By Daniel Dunaief
Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) has worked on big projects in the 3rd Council District, although it is his ability to hone in on some of the smaller quality-of-life details that impressed Bram Weber, a partner with the Weber Law Group in Melville.
Weber worked with Kimco Realty, the owners of Independence Plaza mall in Selden, which recently brought in new tenants and renovated the property.
LaValle has “noticed things I may not have noticed the last time I was at the property,” Weber said. “He digs deep into the details of his job.”
Indeed, LaValle, whose last name has become synonymous with public service on Long Island, is earning his own admirers as he focuses on everything from rebuilding roads, to continuing construction on a new park in Selden, to improving the aesthetics and ease of shopping in his district, to searching for businesses to bring into the area and create jobs.
For LaValle’s dedication to his work on behalf of his constituents, while maintaining a job as a mortgage loan originator at Lynx Mortgage Bank in Westbury, Times Beacon Record News Media names the councilman a 2016 Person of the Year.
“The fact that he can balance [his roles] is quite tremendous,” said Zahra Jafri, president of Lynx Mortgage Bank, who described LaValle as “honest, ethical and service-oriented.” LaValle “does what he says he’s going to do.”
Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), who has known LaValle for 12 years, said he dug in from the moment he was elected.
“It’s impressive what he’s been able to accomplish so quickly,” Bonner said.
Indeed, Bonner cited the work the third-year councilman did to help bring businesses to Selden’s Independence Plaza.
“We were able to work with the property owner and redevelop that site,” which now has a Rite Aid and a Guitar Center, LaValle said. Five Guys Burgers and Fries is expected to move in within the next six months. “I am always looking to work with property owners who have vacant stores to bring in new businesses, whether they be big-name companies or new businesses just getting started.”
LaValle, whose district includes Lake Grove, Centereach, Selden and parts of Lake Ronkonkoma, Farmingville and Coram, said it is a challenge to fill large sites, and is excited that Ocean State Job Lot moved into the former Pathmark site in Centereach and Best Market took over the former Waldbaums site in Selden.
He sees his role as creating a way to share the community’s perspective with business.
At town board meetings, LaValle honors a business of the month. He instituted that process when he first entered office. He chooses a business that is recommended by a community organization, such as the chamber of commerce, for supporting the community through charitable acts.
Bonner said the spotlight on these businesses also helps deliver the message to residents to shop locally, work with fellow business owners and the Chamber of Commerce.
“You can tell he knows these businesses and has visited them,” town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said. “He has taken a personal interest in knocking on doors and asking what’s going on, how can we help, and what is bothering you?”
Romaine has worked with LaValle on a sport complex in Selden that currently has what Romaine describes as two “world class” turf baseball fields, with dugouts, fencing and lights behind Grace Presbyterian Church.
LaValle was the “chief motivator and instigator in getting things moving” with this park, which sits behind Hawkins Path Elementary School, Romaine said. “He made sure everything stayed on the timetable we set.”
The park will be breaking ground soon on redeveloping a baseball field to a multipurpose field, which LaValle hopes will be done by the summer. In 2017, engineers will design the remaining part of the park as well as roadway improvements along Boyle Road and Hawkins Road to handle the additional traffic.
LaValle worked to redesign a planned dog park. He said he met with residents to talk about the park, which is divided into areas for large and small dogs, and hosted a public meeting.
LaValle worked with the owners of a batting cage site in Selden that was the regular target of graffiti. He put the property owner in touch with a security company in California that uses wireless, motion-activated cameras to take a video whenever someone walks on the property. This should reduce the number of false alarms police responded to with the other types of security systems, LaValle said. It will also help law enforcement catch those who are defacing the property.
LaValle said working as a councilman and a mortgage loan originator puts pressure on his schedule, which can require him to work 17 days in a row without a break.
“My family is understanding about my commitment,” he said. “If I show up late for a party, they get it. They understand what’s going on.”
His family has been down this road before. His cousin, Ken LaValle, has been a state senator (R-Port Jefferson) since 1976. Kevin’s brother, John Jay LaValle, is a former town supervisor and is the Suffolk County Republican Committee chairman.
“Invariably, someone comes to meetings and calls him Ken or John,” Bonner said. “He handles it really well. He has a good sense of humor about it.”
The councilman said each of the politicians in his family has his own style. He’s taken to the notion that working hard will bring good results.
Those who have seen LaValle in action believe he practices what he preaches.
“He’s a hard worker,” said Donna Lent, Brookhaven town clerk. “I don’t think it has anything to do with his name. I judge people by what they do.”
A resident of Selden, LaValle graduated from Centereach High School. He earned a bachelor of arts from Salisbury University in Maryland. Before running for office, he worked for then-county Legislator Dan Losquadro (R) as his chief of staff.
Bonner, who also worked for Losquadro before becoming a councilwoman seven years ago, described how LaValle’s high energy benefits everyone in the office.
“I can hear him when he’s on the phone with residents and constituents, while he’s trying to solve their problems, he’s so high energy that he’s bouncing a ball against the wall,” Bonner said.
Having LaValle as a member of the council has put a “spring in the step” of other council members. “It’s impossible not to have that [energy] affect you.”
As the liaison with the highway department, LaValle collaborated with Losquadro, who is now highway superintendent, to complete a 23-road paving project near Centereach High School and Dawnwood Middle School.
As LaValle learned from watching his brother and cousin, he knows that he’ll hear from members of his constituency wherever he goes.
LaValle is “deeply engaged with the community,” Romaine said. “It’s been a joy to work with him. He has no reticence to take the initiative.”