For the past six years, Suffolk County Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) has represented Legislative District 12, which includes the southern section of the Town of Smithtown and western Brookhaven. This year she is running once again, and while Mike Siderakis will be listed as the Democratic candidate come election day, the candidate who ran unsuccessfully for state senator against Mario Mattera (R-St. James) last year stopped actively campaigning this summer.
Before taking on the role of county legislator, Kennedy worked for 13 years as a legislative aide for Donald Blydenburgh (R-Smithtown) and her husband John Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset), who for the last six years has been Suffolk County comptroller. When her husband won his bid for the comptroller’s seat, she stepped into his former position in a special election six months before she had to run again.
“I love my job,” Kennedy said during a recent phone interview with TBR News Media.
Kennedy said the last two years have been tough dealing with the issues the pandemic has presented as well as the restrictions that went along with it to curb the virus. She said the changing rules made it challenging.
“It created all sorts of new issues,” she said.
The former nurse said she believes in wearing masks and getting vaccinated, but she did take issue with the state’s shutdown orders of businesses. The legislator and her office staff were busy earlier in the year helping residents get immunized when it was first difficult to find appointments. She said they secured more than 500 vaccination appointments. “I think that our purpose should be to aid and assist human beings and not to torture them,” she said.
Kennedy also said she is concerned with some of the anti-mask and anti-vaccine rallies and some of the information and arguments that are out there, even though she respects everyone’s rights to express their concerns and opinions.
“They have the right to their opinions, but let me tell you my opinion and how I feel the way I do,” she said. “And then you can keep your opinion or you can think about mine.”
Kennedy said regarding sponsoring bills she chooses wisely. “I tried to put in a limited amount of bills and just do more government,” she said.
She is most proud of her initiatives that have helped preserve land, and the legislator said it’s important to get out there and meet with all of the people involved and discuss all the options with them.
An example of her preservation efforts is the 2018 acquisition and preservation of the Hauppauge Springs that she led along with Seatuck Environmental Association. The 42-acre property is located on the south side of Route 347 in Hauppauge and there had been a builder interested in constructing eight houses on land at part of one of the headwaters of the Nissequogue River.
Kennedy said she made sure to meet with both the owner of the property and the builder’s lawyer. It was an issue the county legislator was extremely familiar with, as she said it was on the county’s list of environmentally sensitive priority properties for more than 20 years.
“Putting up those houses would have been the end of the Nissequogue River,” she said, adding waste from them would go into the headwaters.
With more money coming the county’s way in 2022 due to COVID-19 aid, Kennedy said she agrees with paying off pension debts and other monies the county borrowed. However, she said Suffolk should also save as much as possible because she fears it will run out of funds by 2023.
“I would love to give everybody who wants things everything, but we can’t,” she said.
The 12th Legislative District includes Smithtown, Nesconset, Hauppauge, the Village of the Branch, Lake Grove and parts of St. James, Commack, Lake Ronkonkoma and Centereach. The district is bounded roughly by Route 25 to the north, Commack Road to the west, Townline Road to the south, and Oxhead Road to the east, with Veterans Memorial Highway running through the heart of the district northwest to southeast.