Last election cycle, former Town of Huntington Councilman Ed Smyth (R) decided to make a change. Instead of running for the seat he held for four years, he aimed for supervisor after Chad Lupinacci (R) decided not to run for reelection in 2021.
Smyth said being supervisor is slightly different from being a councilman. He said while as councilman he needed to read through agendas and weigh options, now he has to start the process earlier, taking into consideration more details in the process such as was there a bidding process or an RFP done.
“It’s your obligation to create most of the resolutions and agendas and know what’s going into them and understand why they’re being put on the timetable,” he said.
Smyth said Lupinacci leaves behind significant accomplishments while in office including resolving the LIPA lawsuit and enacting term limits. Smyth also complimented the former supervisor on how well he guided the community through the early stages of the pandemic and shutdowns, adding there was no playbook to follow.
“There were never any cuts to essential services in the town, and we never had to pierce the tax cap or anything like that,” he said.
Less than two weeks in office, Smyth said he has already had to tackle issues brought on by COVID-19.
“One of the first things we’re trying to do is put together a COVID policy that tracks more closely to the CDC policies or guidance without violating New York State’s regulations,” he said.
The town supervisor added that the council found that both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state’s policies weren’t coherent and sometimes the two policies were conflicting with each other, especially regarding how many days to isolate after being exposed to the virus with no symptoms. In the end, he feels a good policy was established for town employees which will be helpful in the future.,
He said the town’s Senior Center was already affected in the new year by COVID-related staffing shortages. The center was closed to the public the second week of January; however meals were able to be delivered to residents.
Smyth also is looking forward to working with the building department and implementing new systems. He said the town is fortunate to have new councilman Sal Ferro (R) who has been in the construction trade for decades and is CEO of Alure Home Improvements. Smyth also said a priority is supporting local businesses and attracting more to the area.
Infrastructure is also on his mind with a new sewer system in Huntington Station. At the end of the year, Lupinacci and County Executive Steve Bellone (D) announced a partnership between the town and county, where both municipalities would invest $22 million to fund the Huntington Station Hub Sewer Project, which is the first one to be funded under Suffolk’s newly created Wastewater Infrastructure Fund. Money from the federal American Rescue Plan Act made the funding possible.
According to the town, approximately 229 parcels near Huntington’s Long Island Rail Road station and south along Route 110, as well as some commercial blocks of Depot Road and industrial land along the train tracks, will be connected to the sewer.
“I think it’s going to be a tremendous economic benefit to Huntington Station over the next five to 10 years, simply because, as everywhere on Long Island, if you’re not on sewers, you’re frozen in time for development,” the town supervisor said. “If we can get those lines completed, up and running sooner rather than later, it’s going to bring a tremendous amount of capital investment into the Huntington Station area, plus the environmental benefits of doing it.”
When asked what advice he would give new council members Ferro and Dave Bennardo (R), Smyth said, “Stay grounded in the community and attend as many local events as you possibly can.”
He said there’s no substitute for attending events as it gives elected officials the opportunity to hear directly from constituents.
“I would say that’s how we find out about 90% of the issues that are going on in the town that somebody in the community proactively approaches one of our five Town Board members or somebody who works with the town: ‘Hey, listen, we have a problem over here.’ There’s a drainage problem or a loitering problem or there’s an abandoned house problem or there are cars parked here that haven’t moved in two years. Just all sorts of day-to-day quality of life issues.”
Smyth said he doesn’t have any issues with Councilman Eugene Cook (I) who ran against him for supervisor. He compared it to an NHL game, “where the fights are real but you leave it on the ice. You don’t take it to the locker room.”
He said they agree on 95% of issues that come before the town, and they “hit the reset button” when they saw each other two days after the election and have had no problems working together.
Now, Smyth has his mind on the town’s future.
“It’s my goal to make Huntington the economic epicenter of Long Island,” he said. “I think it’s going to take the infrastructure to do that, to build out our existing businesses and to attract new ones. I want, when Russell 2000 companies or even Fortune 500 companies are looking to relocate to the Northeast and they say, ‘Let’s go to Long Island,’ the first place they stop is Huntington.”