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Toni Tepe

Elected officials and family members were on hand for the unveiling of the park’s new name. Photo by Kimberly Brown

Coming together to celebrate Huntington’s first and only woman town supervisor, Antonia “Toni” Rettaliata-Tepe (R) — popularly known as Toni Tepe — the Town of Huntington officially renamed Dix Hills Park after the supervisor together with her beloved veteran husband, Philip Tepe, who served as a Dix Hills Fire Department commissioner and ex-chief.

Town Clerk Andrew Raia remembers working with Toni Tepe at the June 27 dedication. Photo by Kimberly Brown

In April of 2020, Rettaliata-Tepe lost her battle to cancer, just 19 days after her husband unexpectedly passed away in March 2020. However, the couple’s legacy lives on through the town’s park renaming ceremony.

Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) recalled his time with Rettaliata-Tepe and credited her for his involvement in public service.

“Toni was someone who was very near and dear to my heart, and she was an integral part of my life for more than two decades,” Lupinacci said. “She generously shared with me her knowledge and insight on the inner workings of the government. However, it was her love for the Huntington community that inspired me to continue to do good works through public service.”

After serving two years from 1988-89 as the elected Town of Huntington supervisor, Rettaliata-Tepe accomplished a substantial amount of work for the community, such as forming the Town of Huntington Veterans Advisory Board.

Before becoming supervisor, Rettaliata-Tepe served as Huntington’s state assemblywoman. She became the third and last woman to date from the town to hold this office, from 1979-87.

As assemblywoman, Rettaliata-Tepe was able to secure $31,000 in funding that enabled former Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia (R) to establish the award-winning and historical town clerk archives and records center.

“My whole life I’ve known Toni, and when I was young stuffing envelopes, she showed me how to seal them and everything else as a little kid,” said Andrew Raia (R), current town clerk and Jo-Ann’s son. “When I ran for the Assembly 19 years ago, she took me under her wing and really taught me everything I needed to know to survive. You could always count on Toni.”

The Tepes’ niece Jessica Van Bladel thanks the Town of Huntington and attendees. Photo by Kimberly Brown

When Rettaliata-Tepe remarried in 2000 to Philip Tepe, they became an unstoppable team that would help the Huntington community prosper. In 2006, she became chairwoman of the Huntington Republican Committee and served as its leader until her death.

Her husband was a Vietnam veteran, a member of the town’s Veterans Advisory Board and commander of Nathan Hale VFW Post 1469. Besides an active role in the Dix Hills Fire District, he served also as a Suffolk County deputy fire coordinator and a Town of Huntington fire marshal.

Both Rettaliata-Tepe and her husband were respected members of the community who were each eager to lend a helping hand to whoever needed it.

“My Aunt Toni and Uncle Phil have left an everlasting impression on me to be the best version of myself, and I know that many of you can say the same about them,” said Rettaliata-Tepe’s niece Jessica Van Bladel. “So, from the bottom of my heart, I’d like to thank the Town of Huntington for this honor, and everyone here today for the love and support to our family. We are very grateful for everyone.”   

Phil and Toni Tepe in an undated picture. Photo from Huntington Republican Committee

Toni Tepe, 75, died April 8 after a battle with cancer.

Tepe was the Town of Huntington’s first and only woman Town Supervisor. She was also a former state assemblywoman and the current Huntington Republican Committee chairman. She passed away nineteen days after her husband Phil Tepe, commissioner of the Dix Hills Fire Department and an accomplished public servant in his own right. He died unexpectedly March 20.

Tepe was born Antonia Patricia Bifulco in Manhattan Oct. 20, 1944, to Pasquale Bifulco and Mary (Finello) Bifulco, she was raised in Huntington and graduated from Huntington High School. She went on to attend Katherine Gibbs School in Melville and work as an administrative assistant in the Suffolk County courts.

 After marrying John B. Rettaliata, Jr., she  ran for elected office under her married name, Toni Rettaliata, and became the second Republican woman, and third female, to ever hold the office of New York State Assemblymember from the Town of Huntington. Tepe followed in the footsteps of Huntington Republican suffragette Ida Bunce Sammis, the first woman to ever serve in the New York State Assembly, and succeeding Mary Rose McGee, a Democrat, in the 8th Assembly District (1979-1982), then, after redistricting, serving in the 10th Assembly District (1983–1987). 

As assemblywoman, Tepe notably secured the first $31,000 in funding that allowed former Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia to build the award-winning and history making Huntington Town Clerk’s Archives and Records Center.

In 1987, Tepe was elected Town of Huntington Supervisor and served the then two-year term as the first and only woman to ever hold the office (1988-1989). She was responsible for the formation of the Town of Huntington Veterans Advisory Board.

She remarried in 2000 to Phil Tepe. Toni Tepe was elected chairman of the Huntington Republican Committee in 2006 and served as its leader until her death. As chairman, she was responsible for the 2017 local election in which the Republican party won control of the Huntington Town Board for the first time in 24 years.

Born in Rockville Centre Jan. 15, 1949, and raised in Dix Hills, Philip H. Tepe was a Vietnam veteran, commander of the Nathan Hale VFW Post 1469, and served on the Town of Huntington Veterans Advisory Board, which his future wife established during her time as Town Supervisor. Phil Tepe served as a Suffolk County Deputy fire coordinator, a Town of Huntington fire marshal and was a great leader in his own right, most recently serving as commissioner of the Dix Hills Fire District, of which he was an ex-chief, Badge #207 and 52-year member of Engine Company 2.

The Tepes are survived by Toni’s sister Hope Van Bladel; Phil’s sisters Diane Marks and Elizabeth Finkelstein; Phil’s children Tiffany (Luke) Legrow, Philip Anthony Tepe II, Brett Tepe; and their grandchildren Shane Legrow and Blakely Legrow.

Funeral arrangements were entrusted to M.A. Connell Funeral Home. A public memorial service will be held at a later date to be determined.

—Submitted by the Huntington Republican Committee

File photo by Rohma Abbas

The political season is swinging into high gear in Huntington.

Last week, town Democrats and Republicans tapped their picks for two open seats on the town board. The Huntington Town Democrat Committee nominated incumbent Huntington Town Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) and town Deputy Director of General Services Keith Barrett for the spots, according to Mary Collins, chairwoman of the committee. The committee also nominated incumbents Ester Bivona for town receiver of taxes and Marian Tinari for district court judge.

The Democratic nominations took place last Wednesday, Collins said.

“We think they’re the best people we have,” Collins said. “They’ve shown an interest in good government and getting things done.”

The Huntington Town Republican Committee unanimously picked incumbent Councilman Gene Cook (I) and Northport-East Northport school board member Jennifer Thompson, according to Chairwoman Toni Tepe. The nominations took place last Friday.

“The screening committee recommended [them] to the full committee because they feel that Gene has been a stalwart supporter of the people and that he always has the interest of the people at heart,” Tepe said in a phone interview this week. “And Jennifer Thompson came in, screened very nicely, [was a] very personable, knowledgeable individual and would be an asset on the town board.”

Republicans also nominated Tom McNally, a Huntington Station-based attorney and a Republican committee member, for the Suffolk County Legislature 16th District seat, held by Democratic incumbent Steve Stern. The party also chose Jennifer Heller-Smitelli, a civil litigator from Huntington, to run for the 17th Legislative District seat, held by Democratic incumbent Lou D’Amaro.

At this point, the candidates need to collect signatures to get on the ballot. And it looks like there might be a contest for getting on the ballot — at least over on the Democratic side — with former Highway Superintendent William Naughton announcing this week that he wants to run for town board. In addition, newcomer Drew Merola, a business account manager at Verizon is vying for a seat.

Asked for her thoughts on primary elections, Collins said they could be good or bad.

“Sometimes they help solidify the party,” she said. “Sometimes they can cause rifts. It all depends on how people conduct themselves while the primary process is going on.”

Berland and Barrett, when reached this week, said they were excited to get the Democratic committee’s nomination. Cook and Thompson didn’t immediately return a call for comment on Wednesday morning, but Cook stated in a previous interview he’s running for a second four-year term because he’s taken issue with the way the Democratic majority has spent money.

Tepe and Barrett agreed that this year’s election would be about transparency and ethics.

“And also to maintain a community that is in the liking of people who live here,” Tepe said.