William Lindsay, dubbed by one supporter as "the lion of the legislature," Wednesday became the longest serving presiding officer in Suffolk County history, winning a record eighth year in the post while getting unanimous bipartisan support for the first time.
The Holbrook Democrat's re-election comes in his final year as a lawmaker under county term-limit rules. He took office in 2001. It also comes after a year when Lindsay, 66, was stricken with cancer, had a lung removed and underwent lengthy chemotherapy while the county suffered a full-blown fiscal crisis.
Legis. William Spencer (D-Centerport) called Lindsay's "management style unparalleled in handling 17 different egos, all with different priorities." He also said Lindsay shows "a lot of character, heart and fight to defeat the condition he was facing . . . and did it while continuing to negotiate and lead this body."
Republican Legis. Lynne Nowick of St. James said, "You have the ability to bring us together in a gentle way."
After the vote, Lindsay was sworn in by Suffolk Administrative Judge C. Randall Hinrichs and County Clerk Judith Pascale, while his wife of 43 years, Pat, and his family stood by his side.
"This is the greatest legislative body in the whole country," Lindsay said. "I've always been proud to be a member of this body and even prouder to be its leader." He also thanked County Executive Steve Bellone, who was present, for always working cooperatively despite disagreements, unlike his combative predecessor Steve Levy. "If I was working with your predecessor," he joked, "I'd probably not be here now."
In winning a new term, Lindsay surpasses former Presiding Officer and state Supreme Court Justice Donald Blydenburgh, who lasted seven years in the post, ending in 1995.
Former legislative counsel Paul Sabatino, a Republican, said Blydenburgh was far more aggressive in making the legislature a "true co-equal branch of government, while Lindsay has been more a doormat for county executives."
However, Legis. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) praised Lindsay as a mentor, an evenhanded leader and "a master fighter in the best sense . . . defending this institution" in battles over the years. "We're all better off because you're here," she said. "And the people of Suffolk County are better off because you're here."
Kennedy said he spoke to GOP lawmakers informally over the past few weeks about voting for Lindsay and informed Suffolk GOP chairman John Jay LaValle of their decision just before the meeting started. Two years ago, LaValle sought to oust Lindsay in an unsuccessful coup that would have made Democrat Legis. Louis D'Amaro presiding officer. "Frankly, the man deserves it," Kennedy said. "It's a miracle he is even here. . . . It was good medical treatment and divine intervention."