitement, like my brother John. I also think there are other opportunities when, like my cousin Ken, you have to sit back, listen, take it all in, really understand the situation, and do your homework to make sure that you know what you’re talking about. I think both of those styles kind of mesh with who I am.

Part II

For over a decade, Town of Brookhaven Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) has worked on the Selden Park Complex. Now he can see the finish line. In Part II of this two-part interview, the councilman reflects upon the role of parks, open spaces and the mentorship of the late Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma), under whom LaValle served as legislative aide.

What is the status of the Selden Park Complex?

Now this is something that I’ve been working on since I was aiding Tom Muratore 12 years ago. This is going to be the largest park in the Town of Brookhaven — 24 acres that we’re breaking ground on.

Heritage Park [in Mount Sinai] is a park that’s at the end of County Route 83. When we started talking about this with the community years ago, people said, “That’s something we want. Can we do that?” And now we’re right there.

Phase I was to bring back the two Little League fields near Grace Presbyterian Church. I actually grew up playing baseball on these fields. Grace used to lease them to the Little League, but then Grace was having issues with its insurance, so [the fields] went fallow. We were able to work with the county to buy this property. The deal was cut so that the county would buy the properties and the town would develop them. Veterans [Park] used to be a baseball field. We then came in, redid it, and now it’s a multipurpose field for all the kids. That was Phase II.

We just broke ground recently on the third and final phase, the biggest phase that we have going on here. We’re building two additional baseball fields, a basketball court, pickleball courts, playgrounds, a concession stand, shade shelters throughout, a storage facility for our guys and batting cages. And for the first time in the town’s history — and I always like to be the first guy — I was the first guy to pickleball and now I’m going to be the first guy to roller and deck hockey.

This really comes back to my childhood growing up in Centereach. We had two deck hockey and roller hockey rinks, and I would play deck hockey with my friends. We talked about it and said, “You know what? This is a good idea. Let’s bring this back to the community.” It will be the first time ever that we’re bringing that back.

I kind of refer to this as a generational park. This is where we hope that families that come to the area will walk their children around in strollers around the walking trails. Then when they get a little bit older, they bring the kids over to the playgrounds. Then they get a little bit older and play any kind of sport, whether it’s softball, baseball, lacrosse, soccer … whatever sport they want. Then the kids go off to college, and hopefully they come back to the community where they’re going to be doing the same thing and raising their families using this facility.

What is your office doing to protect open spaces?

Just this past year in the Centereach/Selden community, right on the corner of Old Town Road and County Route 83, there’s a parcel over there that we just made a preserve. That happened to be a town property, and we saw an opportunity to kind of protect it and consider it a nature preserve.

That’s something that I think is really important that we do and that we continue to do as a township. You have to keep in mind that our drinking water is extremely important to what we’re doing — it’s right under our feet. And protecting our lands protects that drinking water. Bringing sewers protects that drinking water, so that’s a critical issue for us.

What do you foresee as the long-term impact of bringing more public funds into the Middle Country area?

It’s one of the reasons I ran for office nine years ago. I grew up in this area, and I can tell you the sentiments of people back then. Generally, we were looking around at all these other communities and watching what they were building — money going here, they’re building a park there, preserving property over here. They said, “This guy’s getting this, they’re getting that, and what are we getting? Are we getting our fair share here?”

That’s something I focus on every day, about how we can rebuild and what money we can bring in. Bringing in new development is one thing — the town doesn’t put money into that. I have to go out and recruit people and work with businesspeople. But making sure our parks are up to par, making sure we’re getting extra money for our roads, these are things you are required to do as a town councilman.

As far as parks go, in my time here, we really have run through all of our parks. We have built a dog park since I’ve been here. We rebuilt Iroquois Avenue Park [in Selden] completely — the walking trail, everything is getting redone.

I grew up less than a mile from the Centereach Pool Complex. When I was a little kid, I would go up and play basketball. When I got elected, the backboards at Centereach Pool were rusted out and the ground was broken up on the basketball courts. It had been just horrendous. Since I’ve been in office, we’ve redone the basketball courts. We’re the first facility to have pickleball, we’ve built sun shelters, we’ve rebuilt the bathrooms and redone the walking trail.

Can you describe the mentorship of Tom Muratore and his influence on you now?

Tom was an unbelievable guy. We were a good team. He was the vice president of the [Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association] before he became a legislator. He was a soft-spoken guy, wasn’t the kind who was flashy or who would always jump to the mic. That wasn’t Tom.

Tom was a guy who liked to work with people and had the biggest heart of anybody I’ve ever known in politics. He just cared for everybody, didn’t need to get credit for things, just wanted to make the community a better place.

He hired me when I was young and aggressive, bouncing off the walls with a lot of energy. And he was a great mentor because he would look at me sometimes and just say, “Kevin, we can pass it today and just push it through, or we can pass it tomorrow with everybody’s consensus.” Or say, “Let’s take our time and get everybody on board.”

I’m an aggressive guy. I like to keep moving and get things going. Tom kind of put the brakes on me. He taught me to take a little extra time to build that extra consensus, making sure everybody’s on board. There were just so many different lessons that I learned from him.

Next year, when we open up [the Selden Park Complex], it will be weird not to have him here. But I know he’s looking down with a big smile on his face, and he’s glad we’re going to finish this out for the community. Something we started together.

Romaine discussed ways in which local government and New York State must adapt to meet the needs of a changing environment. File photo

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) has served in elected office for decades. In Part I of this two-part series, Romaine discusses the problem of coastal erosion, innovative ideas for recycling and why you won’t see his name on a sign at a town park.

What sparked your interest in environmental protection and which issues concern you the most?

Long ago, I made a choice between my eyes and my ears, and I chose my eyes. People can argue whatever they want, but I’ve seen what this Island was. I grew up on Long Island. I’ve watched it change and I know what it needs.

The things that concern me about this Island are the threat of climate change and rising sea levels, which is why we’ve bought hundreds of acres at Mastic Beach — to convert them back to wetlands, to act as a sponge.

The week before I was elected in 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit. I went down to Mastic Beach, which was part of my original district in the ’80s. I knew the mayor and I went down with Dan Panico [R-Manorville], who was the councilman, and we took a tour.

Neighborhood Road is the road that runs east and west through Mastic Beach. Everything south of Neighborhood Road was flooded. And the other thing I remember about that disaster was the smell. With all the trees and the downed wires sparking, it smelled of sewage because all their cesspools were inundated, and it smelled of oil because they all had above-ground tanks that spilled over.

It was so devastating when I went down there. Mastic Beach has recovered since, but I will never forget the disaster that hurricane caused and the flooding that it unleashed. Marshlands act as sponges that are capable of handling a flood like that. That is why I am deeply invested in trying to buy up as much of the marshland that was built upon years ago and get rid of some of the small homes there.

The other concern is the carbon footprint we leave. I’m a big supporter of renewable energy. When I was a [county] legislator for the 1st District, I bought more land and preserved more farmland than the other 17 districts combined.

The pattern of development has been so intense that we’ve screwed up this Island by sprawl. We should have thought more carefully about the pattern of development here and what we could do in terms of public transport, in terms of public services — and we didn’t.

What is your preferred approach to the issue of eroding bluffs, a growing problem along the North Shore?

Sometimes people live along those bluffs, so you want to see what type of engineering solutions there are to secure or stabilize bluffs. I know the Village of Port Jefferson is debating what to do about the Port Jefferson Country Club because their tennis courts are going to fall in [the Long Island Sound] and then right after that, probably the clubhouse.

My view would be the same as it would be for Mastic Beach — to retreat from the bluffs. But again, sometimes you can’t do that because people live atop them, so you have to look at engineering solutions that would help stabilize the bluffs. It’s Mother Nature at work. Can man-made solutions resolve it? Sure they can … temporarily. Clearly, what should have been done is something that would have prevented building near or on the bluffs.

Can you discuss the recycling initiative that your office has undertaken?

Back in 2017, China announced its [Operation] National Sword policy. It said, “Hey, we’re not buying any more recycled goods from the United States.” Well, that created all types of problems.

Unfortunately with recycling, a lot of what needs to be recycled rests with the State of New York, and they have not been innovative. The [Department of Environmental Conservation] has chosen to be a regulator and not an innovator. Let me give you an example: glass.

Glass is one of the largest contaminants in the recycling process. To recycle, what do you need? You need a marketplace. Recycling doesn’t work if you don’t have a marketplace to reuse the goods that you’re recycling, which is why recycling has collapsed in large parts of this country.

What we’re looking for from the State of New York is called a BUD — a beneficial-use determination. We believe glass should be an aggregate used in concrete. Concrete is the most carbon-intensive production of any substance that we know. And the way you can end that is by substituting glass in that process as an aggregate, and we’ve allocated for that.

What this requires is the state DEC to give us a beneficial-use determination. Now we’ve proved that because we’ve built these huge drainage rings for our recycling center and we got state permission to use glass as the aggregate in the concrete. They are not even looking at that.

At Stony Brook University, there’s a boathouse. It’s painted blue and was built in 1989. Do you know what it was built out of? Ash. The strength of that building is stronger today than the day it was built in 1989. Guess what we do with our ash? We put it in our landfill. Yet we don’t get a beneficial-use determination to use ash in concrete, in asphalt or in other products. This would create a market for glass and ash.

Also, I’m waiting on the state legislation. I have an ally in the state Legislature — an old friend of mine, someone I served with in the [county] Legislature in the ’80s, and we still work together to this day: [Assemblyman] Steve Englebright [D-Setauket]. I’m trying to say, “Steve, what are we doing here? There’s so much we can be doing.” We need a “Bigger, Better Bottle Bill.” We need to create markets for products because if we don’t, recycling will not work and will not be effective.

If you give enough time and you watch a leaky faucet, that water one drop at a time over a long period of time will make a difference. I always remind myself of the one drop of water. Because if you keep on hammering away at it, change will come. If only incrementally, it will come for the better, for things that should come, for things that are so common sense that even the opposition can’t argue against it. And usually, the opposition tends to be monied interests that have some kind of economic benefit to them, not to the society as a whole.

How did you end up in the supervisor’s office?

I started out as a teacher. I taught for 12 years, almost all of it at Hauppauge. I was very active in the teachers union there. I was the treasurer of the teachers union on their executive committee. In fact, one of my students was Jay Schneiderman, the supervisor of Southampton [D] — I taught him seventh-grade social studies.

I was always active, kind of on the sidelines as a volunteer. In 1979, in the Town of Brookhaven — which had been under Democratic control for four years — the Republicans won everything and they needed people to go into town government. I had done a lot of work for the school district on federal and state aid, so they asked me to become a part-time federal and state aid coordinator.

I started there, and the first thing I got was a massive grant for community development. We got a huge, multimillion-dollar grant, but there were conditions on hiring staff. So they asked me to become the first commissioner on housing and community development for the town. I asked the school district to give me a leave of absence — they were very kind and gave me three in a row. And finally I told them, “Look, I’m not going to come back,” because I was into that job. I did that for five years and loved it.

All the sudden, the [county] legislative seat in which I lived had opened up and they asked me to run. Even though it was a little bit less money, I thought about it for a while and I said “yes.” I ran and was elected to the Legislature in ‘85 and then again in ‘87. I was getting ready to run again when our county clerk died. In between, I had run for Congress and did very well — I got 49.6% of the vote against an incumbent, Mr. [George] Hochbrueckner [D-NY1].

I ran for county clerk, won all 10 towns and went on to win five elections as county clerk. In that time, I had moved, the lines had changed and I got elected to the 1st Legislative District as their county legislator, which included all of eastern Brookhaven from Shoreham to where I live in Center Moriches, as well as Riverhead, Southold and Shelter Island. I loved that district and didn’t lose an election district for the four times I ran. And I was getting ready to run again when Mr. [Mark] Lesko [D], who was the [Brookhaven] supervisor, resigned midterm.

I was asked to run for supervisor and I thought long and hard about that. The major reason I did that was because I had a son [Keith] who was a town councilman and died in office. He always told me that at some point in life he wanted to be a supervisor. That motivated me to say “yes.” I wound up winning five terms as supervisor. So that’s the very short synopsis of a long story.

Brookhaven is an old township that has endured for three-and-a-half centuries. What does it mean to you to be a part of that tradition, and what do you see as your place in it?

The one thing I know about history is that people are quickly forgotten. That’s why I made sure that when I became supervisor, I said, “Other than in Town Hall, I don’t want my name on any town signs or anything.” And you will not see my name on a town park or anything because I made it clear that I’m just passing through.

I believe one of the greatest things I did was save 1,100 acres and put them in the Central Pine Barrens — 800 of which was National Grid property. The legacy that I leave will be a legacy that benefits people, but they will not know it was me.

Brookhaven Town councilwoman rolls up her sleeves in District 2

Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) discussed her ongoing work at Town Hall. File photo

Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) has served her community for decades. In an exclusive interview, she discussed her journey into local politics, her approach to commercial redevelopment, efforts to protect the environment and the upcoming redistricting process.

What is your professional background and how did you end up at Town Hall?

I moved to Rocky Point 34 years ago. I became very active locally in the Rocky Point Civic Association, the Rocky Point school board, St. Anthony’s [Catholic Youth Organization]. I was very involved in the community, volunteering and generally trying to make things better. I was sort of a person who didn’t ask others to do things for me — if I wanted it done, I rolled my sleeves up.

When [town] Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro [R] was running for the Suffolk County Legislature, he reached out and asked if I would volunteer for his campaign. I knew him, I liked him, and I believed in what he stood for and I got involved in his campaign. He liked my work on his campaign and he hired me to be a legislative aide. I was quite shocked by the offer. Then I worked in his office for four years, always staying actively involved. 

Former Councilman Kevin McCarrick [R-Rocky Point], who was the first representative for Council District 2, ran for two terms but was very busy in his private business — the family owned McCarrick’s Dairy. He was busy at the dairy and he decided he needed to devote his time to the family business and didn’t want to run for office anymore. I was asked by the Republican Party, the Conservative Party and the Independence Party to run for this position, with others also screened as well. And they picked me.

What initially drew you to the Rocky Point community?

My first husband and I were looking to buy a house that we could afford. I grew up in Northport; he grew up in Forest Hills but was living in Centerport when I met him. We got married, had children … and had my daughter. We were renting a house in Centerport. This was when the market had really, really peaked. I had friends who had a house out here. My first husband summered out in Wading River. And 34 years later, I’m in the same house.

What is it about this area that makes it unique?

There’s a very strong sense of community, of friendliness and neighborliness, of helping each other out. I’m always in awe of the strong number of volunteers that are in every hamlet that I represent. 

I have a very healthy respect for people that volunteer. We live in a chaotic time now where people are being pulled in many different directions — and people are having to work harder because their dollar is worth less. I enjoy the job that I have because I meet wonderful people and the volunteers that I meet at civic meetings, at Great Brookhaven Cleanups, at scouting. 

Where I live in Rocky Point, specifically, it still has a touch of how it used to be. I live in the old section, the North Shore beach section, so most of the bungalows have been renovated, but they’re not cookie-cutter, not a development. Every house is a little bit different. It’s a charming community.

What is your approach, your guiding philosophy, toward commercial development and downtown beautification?

Various levels of government have worked very hard to bring redevelopment to Sound Beach — the playgrounds and the veterans monument. We’ve brought money to downtown Rocky Point, 25A and Broadway specifically – sidewalks, streetlights, street trees, the veterans square that we developed, working with business owners to come into whatever hamlet that I represent. 

Commercial development — not large-scale commercial development, not a big-box store, nothing like that — is about working hard with our local stores to help them succeed, whether that’s with permits or meeting with them to help them get through the process with the town, county or state. We kind of view the office as a clearing house. Even if it’s not under my purview, we help. We sort of roll our sleeves up and guide them through the process and stay in touch throughout the process. 

What is your office doing to protect the environment?

We rebuilt two new jetties last year — east and west jetties down at Cedar Beach. The inlet had filled in and it was a navigational hazard. At the back of the harbor, the water was not flushing well and there were water quality issues down there. Former [state] Sen. [Ken] LaValle [R-Port Jefferson] jumpstarted us with a $3 million grant from the state and then we paid $5 million. Now the back of the harbor is so clear and clean. The fish are coming back like crazy.

We’ve done a significant amount of stormwater drainage and infrastructure investment along the North Shore. During Hurricane Sandy, much of our stormwater infrastructure was destroyed. So the highway superintendent and our finance department and our department of environmental protection worked hand in hand with FEMA to capture many millions of dollars so that we could bring back a greater standard to our stormwater infrastructure. 

Can you summarize the upcoming redistricting process for the Town Council?

We undertake this every 10 years. Residents should definitely partake in the meetings. Years ago, when I first ran for office, I represented more of Port Jeff Station and more of Coram. When we redistricted 10 years ago, I lost portions of Port Jefferson Station to try to keep it contiguous to the Comsewogue school district. I lost portions of Coram to keep it contiguous with other electoral districts that it touched.

I invite residents to participate in the process. We have a board that we’ve selected — there is a requirement for specific political parties, so there are equal seats at the table for each party. And they make the decisions on how the maps are going to roll out and how the boundaries will change. We [the Town Council] vote on the redistricting plans that the appointed board makes.

State assemblywoman on Albany’s neglect of Long Island

Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead). Photo from Giglio's website

New York State Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead) has openly criticized the state government for neglecting Long Island communities.

In an interview earlier this week, she addressed the upcoming gubernatorial primary election, her efforts to reach out to colleagues across the political aisle, the backward state of public infrastructure on the Island and more.

What is your professional background and how did you end up in the state Assembly?

I started my own construction company in 1997. I went to Stony Brook [University] at night while working full time during the day. I started to become very active in the construction industry and in land use — we owned 146 acres in East Quogue. My company is a certified Women Business Enterprise and I’m also a member of [the International Union of Operating Engineers] Local 138.

At the time, the Southampton Town Board put us in a moratorium for 2 1/2 years and raised our property taxes from $80,000 to $400,000. I was present at every hearing for the moratorium, where we couldn’t file an application and basically couldn’t do anything with our property. I felt that my property rights had been violated and became very involved in the political spectrum.

I started the Riverhead Business Alliance, where I had 50 businesses pay $300 a year so that I could hire somebody to send out emails letting businesses know about zoning changes that would be detrimental to their businesses. I set up a board of directors — and I was the president and the founder — and we just let everyone know what was happening in local government. A couple of years later, the business community asked me to run for the Town Board, which I did. I served on the Riverhead Town Board [as councilwoman] for 10 years.

There was a shift in government when [former state] Sen. [Kenneth] LaValle [R-Port Jefferson], who was a tremendous asset to the 1st Senate District, decided that he was no longer going to run. That’s when Anthony Palumbo [R-New Suffolk] decided to run for Senate. They asked me to run to fill his [state Assembly] seat, which I did, and I’m happy to serve the 2nd Assembly District in Albany.

You have spoken recently about the need to funnel tax dollars back into Long Island communities. In your opinion, are Long Islanders underserved by Albany?

Absolutely. I think all of Long Island is underserved by Albany. The largest concentration of New Yorkers is in New York City, so a lot of the money gets funneled into the five boroughs. I think that we pay a tremendous amount in tax dollars and a tremendous amount in our utility costs and that we are underserved.

However, I am very close to a lot of people on the other side of the aisle. I explain to them the problems that we have in our district and that we need help. I have been inviting them out here to come to different events, such as the Bell Town Heritage Area [in Aquebogue], where a friend of mine in the Assembly, Alicia Hyndman [D-Springfield Gardens], actually came out with her daughter and spent the day with me out here in the district, so that I could show her some of the challenges we face. On Saturday for Juneteenth, I went into Hempstead and spent the day with my dear friend, Taylor Darling [D-Hempstead] who is also in the majority, to see what her population is faced with.

I think that’s what it really takes: Not being a foreigner to other areas of the state, to realize what their needs are, and to make sure that we all work together to bring some of that money and some of those resources back to Long Island. 

As local residents enter the voting booth for next week’s gubernatorial primary elections, what are some important issues that they should keep in mind?

The important issues are the high taxes that we pay in New York state and getting people back to work. I think that shutting down the economy and making people dependent on the government is problematic and it hasn’t worked in other countries. 

I’ve worked with Congressman Lee Zeldin [R-NY1] since 2009 in his campaigns and have worked very closely with him over the years to make sure that our voices are heard here on Long Island. I think he’s been a pretty good advocate for us. I’ve listened to the debates and I think all of the candidates make great points. They have different areas of expertise that could help the state and I hope that whoever becomes the governor will tap into those assets, knowledge and experience that those others have. 

I think that Lee Zeldin is the most experienced person running for governor in that he served in the state Senate and he also served in Congress, so he knows the mechanisms of government and can hit the ground running right away because we need a quick reversal of what is happening right now in the state.

Two Long Islanders will be on the primary ballots next week: Zeldin and Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY3). What does this say about the relationship between Long Island and Albany?

Long Islanders are mad. Whether it’s from the South Shore or the North Shore, the East End or the middle of Long Island, people here are mad. Our Long Island Expressway was a debacle for too many years. We needed that federal infrastructure money and I’m glad to say some of it is coming back to Long Island. 

Long Island is a very unique place. There are a lot of people across the state that are spending a lot of time on Long Island, enjoying our waterfronts and our fisheries, our marinas and our farms, our commerce and our beaches. It’s important that we promote ourselves and make sure that Long Island has a strong voice in the state government.

In your opinion, is the MTA-LIRR underperforming? And what can be done to expedite services and make the railroad more responsive to Long Island communities? 

I can tell you that the New York State government is a crutch for the MTA whenever the MTA fails or overspends or has issues. I think that the current governor [Kathy Hochul (D)] shutting down the government for so long, especially in New York City — and the city government that shut everything down from theaters to shopping to restaurants — it really showed New York City that Long Island can work from home and that we don’t need to go into the city. 

I think that is going to cripple the MTA even more. The fact that the current governor held back and kept shutting everything down, sending the troopers and child protective services into restaurants on Long Island and throughout the state to make sure that everybody was shut down was a further step into government dependency. We were just writing unemployment checks and encouraging people to stay home and not go to work. 

How can the state government be brought closer to the people of Long Island?

As I said previously, by bringing people out here. A lot of people on the other side of the aisle in the majority are planning on coming out and spending some time with me out on Long Island this summer, including Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes [D-Buffalo]. We’re going to visit the wineries and the farms, look at the beaches and spend some time together. She has assured me that she will be out here with me and I plan on taking a trip up to Buffalo to see what her hurdles and her struggles are.

I think that by bringing people out farther on Long Island and seeing what we have out here … especially our expressway. Long Island has been neglected for far too long and we need to make sure that our roads are safe, that our law enforcement is making sure that our communities are safe and that there’s always somebody at the other end of the phone to answer the call. 

Our volunteer firefighters and our volunteer EMS workers, they are finding it very unaffordable to live here. We need to make sure that there are incentives for them to stay as another aspect of public safety. That is the fundamental reason why we have a government: public health, safety, welfare and prosperity.

Is there anything else you would like to say to our local readers?

I would like to say that elections have consequences. It’s very important that everyone pays attention to who is running for office. Look them up on the internet. We have easy access now to look at the platforms of the people running for office. Pay attention to who’s running and who best represents your ideals, your values and your concerns.

David Tunney is ready to open a new restaurant in Stony Brook Village Center. Photo from Eagle Realty Holdings

After being vacant since September, the spot formerly occupied by Pentimento will be home to a new restaurant.

In a statement Jan. 31, Eagle Realty Holdings Inc. announced David Tunney, who owns and operates several restaurants on Long Island from Port Jefferson to Roslyn, will open a new restaurant at 93 Main St. in Stony Brook Village Center.

“After many interviews with at least a half-dozen local and more distant restaurateurs, Eagle Realty Holdings trustees are pleased with our choice of David,” said chairman Richard Rugen in the press release.

According to Eagle Realty, Tunney is expected to open the new restaurant in the spring. He has not announced the name of the business or what will be offered.

“This will be a new concept, different cuisine and a whole new look,” Tunney said in the press release.

The business owner has been in the restaurant industry for 35 years and is a familiar face in the Three Village area. He grew up in Setauket and graduated from Ward Melville High School. In 2019, he bought the former Raga Indian Restaurant on Old Town Road and turned it into Old Fields Barbecue.

“This is where I grew up, this is where my roots are, and it’s amazing to come back to it,” Tunney said in a 2019 TBR News Media interview.

In addition to the Setauket spot, he owns Old Fields restaurants in Port Jefferson and Greenlawn and Old Fields Barbecue in Huntington. He is also one of the founders of the Besito Restaurant Group along with his brother John and part-owner of Besito Mexican restaurants in Huntington and Roslyn.

In the 2019 interview, Tunney said he had good memories of growing up in the Three Village area. His mother, Marilyn, worked in the TBR News Media offices for 25 years, and one of his first jobs was at the Arby’s that once was located where the Setauket Main Street firehouse is today. Tunney said his first job was with the former Dining Car 1890 that was located on Route 25A and Nicolls Road, where he started as a dishwasher.

In the interview, Tunney said he leaves the cooking to the chefs and enjoys the hospitality side of the business, which he learned from his brother John.

“The part I really love about it is making people have a great experience and that they just love all the food, the service, the ambiance, how they are taken care of,” he said in the interview.

After a long and intensive search, Suffolk County Community College has officially welcomed its new president, Edward Bonahue. 

Now overseeing the college’s three campuses — Ammerman in Selden, Grant in Brentwood and Eastern in Riverhead — Bonahue said he’s excited to come back to Long Island after leaving for his education and career decades ago. 

Bonahue grew up in Setauket and attended Nassakeag Elementary School, Murphy Junior High and then Ward Melville High School, Class of 1983. 

“It was wonderful,” he said. “Growing up in the Three Villages was a wonderful privilege, just because it taught me about the value of education.”

Ed Bonahue graduated from Ward Melville in 1983. Photo from SCCC

As a teen, he taught swimming lessons for the Town of Brookhaven, which he cites as the reason he became so fluent in the different areas of Suffolk County. 

“I had taught swimming everywhere from Cedar Beach to Shoreham,” he said. “I taught at the Centereach pool, Holtsville pool, West Meadow — it was one way of getting a sense that we live in a bigger place.”

Bonahue said he was “one of those kids” who was involved with the arts more than sports — although he did run track during his junior and senior years. 

“Ward Melville was lucky to have a great arts program,” he said. “They have a great jazz program and I was in that generation of kids where I was in the Jazz Ensemble all three years.”

His love of arts and humanities led him to North Carolina upon graduating, where he received his B.A. in English Literature at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem. 

After his undergrad, Bonahue took a job in Washington, D.C., working as an editor at the U.S. General Services Administration and then as managing editor for Shakespeare Quarterly at the Folger Shakespeare Library. 

“That convinced me: ‘Oh, yeah, I kind of like this. And I think I’m going to go back to graduate school.’” 

Bonahue enrolled at the University of North Carolina where he received his M.A.  and Ph.D. in English Literature. He then moved with his wife to Gainesville, Florida, to hold the position of visiting assistant professor of humanities at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Florida. 

In 2009, he was a Fulbright Scholar with the U.S. International Education Administrators Program in Germany, and in 2016-2017, he was an Aspen Institute College Excellence Program Presidential Fellow. 

And while in Florida, Bonahue eventually headed to Santa Fe College, also in Gainesville, serving as the provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, along with several other roles. 

But as the years went on, he decided he wanted to head somewhere new and began looking for fresh opportunities. Through networking, he heard about a post back on Long Island – a place he knew very well. 

New appointment at SCCC

Bonahue took on his new role officially on June 28. Under his leadership, he oversees the current enrollment of more than 23,000 credit students and 7,000 continuing education students. 

“One of the one of the opportunities for Suffolk going forward is to think about how we’re serving all of Suffolk County,” he said. “It’s no secret that the number of traditional students graduating from high school is going down every year. Over time, that’s a lot of students.”

While the majority of SCCC students are on the traditional path, Bonahue said that moving forward they need to figure out ways to do better outreach to nontraditional students. 

Bonahue said one of his many goals is to converge with employers and help their workers continue their education through Suffolk or connect them with future employees while still in school. He added that in a post-COVID world where there can be gatherings, he would like high school guidance counselors to come and visit. 

“I think high school students get a lot from recommendations from their teachers and guidance counselors — especially students who are underserved because of the parents haven’t been to college, they don’t have that network of what it’s like to go to college,” Bonahue said. “So, they rely on their teachers and guidance counselors for that information.”

He added that one thing that was learned during the 2020 census is Long Island is becoming a more diverse place. 

“Many have not had the privilege of any exposure to higher education,” he said. “And that’s what community college is for —
 providing access to educational opportunity and access to economic opportunity for folks who, without it, might be stuck in some kind of dead-end, entry-level service sector job.”

Bonahue noted that SCCC as a college needs to internalize its mission is not only to serve 19-year-old students.

Photo from SCCC

“Our mission is also to serve a mom with a baby at home, someone who’s taking care of parents, someone who’s working in a family business, could be a worker who’s already been on the job and has been displaced  — those are all of our students,” he said. “I think our mission is to embrace that larger sense of community, and then on top of that there are areas of Suffolk County that have not been particularly well served, or where services are not as strong as elsewhere.”

Appointed by SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras, the SUNY Board of Trustees and the Suffolk Board of Trustees, Bonahue said that in his new role, he wants the college to be an agent of change. 

“I think they wanted someone who understands that Suffolk County is a diverse place — that it has many constituencies and that the three campuses have different personalities,” he said. “So, someone used the phrase that I checked a lot of boxes for Suffolk. My hope is that also I can present pictures of best practices that are practiced in high performing community colleges across the country, and if those best practices have not been adopted by Suffolk, then I think we have huge opportunities in terms of best practices that relate to community outreach, to academic and student support services, programming, workforce development, transfers and so forth. I think I think I can make a big contribution to Suffolk in a variety of ways.”

Bonahue said he plans on being not just on Selden’s Ammerman campus, he wants to be active on all three.

“I’m going to try to celebrate Suffolk across the whole county, including being present on all three campuses,” he said. “Each college serves a slightly different demographic, but one of the things I sense is that the college is hungry for a coherent and unified strategy.”

Coming back to Long Island was an exciting moment for Bonahue over the summer, but now it’s time for work. Since school started Sept. 2, he has been busy meeting faculty, staff and students, while focusing on his plans to better the local community college.  

“I loved growing up on Long Island,” he said. “And so, it’s been a pleasure to return here.”

Julianne Mosher is an adjunct professor at Suffolk County Community College.

Greg Ferguson is the new president of the Frank Melville Memorial Foundation which oversees Frank Melville Memorial Park. Photo by Robert Reuter

The Frank Melville Memorial Foundation’s new president is a familiar name to many in the Three Village area.

Greg Ferguson replaced Robert Reuter as president of FMMF earlier this year. Reuter said after nine years in the role it was time to make room for someone new. The former president, now trustee, said it was a unanimous decision for Ferguson to take on the role. He described him as having strong management skills as well as getting along with everybody.

“He’s shown himself to be very enthusiastic about the full range of projects in the park,” Reuter said. “He initiated movie nights. He’s been a strong supporter of all the programs, and I think he’s an excellent person to lead the park in our challenging post-COVID times.”

Ferguson is the founder of Brookhaven Bike Co-op, which has  locations in St. James and Manorville. The Setauket resident and attorney also runs the Ferguson Foundation with his brother Chris. The foundation strives to find organizations where its philanthropic investments will have an ongoing impact on the beneficiaries.

Ferguson, who has lived in Setauket for more than 18 years with his wife Rena and children Hugh, Sophie and Ella, said he lives a short walk from Frank Melville Memorial Park. He became involved with the foundation as a trustee more than four years ago and said it’s been fun being involved. When asked to join the board, Ferguson said he “happily and humbly agreed.”

“It’s a great organization, and the park is a beautiful place,” he said. “There’s a ton of stuff going on, too, so it’s not a museum or static type of thing. It has programs and initiatives and efforts.”

Ferguson said while the foundation may be smaller than other nonprofits, it is well run by its board members.

“We have financial people, lawyers, scientists and naturalists, so it’s really a fantastic variety of skill sets that the board brings to the place,” he said.

As far as his skill sets, in addition to being an attorney, the Setauket resident has also been a writer with his work published in U.S. News & World Report. The opportunity came about while he was in college and an exchange student in China during the time of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. He said people were needed to report on what was happening during the incident.

“I had no fear for my safety,” he said. “It was pretty much confined to one area.”

Today Ferguson and the board members deal with the issues that COVID-19 has brought to the area.

During the pandemic, the new foundation president said the park has become more popular and events have been even more well received than before. He said that it’s due to many other recreational places being shut down, while the park was only closed for a short time toward the beginning of the pandemic. He added that the increased interest in the park is wonderful, but it also means that the foundation board has had to enhance security.

Ferguson said the board members have long-term goals and are currently waiting for a permit to dredge the ponds. He said the park staff is tackling invasive plants and drainage issues, too. A cutting-edge septic system will also be installed on the property for one of the homes.

Ferguson said he’s looking forward to the board’s future work.

“Over the years I’ve been involved in a bunch of different nonprofits and this is by far the best run I’ve ever experienced,” he said. “It’s definitely wonderful to be involved.”

Reanna Fulton, above, with her sons Blake, left, and Bryce on Memorial Day 2021. Photo from Reanna Fulton

In April, members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3054 in East Setauket voted for their first female post commander, Reanna Fulton.

Fulton, bottom row center, met President George W. Bush in May 2003. Photo from Reanna Fulton

Fulton, 41, has been with the post since 2004. Former post commander Jay Veronko, who moved to Florida before the end of 2020, said she was the right person for the job.

“Reanna, regardless of her gender, was the obvious choice for commander as she was one of the most motivated and involved members of the post while I was commander,” Veronko said. “She felt, as I did, the future of the post was in getting younger veterans to join, more community involvement and to maintain our great relationship with the Three Village Dads, Rotary Club and Daughters of the American Revolution. The fact she was the first female commander of the Setauket post is noteworthy, but I believe the membership that voted her into the leadership position saw, as I did, the best path forward for the post was in her election to post commander.”

After Veronko left, Fulton served as commander pro tempore until June when her term officially began. As a member for almost two decades, she said after she joined another woman also became a member but after a while she left, so Fulton remains the only female.

When she first joined she said it was a bit uncomfortable, but she said it was due to not having any connections at the time, and the members feeling strange that a female was around.

Fulton, who is also junior vice commander of the Suffolk County VFW, said in addition to hoping to add more women she wants to recruit more veterans in general.

“We’ve taken a different perspective on what we envision our posts to be, because for so long it’s been this hidden gem in the community,” she said. “When I grew up, I never knew it was there until somebody recruited me.”

She said post members hope the community outreach will “bridge that gap between the old perception of what the VFW was to what we envisioned it now for us to be more family oriented.”

Fulton lives in Setauket with her husband Chris and sons Blake and Bryce, and said she looks forward to them being involved.

In June the post hosted an event for its members and families, which was different from the annual chicken barbecue fundraiser it holds every August for the community, an event that is not planned this year due to COVID-19.

“It was more about us as a group of veterans so that we can invite our families down and get to meet each other and have those relationships,” she said.

Military service

The new post commander first came back from deployment in 2003 after serving in the U.S. Navy on active duty during the 9/11 era. She said at the time veterans like her weren’t sure how they would be classified. To join the VFW, vets need to have been deployed overseas and have received a recognized campaign medal. Eventually the military campaign was deemed War on Terror.

Reanna Fulton when she was on active duty. Photo from Reanna Fulton

The 1997 Ward Melville High School graduate entered the Navy in 1998, and after leaving active duty in 2003, she was in the Navy reserves from 2006-09.

The vet said she tried college for a bit after high school, but she knew joining the military was her true calling after being inspired by her father.

“One of the reasons that I did join the Navy in the first place — it wasn’t like it came out of the blue — my father was in the Navy during Vietnam, and then my grandfather was in the Army in the post-World War II occupation of Germany,” she said. “So for me, I always had that in me and knew that and that was one of the reasons I was so interested in it because of my father.”

In July of 2002 she was deployed on an aircraft carrier and was stationed in the Persian Gulf for six months as part of Operation Southern Watch.

“Just to keep an eye on things,” Fulton said. “That was during the time there was some tension in Afghanistan.”

Around Christmas time they were ready to return home, but they were given orders to turn around. She was in the Middle East for Operation Iraqi Freedom and finally returned to the States in May 2003.

She said when she first enlisted she never imagined anything like 9/11 and the aftermath. She was in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, when the USS Cole was bombed in Yemen by the terrorist group al-Qaida in October 2000.

“My first thought was, oh my God, I’m leaving for a ship in like three months,” she said.

Fulton said she knew things like that could happen, but it wasn’t something she thought about all the time.

“Aircraft carriers like mine — USS Abraham Lincoln — are fortunate enough to have many ships and a submarine in our battle group to protect us,” she said. “Our mission was first to monitor what was happening in the Middle East and then later to get our airplanes up with bombs for ‘shock and awe’ and the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003.”

She said while serving she was mostly on the carrier, the crew did stop off in Bahrain twice. While the country is more lenient than others in the Middle East about what women should wear, it is more conservative than the United States.

“It’s interesting because you’re briefed every time you get off in a different port, so you knew as a woman what to wear,” she said. “We had to wear a shirt that was completely buttoned up with long sleeves and long pants with shoes. You couldn’t show any skin. We were allowed to show our faces. So, that was how we had to leave when we left — off the base, that’s how we had to look.”

Joining the military, Fulton said she wanted to gain discipline so when she returned home she could go back to college, and that’s what she did. She holds a master’s degree and a postgraduate administrative certificate for education at Stony Brook University. Currently, she’s a supervisor of technology for a local school district, and she’s enrolled in her third year of the doctoral program in leadership and organizational change at Baylor University.

For women looking to join the military, Fulton has advice.

“Expect the unexpected, and just stick to your goals,” she said. “What are you there for? What do you want to get out of it?”

This is a philosophy she applies as the new commander of VFW Post 3054, and she’s looking forward to  meeting  community members, especially veterans and their families.