Unsung hero gets things done

Unsung hero gets things done

Susan Eckert with Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta helping to collect food for a drive. Photo from Demetria Mudar

By Donna Deedy

Susan Eckert is one of those unsung heroes who works behind the scenes to improve the quality of life for others here on Long Island’s North Shore. 

The Northport native began her public relations career at the Long Island Lighting Company during the turbulent era that saw the rise and fall of the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant. 

After new management eliminated the entire department in the early 1980s, according to former LILCO PR associate Demetria Mudar, Eckert moved on to forge her own unique, decades-long personal legacy in community service. Along the way, she has gained the admiration of others. 

“People like her,” Mudar said. “She’s a lovely person and her character, combined with her work ethic, stand out.”

Eckert touches the lives of others through her full-time positions, most notably as a legislative aide in Suffolk County and as a volunteer for nonprofit organizations. 

She works for county Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), who said that hiring her was among his best decisions as a lawmaker. He has nicknamed her “Radar” after the “M*A*S*H” character because she’s finely tuned in to her surroundings.

Susan Eckert. Photo from Demetria Mudar

“Susan knows what I’m thinking, what is right and what to do next before anything even happens,” Trotta said. “She is a godsend and the backbone of my office.” 

On the job, Eckert organizes senior information fairs as well as winter coat and food drives for the local pantry at St. Joseph’s Church in Kings Park. 

She also researches and promotes many important proposals, such as Trotta’s life-saving 911 bill in 2014. 

That law mandated that hotels and businesses provide telephone systems with direct access to emergency operators without the need for dialing a prompt to connect with an external phone line. It was created in response to a tragic incident where a child tried unsuccessfully to call for help for his mother in a hotel room. 

If you have ever dropped off excess prescription drugs at any county police department, you can thank Eckert. She coordinated the first medicine disposal program on Long Island back in 2011 when she was an aide for Trotta’s predecessor, Legislator Lynne Nowick (R-Smithtown). 

The effort aimed to protect the area’s drinking water supply, while preventing drug misuse or abuse. The initiative ultimately expanded and became a model for a state policy that eliminates the need to flush pills down the toilet. 

As a liaison, Eckert has been involved with Suffolk County Department of Health Services programs, the Suffolk Heroin and Opiate Epidemic Advisory Panel, the county Communities of Solutions, Smithtown Youth and Community Alliance, Commack Coalition of Caring for substance abuse and the Northport school district Community Drug and Alcohol Task Force. She also served as chair of the county’s Women’s Advisory Commission in 2011 and was a member from 2008-14. 

Determined to raise awareness of the abilities of the disabled, Eckert took a job in public relations for United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Suffolk, where she received national recognition for composing the group’s publications. 

Eckert’s omnipresence in Suffolk County is matched only by her standing in her hometown.

She currently serves as president of the Friends of the Northport-East Northport Public Library, a volunteer position she has held since 2013. Library staff member Janet Naideau said Eckert has enhanced the library experience for the entire patron community by organizing a full range of special events. For members of Long Island Horticultural Society, Eckert has planned garden tours locally and abroad to Northumberland, England. The legislative aide mainly focuses on health and literacy projects. But her interests extend into the arts. She created Art in the Alcove in the county Legislature building in Hauppauge to showcase the work of local sculptors. For years, Eckert was a member of the Northport Historical Society exhibits committee. 

She is also a volunteer for the Reboli Center for Art and History in Stony Brook, where she writes press releases and composes profiles to highlight the talents of Long Island’s artists.

“I have known Susan for more than 20 years,” Lois Reboli, the center’s president, said. “I think the world of her.” Eckert, she said, is remarkably generous, caring, brilliant and a skilled fundraiser. “She never asks for a thing in return,” Reboli added. “And is so deserving of this honor.” 

During this season of giving, Susan Eckert shows us how giving back results in a rewarding way of life.