Nesconset resident Leslie Kennedy stepped into Giorgio’s of Nesconset Pizzeria & Restaurant Dec. 15, but not to grab a bite to eat. She had a busy day ahead. Her schedule only allowed for a short stop at the Nesconset Chamber of Commerce’s annual holiday luncheon. But the local business owners knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Kennedy would come by to say hello and ask how they were doing.
“Even though she only had 10 minutes, she came by to show her support,” said Christine DeAugustino, president of the Nesconset chamber. “We are so grateful for her support.”
It’s no surprise to residents when Suffolk Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) or her husband, county Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset), show up together at a business luncheon, parade, street fair, blood drive, civic association meeting or any number of local events.
“They are huge supporters of the local community,” DeAugustino said. “They are tremendous. Every time we have an event, her and her husband both come.”
Now both elected county officials, they have deep roots in public service and dedication to their constituents. John Kennedy Jr. was first elected to the Suffolk County Legislature representing the 12th District in 2004, where he served for 10 years.
“John has been there from the very, very beginning when they were reconstructing Smithtown Boulevard, Rosevale Avenue and Gibbs Pond Road intersection,” said Martin Aponte, president of the 9/11 Responders Remembered Park in Nesconset.
John Kennedy Jr. was fundamental in securing the land for the memorial to first responders who died on 9/11 or as a result of 9/11-related illnesses, Aponte said, and even set aside his office’s roundtable space for the organization’s meetings. Leslie Kennedy has continued to set aside meeting space for the foundation since filling her husband’s shoes, being first elected to represent the 12th District in the county Legislature in 2015.
“They are extremely involved in the community, both John and Leslie, most of the time you’ll find them there. They have a very positive effect on the community.”
— Ed Wehrheim
“[Leslie]’s not only there for moral support for the chamber and businesses, she’s always there for me as a resource,” DeAugustino said. “She makes herself and the office available to the people of Nesconset as a resource.”
The Kennedys, together, have sponsored and help establish the chamber’s annual Nesconset Summer Concert Series which draws hundreds of residents to the Nesconset Gazebo each July and August.
“They are extremely involved in the community, both John and Leslie,” Smithtown Supervisor-elect Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “Most of the time you’ll find them there. They have a very positive effect on the community.”
Wehrheim said the county comptroller has always been responsive to Town of Smithtown’s tax questions and fiscal concerns.
“What he is there for, that I appreciate, is anytime we have a question he makes himself and his experience available to us,” Wehrheim said.
Similarly, the town officials are in frequent communication with the current legislator regarding how to best address and tackle the opioid issue in Smithtown and as a channel to communicate with Suffolk County police. The supervisor-elect said the Kennedys have been helpful in pushing the downtown revitalization of Kings Park forward at the county level through their respective offices.
This year, Legislator Kennedy secured the acquisition and preservation of the Hauppauge Springs property on the south side of Route 347 in Hauppauge, preserving open space at the headwaters of the Nissequogue River. It’s been sitting on the county’s master list of environmentally sensitive priority properties for more than 20 years, dating back to when she worked as a legislative aide.
The legislator has called it one of her biggest victories, one she hopes will be remembered as part of her legacy. It was a priority, she said, to protect the environment and help ensure safe drinking water for local residents.