Suffolk County Government

Polls closed in New York at 9 p.m.

Check out results from the state, federal and local North Shore races as they come in on election night.  All results are courtesy of the New York State Board of Elections.

New York State Governor

Kathy Hochul (D): 52.65%; 3,031,877

Lee Zeldin (R): 47.35%; 2,727,152

U.S. Senator

Chuck Schumer (D): 55.84%; 3,109,157

Joe Pinion (R): 42.58%; 2,407,399

Diane Sare (LRE): .93%; 51,650

U.S. Congress CD#1

Bridget Fleming (D) 44.14%; 136,899

Nick LaLota (R) 55.86%; 173,275

New York State Senate SD # 1

Skyler Johnson (D) 43.55%; 55,362

Anthony Palumbo (R) 56.45%;  71,752

New York State Senate SD # 2

Susan Berland (D) 41.89%; 57,936

Mario Mattera (R) 58.11%; 80,362

New York State Assemblyman AD #2

Wendy Hamberger (D) 33.83%; 18,309

Jodi Giglio (R) 66.17%; 35,809

New York State Assemblyman AD #4

Steve Englebright (D) 48.95%; 22,734

Edward Flood (R) 51.05%; 23,707

New York State Assemblyman AD #8

Jeanine Aponte (D) 31.46%; 18,747

Michael Fitzpatrick (R) 68.45%; 40,851

New York State Assemblyman AD #10

Steve Stern (D): 54.73%; 23,896

Aamir Sultan (R): 45.27%; 19,763

New York State Assemblyman AD #12

Cooper Macco (D) 42.46%; 20,271

Keith Brown (R) 57.54%; 29,818

Suffolk County Clerk

Lisa Jimenez (D): 40.91%; 214,852

Vincent Puleo (R): 58.97%; 309,734

Suffolk County Comptroller

Thomas Dolan (D): 39.93%; 212,790

John Kennedy (R): 59.95%; 319,468

Proposition 1:

Yes – 69%; 2,439,615

No – 31%; 1,081,482

Proposition 2:

Yes – 85.9%; 438,755

No – 14.1%; 72,027

Last updated Nov. 9 at 11:55 a.m.

Pictured above, Suffolk County Comptroller John M. Kennedy Jr. (R). Photo by Rita J. Egan

After serving in the office for the last eight years, Suffolk County Comptroller John M. Kennedy Jr. (R) is seeking reelection.

His challenger, Democratic Party nominee Thomas Dolan, is not openly campaigning and therefore could not be reached for comment.

‘I think Suffolk County still needs a shakedown.’

— John Kennedy

In an exclusive interview, Kennedy defined the function of the comptroller’s office, its central role in the fiscal stability of the county government, and why he is pursuing election to that office yet again.

He described his responsibilities as overseeing the county’s financial operations. However, the scope of the office goes well beyond this purpose, with auditing powers and administrative duties related to the former Office of Treasurer.

“It has been a great gig,” Kennedy said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed it. Eight years into it, I think we’ve been able to do some good things.” He spoke of his opponent, “I hear he’s a very nice individual.”

Kennedy said he has several programs and policy initiatives he intends to get off the ground if reelected. Among these is upgrading the county’s financial infrastructure to improve the office’s operations and connect currently disconnected frameworks.

“One of the components in that is unifying the capital budget function,” he said. “It is critical from a budgeting perspective, from a management perspective, that we bring all those disparate databases together so that we have continuity and good stewardship of our money.”

Kennedy also plans to request two additional auditors from the county Legislature to oversee the expenditures of approximately $185 million in opioid-related settlements to Suffolk County. [See story, “Suffolk County launches grant application program to fight opioid crisis,” TBR News Media, July 28, also TBR News Media website.]

“Many have said that they want to see contemporaneous oversight of the opioid settlements,” the county comptroller said. “We received $25 million [so far] … but unfortunately, there is a propensity in government for money to go to all different types of things.” 

He added, “Our electeds, our advocates, our treatment community want to make sure that there’s good, contemporaneous oversight regarding expenditure and use of those funds.”

Kennedy augmented his audit staff from 19 to 34 members during his two terms in the comptroller’s office. He viewed this as progress and committed to increasing the number of auditors at his disposal.

“I’ve been very aggressive with [hiring] our audit staff,” he said. “I think we need to do more of that. I want to bring that on in some other aspects of the office, including IT.”

Having served in this capacity for some time now, he believes he possesses the requisite experience and institutional knowledge to discharge the county’s finances responsibly.

“This is the kind of office that lends itself to almost limitless opportunities,” he said.

But it has yet to be smooth sailing for Kennedy or the public fund. Citing an analysis, by New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli (D), which considered fund balance and borrowing cycles, among other concrete financial measures, he acknowledges that Suffolk County ranks near the bottom among the state’s 62 counties in terms of fiscal responsibility.

“It’s indisputable that going back two or three years ago, we were the 62nd in ranking out of all 62 counties in the state of New York,” Kennedy said. “The most recent evaluation has moved us up.”

Despite Suffolk’s checkered financial record, the comptroller believes this assessment requires further context. He contends the analysis measures Suffolk against other counties throughout the state, which are less populated and with budgets dwarfed by Suffolk County’s $3.8 billion annual budget.

Instead, he favors an “apples to apples” method of comparing the county’s finances to those of the “Big Five”: Suffolk, Nassau, Erie, Monroe and Albany counties.

“They’re the largest concentrations of cities, budget size and municipal function,” he said, adding, “We’re somewhat comparable with them.”

Still, Kennedy supports “serious fiscal reform,” stating that he intends to embark upon a “shakedown” of the county government.

“I think Suffolk County still needs a shakedown,” he said. “The underlying platform and premise for us is unsustainable. Unless we do something to address the proliferation of things that we have — and the areas where we’re not delivering services adequately — I think we will be destined for serious financial strife in ‘24.”

The county government may be able to get through the 2023 fiscal year comfortably, according to Kennedy, due to substantial financial reserves generated during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, he foresees those reserves drying up and the effects to be felt within a year. 

“We are on a runaway train with inflation,” he said. “We are seriously, seriously compromised internally in our financial structure.”

Throughout the interview, Kennedy named several individuals with whom he disagreed on policy grounds. In the face of these differences, he finds that he still manages to build bridges across the aisle and discover common ground. 

“The middle [of the road], registered, undeclared [voting population] keeps growing,” he explained. “My sense with folks that are in that category is they want to talk about the issues, hear about what’s important to them, and know what you’re going to do with the opportunity they give you.”

Kennedy asserted that the general public is decreasingly tolerant of partisans and political extremists. Instead, the regular voter thirsts for tangible results from the government. The county comptroller says his efforts to reach across the aisle have generally been reciprocal.

“What I’m talking about with them is the operations, the nuts and bolts of government,” he said. “I’m not talking about whether you’re pro-abortion or pro-life, or whether you believe in cashless bail or whether you want to legalize heroine.”

He added, “I’m talking about how to pay bills, how to recruit and keep talent, how to do the things necessary for the vast majority of people that interact with the county government.”

Whether Kennedy will apply his “nuts and bolts” political philosophy to other realms of the county government is still to be decided. Next year, the highest post in Suffolk County, the office of county executive, will be up for grabs.

Kennedy received the Republican nomination for county executive in 2019, but was defeated by incumbent Steve Bellone (D). When asked if he would pursue that office again, Kennedy responded, “We’ll see what the future brings.”

Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy, above. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The comptroller’s seat is not the glamor position of the county government. Yet, it is an important office that demands our respect and interest. TBR News Media supports Kennedy’s reelection campaign this November.

Having faith that the officials will handle our tax dollars responsibly lies at the core of what it means to participate in representative government. Administrative in its nature, the comptroller’s office conducts financial monitoring and audits, among several other essential tasks. 

Kennedy appreciates this responsibility. He embraces it fully and carries enthusiasm and focus into that office which we can respect and admire.

Having served in the post for two terms, he has the experience and institutional insight to execute his duties well. He brings to the comptroller’s office a firm understanding of finance and a knowledge of the law rooted in his background as a lawyer.

In his interview with TBR News Media, Kennedy warned of possibly serious financial strife by 2024. If an economic downtown is in the cards for Suffolk County residents, then it is in our interest that our comptroller understands the office and can adapt it to meet the needs of the changing circumstances.

Finally, Kennedy outlined his “nuts and bolts” political philosophy, arguing that politicians often ignore the most pressing issues due to partisanship and tribalism. We agree with this assessment and ask that he continues to apply this approach, keeping the county government running smoothly.

We appreciate Kennedy’s openness, eagerness to express himself and desire to serve. In this year’s election for Suffolk County Comptroller, TBR News Media strongly supports John M. Kennedy Jr. for reelection.

Photo by Raymond Janis

Community members, first responders, civic leaders and elected officials gathered at the Sound Beach Veterans Memorial on Saturday, Oct. 22, in celebration of the life of Ann Moran.

She was born in Rockville Centre Jan. 14, 1943, and died on June 30 at age 79. Throughout her life she remained active in Sound Beach and the Rocky Point school district. Moran seemed to have made a lasting impression on those who knew her, whether as an educator, a teachers union president, a volunteer or a civic leader.

Dozens attended the memorial event, which featured the dedication of a bird bath at the park’s edge, a permanent marker honoring her lasting legacy of service to the community. 

Above, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai). Photo by Raymond Janis

Sound Beach Civic Association, where Moran was longtime treasurer, hosted the event. Bea Ruberto, president of the civic, told a tale of the memories she shared with Moran over the decades they worked together. 

The civic president commented on the picturesque weather of the early afternoon: “Who doesn’t believe that Ann had something to do with this beautiful day?” 

Ruberto described Moran as “a force” whose abundant energy was devoted tirelessly to the betterment of her community. For this reason, the memorial celebration included several perspectives on her life.

“There is no one voice that can speak to how important Ann was to all of us, so a number of people are going to speak to that,” Ruberto said.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) spoke of Moran’s contagious effect on her peers. “When one person touches another and inspires and encourages them to do good things in their community and good things to other people, it’s like a ripple in a pool, and it just keeps going,” the county legislator said. “Ann always seemed to start this ripple, and she will continue because we are here today celebrating her legacy.”

Above, Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point). Photo by Raymond Janis

Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) was also in attendance. She spoke of Moran’s professionalism and ability to keep a civil dialogue in the face of contention. 

“Ann was just cool, calm and collected,” Bonner said. “Even though we had opposite political philosophies, [we had] very respectful conversations, interesting conversations about life in general.” The councilwoman added, “She was a dynamo, a tiny, mighty person that never took ‘no’ for an answer.”

Following her remarks, Bonner delivered a special announcement. “Very few individuals get two days in the Town of Brookhaven, but today has been declared Ann Moran Day.” The other day in Moran’s honor is Sept. 12.

Susan Sullivan, a trustee of the Rocky Point school district board of education, described Moran’s impact as the district’s teachers union president. According to her, Moran led the union with a steady hand, representing the teachers firmly and holding her ground when necessary.

‘I was impressed by her strength, confidence and assertiveness — she stood down to no one.’

— Susan Sullivan

“She was a woman ahead of her time,” Sullivan said. “I was impressed by her strength, confidence and assertiveness — she stood down to no one.” Sullivan added, “She was respected by the administration, teachers, and [school-related professionals], which is a tribute to her ability to work respectfully with everyone.”

Moran served four terms as president of the Sound Beach Fire Department Auxiliary. Nancy Ford, trustee of the auxiliary, discussed Moran’s nearly three decades of contribution to this institution.

“She was a loyal member of our organization for 28 years,” Ford said. “As was her mission, she raised her hand to help with all of our events.” The auxiliary trustee added, “She worked on Military Bridge, getting donations for the fire department’s steak dinners, fire department anniversary celebrations, [which] were just some of the many ways that Ann helped out.”

Joseph Russo, at podium, right. Photo by Raymond Janis

Sound Beach civic member Ernestine Franco knew Moran for around 15 years. During that time, the two cultivated a close friendship. Responding to the turnout of the memorial celebration, Franco said Moran would have been delighted.

“I think she would have loved this today,” Franco said. Following Moran’s selflessness and commitment to service, however, Franco added, “There is only one thing she would have loved better: If she could be standing here and we could be honoring somebody else.”

Last to speak was Moran’s son, Joseph Russo. He told an endearing personal anecdote epitomizing the bond the two shared. Russo then thanked those who attended, honoring his mother’s legacy.

“I just want to thank you all for coming today on a nice, sunny day,” he said. He concluded, “Thank you, Mom.”

Above: Mark Murray, chief of the narcotics bureau for the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office. Photo by Raymond Janis

Despite the pouring rain outside, dozens of locals gathered at Mount Sinai High School on Thursday, Oct. 13, for an educational forum on substance misuse prevention.

Hosted by Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), who chairs the county’s addiction prevention and support advisory panel, the event brought together various entities. In her presentation, Anker emphasized the outsized rate of drug-related fatalities in the area.

“Right now, the town of Brookhaven has the highest number of opioid deaths in Suffolk County — one of the highest in the state — and we have to do more,” she said. The legislator added, referring to the county government, “We’re trying, but it’s really up to the community. It’s up to the parents, kids and peers to do more and get us in a better place.”

Anker highlighted the need for drug addiction and prevention workshops, stating that these provide an outlet for community members to better prepare themselves in case of an emergency. She also noted that drug education has evolved in recent years, addressing victims’ needs rather than creating stigma. 

The county’s DASH [diagnostic, assessment and stabilization hub] program was cited by her as a model for responsible drug intervention. “When people overdose, they go to an emergency [room] at Stony Brook or Mather or St. Charles or one of the hospitals here in Suffolk County, but what do you do after?” Anker said. “Before, they would just go home or go somewhere. There would be no support, no direction. Now there is.” She added, “New York State is taking that example and making more throughout the state.”

Also present at this community forum was Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook), chair of the town’s Drug Prevention Coalition. He considered the coalition a valuable public resource for Brookhaven residents.

“That’s a model of getting the school districts involved, of all kinds of community organizations from a grassroots level, so that we can really get down to that family level,” he said. For Kornreich, the goal of the coalition is to “be accessible and get people connected to the services they need and bring prevention programs to schools … so that we can break that cycle of use and abuse before it starts.”

Another essential component of the forum was its presentations on drug awareness. Among the speakers throughout the night was Mark Murray, chief of the narcotics bureau for the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office.

Murray delivered a detailed presentation on the dangers of fentanyl, which he said has become increasingly problematic for county communities.

“Since 2016 here in Suffolk, fentanyl has viciously made its mark,” he said. “We have easily averaged over 300 fatal overdoses a year here in Suffolk, due primarily to the presence of fentanyl.”

Murray characterized fentanyl as a highly potent substance, requiring just “a grain or two” to deliver a lethal dose. According to the narcotics chief, fentanyl is found in nearly every drug on the black market.

“Fentanyl is popular, it’s addictive — and there’s no such thing as a scrupulous drug dealer,” he said.

Given the frequency of fentanyl-related overdoses in Suffolk, Murray stressed the importance of the Good Samaritan Law. This New York State statute protects victims and witnesses of overdose events. 

“It covers a witness or a victim of any medical episode — but more specifically a drug or alcohol overdose — who decides to call 911 either for themselves or that third person,” he said. “It’s not a trick. It’s statutory. It was codified by the state because they wanted to encourage people to realize the importance of the situation and to pick up the phone, call and get help.”

Following the presentations from Murray and other speakers, attendees were given training instructions in naloxone.

To learn more about the addiction resources, including emergency hotline numbers, visit the Long Island Addiction Resource Center website:

Smith Point County Park Facebook

Lifeguards to Stay on the Stands for an Additional Two Weekends

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone today announced an extended summer season at Smith Point County Park. While Suffolk County beaches are not typically staffed with lifeguards post Labor Day, this year lifeguards will stay on the stands for an additional two weekends to ensure the safety of beachgoers.

Suffolk County beaches and parks provide cherished memories and experiences every summer for both our residents and the countless visitors who flock to our word-class shorelines. This year, more than 300,000 people visited Smith Point County Park.

“While Labor Day marks the unofficial end to summer, in Suffolk summer is not over, and the joy that summer brings will continue to brighten our days,” said Suffolk County Executive Bellone. “Lifeguards will remain on the stands for an additional two weekends, and I encourage all residents to take advantage of our world-class beaches while the warm weather is still with us.”

 “Keeping Suffolk County residents safe while they use our beaches has always been a priority and we’re happy to extend the Smith Point beach season this year,” said Suffolk County Parks Commissioner Jason Smagin.

Lifeguards will remain on the stands from 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM on Saturday, September 10th, Sunday, September 11th, Saturday, September 17th and Sunday, September 18th at Smith Point County Park.

Additionally, Suffolk County campgrounds, parks and outer beaches will continue to welcome campers and park goers beyond the holiday weekend.

Stock photo

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta is hosting a summer drive to collect non-perishable items for school lunches and snacks, as well as personal care products for the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry. The pantry is located at St. Joseph’s Church, 59 Church Street, Kings Park, and is open on Monday and Thursday form 1pm until 4pm. To speak with someone at the pantry, please call 631-269-6635.

Specific items that they are seeking include snack size cookies, chips, pretzels, juice boxes, small bottled water, and salsa and chips. They also need such staples as cereal, bottles of cooking oil, sugar, flour, mustard, mayonnaise, jarred sauce, breadcrumbs, Hamburger Helper, pickles, canned fruit, boxed milk, Pop Tarts, honey, napkins, paper towels,  sandwich bags, cleaning supplies and Marble composition books.  Personal care items requested are body wash, toothpaste, shaving cream, razors, shampoo, tissues, small hand sanitizers, and laundry detergent.

“During this difficult time, it is important to help our fellow neighbors so donations of these items may be dropped off at my office at 59 Landing Avenue, Suite 1 A, (blue door), Smithtown, from now until September 9, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4:30 pm,” said Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta. For more information, please call Legislator Trotta’s office at 631-854-3900.

At the site of the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Memorial in Rocky Point Aug. 5, veterans, public officials and community members joined U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1), the Republican nominee in this year’s New York gubernatorial contest, to champion legislation that would expand peer-to-peer veteran support services nationwide.

The PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Memorial in Rocky Point, the site of this press event.

The Joseph P. Dwyer Veterans Peer Support Project, initiated in 2012 by Zeldin when he was a state senator, is a peer-to-peer program that assists veterans through support groups and other resources. The program is designed to promote mental health and alleviate the challenges of those affected by post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

“As I travel around Suffolk County for years, I have had countless veterans tell me that because of the Dwyer program, they are alive, they have a job and they have a family,” Zeldin said. “They credit the support that they have gotten from the Dwyer program for their ability to be able to cope with the mental wounds of war.”

Zeldin credited the success of the Dwyer project to its design, which was tailored to meet the needs of veterans. The peer-to-peer setting, moderated by veterans trained to lead discussions around personal and highly sensitive matters, offers a unique venue for vets to open up to those who are best equipped to understand them.

Zeldin is sponsoring legislation — H.R.1476 PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Peer Support Program Act — that would make these services accessible for veterans nationwide.

“The Dwyer program needs to be expanded nationally,” the congressman said. “To the [other 534] members of Congress … please do everything you can to co-sponsor this bill.” He added, “Get educated on what peer support should be all about and let’s get this over the finish line and passed into law.”

Zeldin was joined by a host of veterans leaders and public officials representing various levels of government. His efforts to expand the Dwyer program were backed by Joe Cognitore, commander of the VFW Post 6249, based in Rocky Point. Cognitore discussed the lasting effects of combat and the difficulties that veterans encounter when they return from active duty.

Joe Cognitore, commander of VFW Post 6249, discusses the challenges of post-traumatic stress disorder

“Post-traumatic stress affects all of us,” the post commander said. “The statue you see behind us was put up this past year and it represents the post-traumatic stress that we all go through — not just veterans but all walks of life.”

State Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead) expressed support for the bill as well. She emphasized the uniqueness of the peer support offerings through the Dwyer program.

“Nobody knows the devil and the demons more than veterans,” she said. “Today, New York State has $7.7 million in its budget this year for this program, but it’s not enough,” adding, “I am here at Congressman Zeldin’s plea … to acknowledge our veterans and realize what they need in order to be successful and reintegrate into life after coming home.”

State Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead), at podium, on why the Dwyer program should be expanded nationally

State Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) spoke of the success of the Dwyer program locally and the need to bring the program onto the national stage.

“It makes so much sense now to see the success of the program,” he said. “It’s something that should have existed for many, many years, but this is the sort of effort that you need to get those ideas … to ultimately come to fruition and then to show the success that we have seen.”

Suffolk County Legislator Nick Caracappa (C-Selden), the majority leader in the Legislature, shared how the Dwyer program supports those in the community. Caracappa, who also chairs the county veterans committee, stressed that veterans issues are human issues that need to be met with human solutions.

“These are our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters … these are our family members,” Caracappa said. “I’m proud to say that this project is a product of Suffolk County.” Due to its success locally, Caracappa advocated “bringing this forward on a national level.”

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) offered her support for the proposed legislation 

Also on hand was Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point), who was instrumental in helping the town secure the land where the Dwyer memorial now resides. [See TBR News Media story, “Students, elected officials reflect on new Dwyer statue” (Jan. 21, 2021)].

Bonner spoke of the hidden wounds of war. “Not all war injuries are visible,” she said. “So it’s incumbent upon us to do everything that we can do as citizens and residents to make sure that this legislation is passed federally.”

Following the press conference, Zeldin was asked what he would do to relieve the plight of veteran homelessness if elected as governor. He highlighted the need to improve outreach initiatives and bring down any barriers that may impede those efforts.

“Outreach to the homeless, outreach to people who are struggling with mental health issues, is not just about what you say to them, but also about being able to listen to people in need and hear those stories,” the Republican gubernatorial nominee said. “If there’s any type of red tape that’s preventing those conversations, then that red tape needs to get torn down.”

By Aidan Johnson

The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office and the Town of Brookhaven once again held their National Night Out event at the Fireman’s Memorial Park in Ridge.

National Night Out, an annual tradition that takes place on the first Tuesday in August, is a nationwide event that police officers participate in to raise awareness about police programs in their communities.

The Brookhaven National Night Out, the largest of its kind on the East End, opened by playing the national anthem. As hundreds of families arrived, multiple activities were being held, including tug of war, bingo and an ice cream truck that gave away free vanilla and chocolate swirls.

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr., above. Photo by Aidan Johnson

“People always know what the police department does, but sometimes people don’t know what the Sheriff’s Office does, so we have our trucks here,” said Sgt. Paul Spinella of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office. “We have our deputies here showing all the different aspects that the Sheriff’s Office is involved in, and hopefully meeting some community members.”

Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. was also on hand during the event. He spoke of the progress that his office has made in bolstering community turnout and educating the public about services offered through his office.

“The way that our National Night Out has grown from almost 250 people at the first one four years ago to now expecting over 3000 people today shows that not only are we having a positive impact on our community, but our community wants to learn more about us,” Toulon said.

The sheriff also highlighted the steps that he and his office have undertaken to build trust with the broader public.

“I think there’s pretty much a symbiotic relationship between the community and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office,” he said, adding, “I think that members of the community in Suffolk County are extremely supportive of the law enforcement community, which we are very appreciative of. We want to keep our communities safe so that each and every person can live and do the things that they freely want to do.”

One of Toulon’s goals is to establish a closer relationship between children and the police. According to him, law enforcement can offer the necessary guidance to keep children away from bad influences and motivate them to contribute to their community. 

“Our goal is to really make sure that we can keep young kids on the straight and narrow path so that we can show them the positive thing to do,” he said. “Since I’ve become the sheriff, I’ve been in one to two schools per week talking to students about bullying, vaping, opioids and drugs.”

Toulon added that one of his achievements as sheriff has been bringing programs from the Sandy Hook Promise organization to all Suffolk County schools. The organization, which was started by Mark Barden and Nicole Hockley, who lost their children in the 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, aims to empower kids and adults to prevent violence in schools and their communities.

“We have taught over 30,000 faculty, teachers and students with the programs — the Start with Hello and the Say Something programs,” Toulon said. “We also engage with our middle school students with the gang resistance education and training program. We try to deter kids from engaging in any type of gang activity. We really try to really make sure that our kids are making good choices.”

While many deputies were present during the night, becoming one is no easy task. One deputy shared some of the requirements, including tests, physicals and orientations.

“It’s actually a very long process to become a deputy,” she said. “Honestly, I think it takes about a year.”

Among all of the booths set up was one for the organization New Hour, a nonprofit founded to support women who are either currently or formerly incarcerated and their families. 

“We try to provide donations that include clothing, shoes, cosmetics, toiletries and any donation that we think a woman could benefit from once they’re released or once they have finished their term,” Anitria Blue, the community ambassador liaison for New Hour, said. 

One of New Hour’s major programs is referred to as Empowering Methods for Effective Reentry, Growth and Engagement, or EMERGE. It is a 15-week program that allows women to meet and learn about resources that may help them. The program helps these women become more involved with the criminal and social justice systems and helps them learn to advocate for others. 

While Blue felt slightly intimidated by the turnout of her former corrections officers during the event, she enjoyed the event nonetheless. 

Sgt. Paul Spinella of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office. Photo by Aidan Johnson

“I had good relationships with my officers during my 17 years of incarceration,” she said. “It took a while, but they got to know me, so when I see them, I actually see humanity.”

Toulon felt a strong sense of appreciation for everyone who worked for him. “When I look at the [people] who work for me, whether they are deputy sheriffs, correctional officers or civilians, I think that they are heroes because not too many people can do what they do,” the sheriff said. 

As the night went on, a feeling of community connectedness grew among everyone in attendance. “I think we want [people] to know that we’re just like them,” Spinella said. “We’re community members, too. We help the community, just like garbage men and post office [workers]. When they come up to us and ask us for help, we are there for them.”

Scott Martella served as communications director for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. Photo from Facebook

Join Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on Wednesday, Aug. 3, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. for a blood drive in honor of Scott Martella. Martella was a dedicated public servant who impacted thousands of lives across Long Island. The goal is to help thousands more by donating blood to combat the critical blood shortage. 

There will be four donation sites across Suffolk County: H. Lee Dennison Building Plaza, 100 Veterans Memorial Highway, Hauppauge; DSS MacArthur Building Cafeteria; Suffolk County Fire Academy, Room K, 103 East Ave., Yaphank; and the Riverhead County Center Cafeteria, 300 Center Drive Riverhead. . Please join the effort and donate! To schedule an appointment, call 888-933-2566.