Q: How did you get involved with legislature? When did you realize you wanted to be a county legislator [serving the 7th District]?
A: Political office is one of the things I said I would never do. My wife [Patricia Eddington] was always involved in the political field in some way, and I thought she was crazy. The opportunity arose when John Foley, then legislator, asked if I was willing to run and keep the tradition going of respected people in the community. I thought it would be a good challenge and I’d bring a new perspective.
Q: What were the best/worst parts of the position?
A: Working with constituents and hearing their perspective -- that was the absolute best. I was a social worker and teacher [for Patchogue Medford School District] for 30 years and my experiences have taught me that I like to solve problems and follow that type of social work model. My philosophy is educate first, legislate second -- I always thought that if we tried to educate people about the positives or negatives of something, that might be the best way to go.
The worst part was the legislative meetings. A lot of legislators and politicians like to debate and talk about the problem -- we go through about 500 pieces of legislation at every meeting, and we debate so many of them when we really don’t have to. If you just did the right thing, it’s not that hard. I believe in working toward solutions to the problem, not talking forever about the problem, and that’s been the most frustrating thing as a social worker watching all the egos.
Q: What will you miss the most about being in office?
A: The interaction with my constituents. I really like working with people and solving problems -- whether you need a stoplight put in or a neighbor who’s not taking care of his property -- whatever the problem, I would say ‘let’s put you in contact with the right person to help you solve that problem’ and then I would follow up.
Q: How has this position affected your family life?
A: I have two children, four grandchildren, and two step-grandchildren, and it’s been a little hard on my family, because this job is year round. It caused friction, and I don’t think anybody really understands what you have to give up when you go into public office. They give up a lot to represent you and that’s why I decided not to run. I’ve had enough of all the talking and want to spend more time with my family.
Q: What do you think about Rob Calarco taking over as county legislator?
A: Rob has been by my side for six years as chief of staff. When I came in, I had to quickly learn what the Suffolk County government really does, but Rob knows all of this -- he knows all the players, all the people, he knows who to call if you come in with a problem. He’s keeping my staff so this office won’t miss a beat in its service to constituents. He’s also 30 years younger than me and has a lot more energy -- he’s the perfect person for the job so it was easy to support him.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: You have to close one door before you can open another, and that’s what I believe in for a job -- I have to totally disconnect from this and wait to see what’s coming up, but I told Rob anytime he needs advice, I’d be more than willing to share. I would like to do something part-time where I work with people, maybe as a commissioner for some group, whether it’s the town or the county, I don’t know. I believe a door will open and it makes it a little exciting, because at my age I’m saying ‘I don’t know what I’m gonna be when I grow up!’