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Sarah Anker

By Rita J. Egan and Julianne Mosher

Election night, Nov. 2, found many Democratic candidates gathering at the IBEW Local 25 union hall in Hauppauge, while Republicans attended a get together at Stereo Garden in Patchogue. The Hauppauge event was a more somber one as some Democrats in the county lost their seats, while other races were close ones.

Rich Schaffer, who heads up the Suffolk County Democratic Committee, said Tuesday night’s results spoke more about what was happening on the national level than about the candidates.

“This was just, as you see, a big wave that took out some really good elected officials, and if you were a challenger, you had even a steeper row to hoe as opposed to an easy time, like we’ve normally been able to do,” he said.

While candidates and supporters eagerly awaited the results of in-person votes, the final tallies may not be known in some races for a few weeks due to the Suffolk County Board of Elections still needing to count absentee ballots. Results are as of the morning of Nov. 3.

Suffolk County district attorney

The race between county District Attorney Tim Sini (D) and prosecutor Ray Tierney, who ran on the Republican and Conservative lines, was a contentious one. At the forefront, Tierney questioned whether Sini has been as tough on crime as the DA himself has said, especially regarding the MS-13 gang.

At the end of the night, Tierney emerged the winner with 154,569 votes (57.34%). Sini garnered 114,943 (42.64%). Sini was first elected to the position in 2017.

“I am proud and humbled to stand before you here today,” Tierney said during his victory speech. “Despite being running against an incumbent, despite not having a lot of money in the beginning, despite not having the support of a lot of institutions — not for one day did I feel like an underdog, because of you guys.”

Tierney added his goal is to “fight every day to keep the citizens of Suffolk County safe.”

“I will reach out into the community to develop relationships so we can all have faith in our district attorney’s office,” he said.

Suffolk County sheriff

Errol Toulon Jr. (D) has been county sheriff since 2017 and was seeking his second term this election season. His opponent, William Amato, who ran on the Republican ticket, was not actively campaigning.

At the end of the night, Toulon was declared the winner with 142,510 (54.28%). Amato received 119,947 (45.69%).

Toulon Tuesday night was overwhelmed as he thanked those in attendance at the union hall.

“I do want to thank all of you for your constant support, not just your support now, but over the last four years of talking to me and encouraging me during some difficult circumstances in taking over the sheriff’s office, and I hope to do a better job over the next four years than I did over the last four years,” Toulon said. 

Suffolk County legislators

County Legislator Nick Caracappa (R-Selden) won his seat for the 4th Legislative District with 8,748 votes (71.52%). Caracappa took on the role during a special election in 2020 following the death of Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma). The incumbent’s opponent, Dawn Sharrock, on the Democratic ticket, had a total of 3,476 votes (28.42%).

“I’m looking forward to​​ making real changes,” Caracappa said. “All the families here work hard and they deserve this victory — not just for the Republicans, this is for everybody. It’s a victory for Suffolk County — it’s a victory for the hardworking middle class.”

Sharrock said Tuesday night she sees herself running for office again.

“I honestly feel like I’ve learned so much,” she said. “I’ve grown so much. I’ve learned even just so much about myself. It’s been an experience that I’m so glad I was able to have. I’ve been surrounded by so many wonderful people, so many people who have supported me, never doubting my ability. It’s inspiring, and it’s uplifting. I have two daughters, a 16-year-old and a 14-year-old, and they’re so inspired by my journey and that means so much.”

Caracappa said he hopes that Sharrock continues to serve her community.

“It’s not easy to do that,” he said. “I respect anybody who wants to make positive change.”

The race in the county’s 5th District, which includes the Three Village Area and Port Jefferson, is a tight one. County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) was in the lead with 7,582 votes (50.25%). Salvatore Isabella, who ran on the Republican ticket and did not actively campaign, had 7,508 votes (49.75%).

The night was a nail-biter for Hahn, who is up for her sixth term.

“I am cautiously optimistic that once all the votes are counted, voters will return me to office and I’ll be honored to continue to serve my community,” Hahn said in a statement Wednesday morning. “I look forward to continuing my work to protect our Long Island way of life and make a difference for our working families.”

County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) was seeking her sixth term in office. The incumbent trailed with 7,141 votes (42.10%). Town of Brookhaven employee Brendan Sweeney won the race with 8,329 votes (49.11%). The newcomer ran on the Republican ticket. Conservative candidate Anthony DeSimone garnered 1,488 votes (8.77%).

Sweeney declared victory during Tuesday night’s event.

“It feels so good,” he said. “The voters spoke. They want change for this county and now with me and the rest of the newly elected legislators, we can do what’s best for the people.”

Anker said she was hoping to continue as she has many projects she would like to complete.

“I’ll continue to do something to stay in the area of helping people, that’s my goal, my priority, and I appreciate all those people that came out to vote,” she said. “But this was, I think, a national tsunami.”

The legislator added her 6th District is a Republican area, and it has always been an uphill battle for her.

“I’m just very fortunate to have served as long as I have, over 10 years, and do all the projects and initiatives that I have,” she said.

In the 12th District which includes parts of the Town of Smithtown, Lake Grove, Lake Ronkonkoma and Centereach, county Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) won her fourth term in office with 12,629 votes (74.57%). Her opponent Mike Siderakis, who ran unsuccessfully for state senator against Mario Mattera (R-St. James) last year, stopped actively campaigning this summer. Siderakis obtained 4,301 votes (25.40%).

Kennedy said during her victory speech at Stereo Garden that the win proves how well the party works together.

“We work hard, we have good values and we stand together as a team,” she said.

County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) garnered 10,896 votes (53.09%) and won his fifth term in office. Also on the ballot were Democrat Kevin Mulholland, who didn’t actively campaign, and won 4,693 votes (22.87%), and Michael Simonelli on the Conservative ticket, who campaigned but didn’t debate Trotta this election season. Simonelli had 4,932 votes (24.03%).

The district includes parts of Smithtown as well as Fort Salonga and portions of Commack and East Northport.

Trotta in an email statement said, “I am thrilled and honored that the people of the 13th Legislative District did not pay attention to the outright lies made by the police unions, of which my Conservative opponent was the treasurer, and [the people] voted for me based upon my record of fighting for the taxpayers, working for fiscal stability and helping my constituents.”

The 18th District, which sits in the Town of Huntington, included candidates Mark Cuthbertson (D), currently serving as Huntington Town councilman, and Stephanie Bontempi, a newcomer to the political field. The two decided to vie for the seat after county Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) decided not to run this year. He is currently facing charges for allegedly trading oxycodone for sex.

Bontempi emerged the winner with 11,419 votes (53.89%), while Cuthbertson 9,765 votes (46.08%).

“Today is a new day for Suffolk County,” she said. “With this victory, we readily flipped the balance of power in the Legislature. We changed the list of priorities. Our neighbors and the community have chosen accountability, transparency and integrity. They’ve chosen a peer over an insider. I cannot wait to get started in working with my new colleagues.”

Cuthbertson said he never says never, but he doesn’t see himself going back to town politics currently. He said he was glad he ran for county legislator.

“We laid it all out there, and I’m at peace with how much we did,” he said.

Town of Brookhaven

Incumbent Donna Lent (R) faced Ira Costell (D) running for town clerk of the Town of Brookhaven. Lent, who is serving her second term as town clerk, has managed day-to-day operations such as issuing death certificates and handicap parking permits, while land-use applications are filed within the office.

Costell has taken leadership roles in environmental causes such as the Suffolk County Watershed Protection Advisory Committee and served as chair of the county’s Pine Barrens Review Commission. He has been passionate about the fight against opioid addiction and prescription drug abuse.

Lent won her seat with 54,318 votes (67.91%), while Costell had 25,642 (32.06%).

Town of Smithtown

Incumbent Ed Wehrheim (R) faced Democrat and newcomer to the political field Maria Scheuring in the race for Smithtown supervisor. The incumbent has been a part of town government for nearly 50 years. He won his first term as supervisor in 2017 after beating out Patrick Vecchio (R) who served in the position for nearly four decades.

Scheuring, an attorney, grew up in the Bronx, and moved to Smithtown in 2006 where she has a private practice dealing in matters from guardianship to visiting clients in nursing homes to looking over music contracts.

Smithtown residents voted back in Wehrheim Nov. 2. The incumbent had 20,446 votes (75.01%), while Scheuring garnered 6,806 (24.97%).

In an email statement, Wehrheim said he was humble and grateful for the support.

“Our first election cycle we set out to talk with the people in the community,” he said. “We didn’t preach or promise. We simply asked, ‘What do you want from your local leaders?’ We then devoted these past four years to delivering for the community. We didn’t kick the can and wait for help when COVID-19 inflicted its wrath upon us. We looked at every obstacle as an opportunity. I believe that the voting public visually and physically sees what we’ve accomplished in a short period of time: the parks, athletic fields, community entertainment, downtown improvements. They want more and we are eager to deliver.”

Scheuring said Tuesday night she learned a lot during the campaign and just how complicated it can be. The newcomer to the political field said she is interested in seeking office in the future, and she said regarding a position such as town supervisor the issues aren’t Democratic or Republican.

“It’s more, ‘Do we think this is the best for the town?’” she said.

Town of Smithtown councilmembers, Lynne Nowick (R) and Tom McCarthy (R), regained their seats with 19.833 votes (37.46%) for Nowick and 19,753 votes (37.31%) for McCarthy. Democratic candidates, Dylan Rice and Marc Etts, did not actively campaign and received 6,965 (13.16%) and 6,378 votes (12.05%) respectively.

Nowick thanked voters for putting their trust in her in an email statement.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Town Board to keep Smithtown the alluring town that it is,” she said. “Quality of life in Smithtown is the highest priority. We will all continue to preserve our beautiful parks, beaches, golf courses and clean up any eyesores to keep Smithtown beautiful.”

McCarthy said in an email statement the voters sent a loud and clear message, and “it was a great night, not just for us but for all of Long Island.”

“I am extremely grateful to the Smithtown voters for their continued support and am eager to devote these next four years to delivering for the constituency,” he said. “We’re on the cusp of some big improvements coming to Smithtown, with a timeline to sewering Smithtown in place, a shovel in the ground in Kings Park, slated for January and St. James has never looked so good. We’re going to finish what we started and then some, creating an ideal community for our young professionals, families and seniors to call home indefinitely.”

Vincent Puleo ran unopposed for town clerk, and Robert Murphy was also the lone name on the ballot for superintendent of highways.

Town of Huntington

Two councilmen and a newcomer were on the ballots for Town of Huntington supervisor after current town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) decided not to seek reelection. Councilmen Ed Smyth (R) and Eugene Cook, who ran as a third-party Independent candidate, gained 25,409 (56.34%) and 1,746 (3.87%) votes, respectively.

Democratic candidate Rebecca Sanin, president and CEO of nonprofit Health & Welfare Council of Long Island, had 17,940 votes (39.78%).

With councilmen Cuthbertson running for county legislator and Smyth running for town supervisor, two seats were up for grabs on the Town Board. Candidates David Bennardo and Sal Ferro ran on the Republican and Conservative party lines, while Joseph Schramm and Jennifer Hebert ran on the Democratic ticket. Bennardo and Ferro emerged the winners with 26,669 (30.46%) and 25,206 (28.79%), respectively. Hebert had 18,335 votes (20.94%) and Schramm 17,328 (19.79%).

Andre Sorrentino beat out incumbent Kevin Orelli for superintendent of highways with 25,565 votes (56.69%). Orelli garnered 19,524 (43.29%).

Legislator Sarah Anker and opponent Brendan Sweeney during TBR News Media’s in-person debates, Oct. 11. Photos by Julianne Mosher

Running on the Republican ticket for District 6 of the Suffolk County Legislature, Brendan Sweeney, of Shoreham, is currently a citizens advocate in the office of Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), Town of Brookhaven. His opponent, incumbent Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai). 

Before serving in the Legislature, Anker had been energy director for the Town of Brookhaven, where she developed solar programs and promoted clean energy and green homes technologies. She had also served on the Mount Sinai school board, raising three children in the district. 

Anker graduated from Pasco High School in Dade City, Florida, and received a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts in 1986 from St. Leo University in Dade City, Florida. She took graphic design courses at New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury. 

She first ran for county legislator a little over 10 years ago. The 2021 election is the last term she can run for and she said she can explain her reelection in three words: “To help people.”

Sweeney, 28, previously worked in the Brookhaven Town Building Department, the town Department of General Services and the town Law Department. In these roles, he worked on town issues including abandoned houses and building issues. He worked on Freedom of Information Law compliance in the town building and planning departments. He also worked for county Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset) when Kennedy was a legislator, and in the county Department of Audit and Control.

Sweeney graduated from St. Anthony’s High School and received a bachelor’s degree in history in 2014 from the University of Florida. He said he is currently enrolled at Touro Law School in Central Islip.

“It has always been in my in my blood to want to help people,” he said. 

COVID-19 recovery

Anker has been working for the county throughout the whole COVID-19 pandemic, using her platform to help connect people with vaccines and continues to educate her constituents on the matter. 

“Hopefully it’ll get better and hopefully we will have a better understanding,” she said. “What happens is that if we don’t know what’s around the corner, there’s nervousness, there’s tension and there’s anxiety — that’s what we’ve all been experiencing the past almost-two years.”

Anker said that throughout the pandemic, she worked constantly with the state. 

“I noticed, though, we need to do more on a county level to address the process to get a vaccine,” she said. 

When vaccines became available, she said that she, as chair of the county Seniors & Human Services committee, helped to get senior citizens their vaccines because she knew they were feeling left out. 

After calling the state, she said she helped set up vaccination pods at local fire departments, along with facilitating communication between doctors with credible information.

“It was frustrating,” she said, “but I have a website that is being put together to help bring critical medical information to medical providers.”

Anker believes that trust needs to be brought back into society. 

“I think the political divide has hampered that — and I’ll say on both sides to a great extent because we have more in common than we have different,” she said. “We need to figure out how we can come back to that foundation because our adversaries are just waiting.”

Sweeney believed that the county did “a good job overall” in how it handled the coronavirus crisis. 

“To be given the hand that they were dealt with, I have to give credit where credit is due,” he said. 

He, however, believes that we need to adjust to a “newer normal.”

Sweeney said it’s important to encourage people to get their vaccinations against the virus, but ultimately believes it should be a choice. 

“My attitude is we have to have the government going to people and telling them the importance of it,” he said. “But the problem right now, ever since Watergate, is there’s been a distrust in government.”

Sweeney believes that information should be going straight to trusted medical providers to work with their patients to alleviate concerns or find a way to cease apprehensions. 

Small business

Sarah Anker. Photo by Julianne Mosher

While the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the daily lives of people around the world, local small businesses are still struggling. Anker said that to help business owners, she proposed legislation to create a small business website to make it easier for those struggling. 

The site includes resources for PPP, grant applications and other entities to help people navigate through the constant changes associated with COVID. She hopes that the site can also provide ways to help business owners find employees willing to work.

“There’s so many people struggling,” Anker said. “You can go down part of the whole street here and find ‘help wanted’ signs.”

Sweeney, who helped on the Brookhaven level with the coronavirus task force, had local chambers of commerce meet together to suggest the biggest issues in town. A big problem, however, was the restrictions coming in from the state level. 

“That limited, even the suggestions the businesses came to us with, for we were limited in what we could actually implement, since our regulations that we had power over were taken away from us,” he said.

But Anker said that the two share a similar perspective — the county did a good job under the circumstances and worked along other levels of government to get things done. 

“I can see where there could have been improvements, and as we continue to go through this, I’m hoping that I can help tweak it,” she said. “I’m in a place at this point where I can make suggestions, I can propose legislation, I can create a task force to get all these amazing minds together to try to solve some of these problems. But, you know, we are all in this and we’re all trying to get through it.” 

One project Anker helped with was working alongside the county Department of Labor at the One-Stop Employment Center. 

Before the pandemic, she coordinated a field trip for Rocky Point High School seniors to visit the center. She insists that young people heading out of high school and into college need to be up to date on new technology for the future jobs that will be available. 

Sweeney agreed, but noted that colleges, like county-funded Suffolk County Community College, should be given more money.

“The county is not paying its fair share right now, nor is the state, so the state’s at fault, too,” he said. “The original formula when it was decided, when it was formed, was 33% county, 33% state and basically 33% paid for by the taxpayer going to the college. But right now, it’s more like 50% for the taxpayer.”

He also believes encouraging students that college is not the only choice out there is important. 

“We need to encourage people that any option is out there, you don’t have to just immediately go to the white-collar option,” he said. “Some of these blue-collar jobs, they may not look glamorous and the work you’re doing, but the pay you’re getting because they’re in such demand will entice them.”

Water quality

Anker became involved with local environmental issues nearly 20 years ago, and now with her current role as legislator, she said she is in a place where she can vote on land preservation, clean up toxic sites, enforce illegal dumping and more. 

As of late, Anker is working toward dredging, which was finished in Mount Sinai Harbor earlier this year. 

“This is something I’m going to focus a lot more on in the upcoming weeks,” she said. 

“I’m also working to try to figure out a way to stop chemicals, medication — there’s all kind of stuff coming out in our sewers, and some of those sewer lines go right out into our oceans,” Anker added. “And to me, that’s unacceptable.”

Sweeney said he would focus on adding more sewers to the county. 

“We should put sewers where everybody that desires sewers wants them,” he said. “That’s an ambitious goal, and it’s unlikely to happen in the near future, but that’s what we’re working toward.”

Brendan Sweeney. Photo by Julianne Mosher

By adding more sewers to areas that need it, it could eventually help the aquifer where Long Islanders get their water. Sweeney added that he hopes to see the federal infrastructure bill pass soon, so more funds could go toward improving local water quality. 

Both Anker and Sweeney agree that infrastructure in their district needs to improve. 

“We’ve had a lot of flooding in Rocky Point,” Sweeney said. “Driving along William Floyd [Parkway], there are so many potholes.”

While funding comes from different levels of government depending on the roads and territories, he said that on the county level, two things should be done: preventing stormwater harm and sewering issues. 

Anker said, however, that she truly feels that the town and county work together well when it comes to joining together to better the areas they share. 

“We focus on a lot of issues, and we were very productive and getting things done,” she said. “We focus a lot on quality-of-life projects together.”

Downtowns

Anker was instrumental in the development of the North Shore Rail Trail connecting several different communities with a brand-new park, walking and biking trail. 

“We’re all one big community,” she said. “So, I think it’s important to support the local civic associations that work together, support the local historical societies that are keeping our legacy alive for that.”

She added that a high priority of the Legislature is to provide more open space. 

Sweeney agreed, and said that he believes communities in the district appreciate and like to visit downtowns, but aren’t necessarily looking for one in their backyard. 

“For me, I look at it not that we don’t want downtowns because we do have Rocky Point,” he said. “I think some of our residents would prefer that true suburban area. Our district is where you want to start your family. You want to move into a house, you want to occasionally go out for dinner and drinks with your friends or your spouse, and you go into the downtown area and then you go back home — but you don’t want that constant hustle and bustle, either.”

Affordable housing

Throughout Anker’s career in local government, she has helped to implement legislation that requires developers to provide affordable housing, or workforce housing. While at first unwelcomed by people within her district, she said they are now starting to see a need for the kids to have a place to live. 

“It’s becoming much more acceptable,” she said, adding that Mount Sinai has started to see several 55-and-over communities pop up for empty nesters.

Sweeney, a young person himself who has just purchased a home, said that the county should help with making living on Long Island more affordable. 

“One of the first things that I would do from the county aspect would be to start trying to find areas of the budget that we can start cutting, start reducing so that we can lower our expenditure on the average taxpayer,” he said. “That little bit can be just enough of what you need to be able to make the difference between staying in your apartment that you’re in right now and purchasing a nice, lovely new home in Coram, Middle Island or Mount Sinai.”

Leg. Kara Hahn lighting a candle. Photo by Julianne Mosher

To honor of National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, one local woman has spearheaded a county-wide event to honor and remember the little lives lost. 

Elizabeth Kennedy, of Rocky Point, shared her story nearly two years ago with Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), sparking the Suffolk County Legislature to unanimously approve a resolution, and designate Oct. 15 as “Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Awareness Day” back in 2020.

Sponsored by Anker, it was introduced to increase awareness of the causes and impacts surrounding pregnancy and infant loss and to improve understanding, support and potential resources for those who grieve the loss of a pregnancy or an infant.

Kennedy lost her second child, who was named Grace, when she was 26 weeks and six days pregnant on Feb. 25, 2018. 

Struck with grief she felt that she needed to find an outlet to help her cope with her loss, so she began researching different infant loss support groups. Through her online search, she found the Star Legacy Foundation — a national organization whose mission is to increase awareness, support research, promote education and encourage advocacy and family support regarding stillbirth, pregnancy loss, and neonatal death.

After helping to organize a virtual candle lighting — called the “Wave of Light” — on Zoom to show respect for families and loved ones who have experienced loss last year, she and her fellow organizers decided to finally host an in-person event for 2021 at Heritage Park on Friday, Oct. 15.

At 6:45 p.m. nearly a dozen people came together to mourn and share their stories for one of the county’s first Wave of Light events at the park. 

“I think it’s important to have advocates like Elizabeth Kennedy to provide these types of events to help people understand that they’re not the only ones dealing with these challenges,” Anker said. “There are so many women, and even men, that need to understand they are not the only ones that have that have experienced the sense of tremendous loss.”

According to the Star Foundation, thousands of families in the United States experience pregnancy and infant loss each year. In the United States there are approximately 24,000 stillbirths, or 1 out of 160 births, a year. In addition to stillbirths, current research suggests that between 10% and 20% of medically confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriage.

While 2020 was the first year Suffolk County acknowledged the day, the month of October was proclaimed as “Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month” by President Ronald Reagan in 1988.2021 was special to Kennedy and her family, because they were able to stand together in-person.

“Compared to last year, this was so much better and it’s nice to have everybody here with us,” she said at the event. 

County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) also visited the ceremony and helped light candles, too. 

“No one can understand the loss of a child, but we can certainly together try to educate others and try to share our love and our support and empathy and compassion to try to help,” she said.

As for Gracie, the Kennedy family knows she’s looking down smiling. 

“She continues to inspire,” Anker said. 

Stock photo

To honor of National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, one local woman has spearheaded a county-wide event to honor and remember the little lives lost. 

Elizabeth Kennedy, of Rocky Point, shared her story nearly two years ago with Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), sparking the Suffolk County Legislature to unanimously approve a resolution, and designate Oct. 15 as “Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Awareness Day” back in 2020.

Sponsored by Anker, it was introduced to increase awareness of the causes and impacts surrounding pregnancy and infant loss and to improve understanding, support and potential resources for those who grieve the loss of a pregnancy or an infant.

Kennedy lost her second child, who was named Grace, when she was 26 weeks and six days pregnant on Feb. 25, 2018. 

Struck with grief she felt that she needed to find an outlet to help her cope with her loss, so she began researching different infant loss support groups. Through her online search, she found the Star Legacy Foundation — a national organization whose mission is to increase awareness, support research, promote education and encourage advocacy and family support regarding stillbirth, pregnancy loss, and neonatal death.

After helping to organize a virtual candle lighting — called the “Wave of Light” — on Zoom to show respect for families and loved ones who have experienced loss last year, she and her fellow organizers decided to host an in-person event for 2021 at Heritage Park on Friday.

At 6:45 p.m. on Oct. 15, families can gather to mourn together and share their stories for an in-person Wave of Light event at Heritage Park, located at the park’s main building, 633 Mount Sinai-Coram Road in Mount Sinai. Candles will be lit at 7 p.m. 

“If there are people out there who haven’t wanted to find support on their own yet, this could be a way for people to open the door,” Kennedy said. 

According to the Star Foundation, thousands of families in the United States experience pregnancy and infant loss each year. In the United States there are approximately 24,000 stillbirths, or 1 out of 160 births, a year. In addition to stillbirths, current research suggests that between 10% and 20% of medically confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriage. 

Commissioner Jeff Vlack, Chairman John Romonoski, Vice Chairman Richard McKay, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker, Commissioner James McLoughlin, Chief Darran Handshaw, Ex-Chief Michael Rosaco, First Asstistant Chief William Rosasco, and Second Asstistant Chief Alex Riley. Photo from Sarah Anker

On Saturday, Sept. 4, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) attended the Sound Beach Fire Department’s Annual Fire District Inspection and Installation Dinner at East Wind Long Island in Wading River. 

Anker joined the Sound Beach Fire Department members in honoring the newly installed incoming officers as well as other department members for their many years of dedicated service, including Erica Elisseou and Cheyenne Enlund for five years; Dede Zenz, Kevin Creedon, Ex-Captain James Hudson, Captain James McLoughlin and Chief Darran Handshaw for 10 years; Ex-Captain Joseph Luise for 15 years; Ex-Chief Thomas Sternberg and Ex-Chief Michael Rosasco for 20 years; John Marino and Ex-Captain Daryl Blasberg for 25 years; John Hoffmann, Joseph Russo and Anthony Russo for 30 years; Ex-Captain John Curtin and Ex-Chief Edward Sullivan for 35 years; and Philip Alaimo III for 50 years. 

Members of the Auxiliary Company were also recognized for their years of dedicated service, including Maureen Strauch for 25 years; Ann Moran for 30 years; Denise Hellberg for 40 years; and Patty Pulick for 50 years. 

 “It was an honor to attend this year’s annual inspection and installation dinner and to have the opportunity to recognize members of the department and the Auxiliary Company for their many years and decades of dedicated service,” Anker said. “I want to thank the all the members of the Sound Beach Fire Department and the Auxiliary Company for their continued and courageous service to the community during a challenging and unprecedented year.”

The Sound Beach Fire Department has been providing emergency services to the residents of Sound Beach for 91 years.

Pictured left to right: Volunteer Christopher Wesselborg, Executive Director Marc Alessi, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker, Chief Operating Officer Douglas Borge. Photo from Sarah Anker

It was a night to remember. 

On Saturday, Aug. 28, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) was one of many who attended the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe’s Sound of Science musical event in Shoreham. 

The event, sponsored by the TSCW and the Rites of Spring Music Festival, featured interactive exhibits and activities related to the connection between science and music, a tribute to scientist and inventor Nikola Tesla, and electric musical performances from the Rites of Spring Ensemble.

The show included 12 musicians who played innovative music on electric instruments. Unlike other concerts, the show was featured at a unique venue and open-air theater with Tesla’s famous tower base as center stage and his laboratory as a backdrop. 

It began with an interactive surround-sound experience on the octagonal tower base, plus exhibits featuring singing Tesla coils, theremin and the science of sound.  

After, the Rites of Spring Ensemble performed an electric concert featuring new music by Kanasevich, Mazzoli, Clyne, Akiho, Rodriguez, Romitelli and Little. 

 “The Sound of Science was a fantastic event that was enjoyed by all,” Anker said. “Thank you to the many Tesla Science Center board, staff and volunteers that continue to find creative and exciting ways to share the contributions of the world-renowned scientist and inventor, Nikola Tesla, with our community.”

The TSCW is a not-for-profit organization that aims to develop the site of Nikola Tesla’s last remaining laboratory into a global science center that provides innovative learning experiences, supports the advancement of new technologies, and preserves Nikola Tesla’s legacy.

In July, the organization hosted another event to celebrate Tesla’s 165th birthday. 

Earlier this year, they held a “Metal for Tesla” event where people donated previously used metal to raise funds towards rebuilding Tesla’s famed towner on the Shoreham grounds. 

For more information about upcoming events and programs or if you’re interested in volunteering at TSCW call (631)-886-2632 or visit teslasciencecenter.org.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) recently visited North Shore Youth Council’s summer camp in Rocky Point to congratulate Kayla MacKay for being the Legislative District 6 recipient of the Suffolk County Youth Week Award during the inaugural Suffolk County Legislature’s “Youth Week.” 

This year’s Youth Week Award recipients were honored for going above and beyond in helping the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is my honor to recognize Kayla MacKay as the recipient of this year’s Suffolk County Youth Week Award in District 6,” Anker said. “Kayla has had a positive impact on the children and teens in the community during the COVID-19 pandemic through volunteering with North Shore Youth Council, helping out with food drives and community cleanups, and so much more. 

She provided invaluable support to her peers and helped ensure that there were still opportunities for them to connect to each other virtually while they couldn’t meet in person. Thank you to Kayla for all that she has done and continues to do for our community.”

As an active community member, Kayla MacKay is the current President of North Shore Youth Council’s Youth Advisory Committee, a peer mentor in the Big Buddy-Little Buddy mentoring program and is a Senior Counselor in the Summer Buddies program at North Shore Youth Council. 

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, she assisted North Shore Youth Council in facilitating tutoring and recreational opportunities for teens across virtual platforms. She also regularly donated her time to local food drives and community cleanups, as well as two of North Shore Youth Council’s newest projects, the first annual safe Halloween drive-thru and the creation and distribution of holiday boxes for children in need.

“North Shore Youth Council is so pleased and honored to have one of our own, Kayla Mackay, receive the Suffolk County Youth Week Award,” said North Shore Youth Council Executive Director Robert Woods. “Kayla’s passion, uncanny intelligence, and positive spirit has been such a blessing to our organization, especially as we navigated the COVID-19 pandemic. Our entire staff agrees, working with her to help youth and families thrive has been an incredible privilege. We expect a very bright future for Kayla!”

Photo by Julianne Mosher

A new website dedicated to addiction and mental health resources has been unveiled to provide residents with easy-to-access services for those who are struggling. 

On Thursday, July 22, Suffolk County legislator and chairwoman of the county Legislature Health Committee, Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), joined county Department of Health Services Commissioner Gregson Pigott, county Division of Community Mental Hygiene Services Director Cari Faith Besserman, together with members of the county Department of Information Technology and the county Addiction Prevention and Support Advisory Panel outside the William H. Rogers Building in Hauppauge to announce the launch of the website suffolkstopaddiction.org.

The webpage was created by Resolution No. 34-2021, introduced by Anker and unanimously passed earlier this year. 

The legislation directed the county Department of Information Technology and the Department of Health to collaborate to create a comprehensive webpage dedicated to addiction, mental health, substance use disorder prevention and rehabilitation services. The webpage features sections that include important emergency numbers, substance use disorder and mental health information and resources, and a list of treatment providers compiled by the county Division of Community Mental Hygiene Services.

Photo by Julianne Mosher

“I want to thank the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, the Division of Community Mental Hygiene Services and the Department of Information Technology for their tireless work they put into creating this webpage,” Anker said. “With the concerning rise in addiction and mental health issues after a challenging year, our hope is that this webpage will help increase the accessibility of the possibly life-saving resources that are available through the Suffolk County Health Department and improve our ability to reach those who are in need of help in our county.”

Anker sponsored the resolution in response to the growing opioid and substance abuse epidemic in the county and across the U.S. 

During an October public hearing, Victoria Sunseri, a Suffolk County constituent in the medical field, noted that it was difficult for providers to locate mental health and/or addiction resources for their patients. The panel members echoed the importance of providers being able to connect a person to treatment options and for residents to find important information in a user-friendly way. In response, Anker facilitated the creation of the webpage singularly dedicated to addiction and mental health resources and services.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have received a surge in calls from individuals seeking mental health resources from crisis intervention to addiction rehabilitation,” Sunseri said. “This mental health hub will serve to empower individuals by reducing the time and frustration they might experience while seeking help appropriate to their needs and by streamlining reception of services through increasing the salience of who does what, where and how.”

This comes just days after the county Legislature convened July 12 to consider and vote on certificates of necessity concerning settlements with several defendants in the county’s pending opioid litigation. These certificates were approved promptly after legislators met in executive session to discuss details related to the litigation.

On Feb. 3, 2015, county legislator and current presiding officer, Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue), introduced legislation to establish a six-member committee to determine the viability of legal action against drug manufacturers and ascertain Suffolk’s costs due to the over-prescription of opioids. 

Following this study, Calarco spearheaded the resolution that authorized the special counsel to commence legal action(s) against all responsible parties. The law firm of Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC was retained, on a contingency basis, to represent the County of Suffolk in this complex litigation. 

Suffolk County was one of the first three counties in the United States to act against opioid manufacturers in 2015. The counties of Orange and Santa Clara in California and the city of Chicago took similar action in that same period. These settlement dollars will be used in accordance with any requirements outlined in relation to such settlement and, in all likelihood, will be put toward educational programming, treatment and other related efforts to remedy the impacts of this crisis. 

According to a Calarco press release following the July 12 special meeting, settlements were approved with Rite Aid of New York $1.5 million; CVS $3.5 million plus the additional amount of $500,000 if certain settlements are reached with other defendants; Walmart $3,062,500; Walgreens $5 million; Johnson & Johnson a sum between $8.4 million and $19.8 million over 10 years “to be used for restitution and abatement and agreeing not to manufacture, sell or promote opioids going forward”; and between approximately $10.4 million and $19.6 million over nine years from the Purdue/Sackler family. 

Photo by Julianne Mosher

“When we began to experience this crisis, it quickly became apparent that our constituents were being overprescribed opioids, and this negligence is what led to the widespread addiction in our community,” Calarco said. “Pharmacies had a responsibility to track the distribution of these medications carefully. Their failure to do so furthered the impact of this crisis by allowing individuals to pharmacy shop to obtain more of these powerful drugs. The pharmaceutical companies and their affiliates knew that they were pushing a highly addictive drug that was unsafe for long-term use. Yet, they proceeded anyway, all in the name of turning a profit.”

He added that while these settlements cannot repair the damage done or bring back those who we lost to the grips of this epidemic, it has already made a substantial impact. Doctors are now prescribing medication differently, and two of the major manufacturers of these dangerous medications will cease production for good. 

“With this settlement, we are going to have substantial resources that we’re going to be able to put into this epidemic that’s been plaguing our county for so long, and to be able to make sure that our residents had the ability to get connected to treatment services to prevention services,” Calarco said at last Thursday’s press conference. “There are windows of time, where you have clarity, and you recognize that you need help. … We need to make sure that we have the resources there for you at those windows, so you can take advantage of that help. That’s what this resource guide is about — it’s about making sure that you know where to go.”

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Photo from Sarah Anker

On Friday, June 11, the Suffolk County Legislature hosted the second annual Women Veterans Appreciation Day Ceremony over Zoom.

During the ceremony, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) recognized Janis Henderson as this year’s Suffolk County Women Veterans Appreciation Day 6th District Honoree. 

Henderson is a local veteran who proudly served during her early life in the United States Maine Corps. In addition to her military service, Janis was a school nurse at the Mount Sinai School District for 30 years and has been a member of the Mount Sinai Fire Department since 1974, earning Mount Sinai Fire Fighter of the year in 1977.

 “I have known Janis Henderson for many years, and it has always been wonderful to work with her,” Anker said. “Janis has been such a shining star in our community. She has not only served our community through active military service, but also as a life-long community volunteer. It gives me great pride and it is an honor to recognize Janis Henderson for this year’s Women Veterans Appreciation Day.”

Her devotion to service to the community extended beyond her careers as a veteran, firefighter and local school nurse. Janis has also dedicated much of her life to various community volunteerism efforts including serving on the Christian Outreach Board, as a member of the Episcopal Order of Saint Francis, volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, being a wildlife animal rehabilitator and cocker spaniel rescuer, providing pet therapy at local nursing homes, and playing piano at the Port Jefferson Senior Center.

Last year, the Suffolk County Legislature designated June 12 as Women Veterans Appreciation Day through Resolution 94-2020 to recognize women who proudly serve in the United States Armed Forces. Each year, a woman veteran is honored in each legislative district.

 

Leg. Sarah Anker with Schiavone. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Suffolk County Legislator Sam Gonzalez (D-Brentwood) was joined with local and national officials this week, urging Suffolk County to adopt a bill he spearheaded that would make March 21  Down Syndrome Awareness Day.

Leg. Gonzalez talking with Derek and Hazel. Photo by Julianne Mosher

“The idea behind this was something that has been in the works for some time now,” he said. 

There are three phases to it — county, state and eventually federal. 

“This day is acknowledged around the world and by the United Nations,” Gonzalez said. “I just couldn’t understand why it wasn’t something that was recognized here.”

During the press conference on May 18 outside the county offices in Hauppauge, elected officials from both parties supported their colleague who passionately has moved the bill forward. They proudly stood next to advocates with Down syndrome, like Brittany Schiavone, founder of Brittany’s Baskets of Hope, Daniel Fletcher of the Special Olympics World Games and John Cronin founder of John’s Crazy Socks.

Daniel Fletcher, Brittany Schiavone, Suffolk County Leg. Sam Gonzalez, Janissa Lloyd, John Cronin and Nassau County Leg. Joshua Lafazan

“This resolution declaring March 21, as Down Syndrome Awareness Day is long overdue,” said Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport). “It’s been recognized all over the world to bring attention and to create a voice advocating for the rights, inclusion and the well-being of people with Down syndrome.”

Spencer added that Down syndrome occurs in one in 700 births. There are currently 400,000 people living in the United States with Down syndrome — half of those people with heart defects. 

“Down Syndrome Awareness Day is to encourage more people to learn about this condition, to celebrate those living with it, and to recognize the ways in which medical advancements can boost their quality of life,” he said. 

Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) felt a personal connection to the bill. She said her cousin grew up with Down syndrome. 

“We have to get the word out,” she said. “We have folks who have Down syndrome that are superstars, that can do amazing, things that can inspire us.”

And by establishing a date that reminds people about this community only betters them in the future. 

“What’s also important about having a day like the Down Syndrome Awareness Day is talking about the needs of our community members going forward,” said Legislator Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue). “Some of these young men and women, as they grow older, they’re going to be looking for housing services, they’re going to be looking for ways to get out on their own and establish their own lives. And we need to make sure that we have those underlying resources available to them. We won’t do that unless we are talking about what those needs are.”

Centereach mom Karyn Degnan. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Centereach resident and mom of two children with Down syndrome Karyn Degnan said this is long-overdue. A board member with Patchogue-based GiGi’s Playhouse, she said she’s been surrounded by a supportive group and a day like this will help even more.

“I am excited for my kids to be recognized and for awareness to be brought to their disability,” she said. “I just couldn’t be happier.”

Legislator Nick Caracappa (R-Selden) knew this was special, too. 

“I don’t see inability,” he said. “When you have the ability to love, when you have the ability to appreciate, make something and give back to your communities. That’s not inability — that’s inspiring.”