Rick Brand is a longtime Newsday reporter who writes about politics and government on Long Island.
Former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy is hanging out his shingle -- not to practice law, but to advise businesses and local governments about how to save money, and political candidates on winning elections.
Levy, who left office almost two months ago, has rented office space in Hauppauge not far from his former office in the H. Lee Dennison Building, where he had held Suffolk's top job for eight years. The name of his new enterprise is Common Sense Strategies, which he incorporated last week.
"I'll be going to companies or a local government and help them trim costs and run as efficiently as possible," said Levy, a hard-line budget hawk while in office. "God knows I've had experience with that."
Levy, 53, said he has spoken to potential clients but declined to comment on whom he has signed up. He said he intends to be selective to keep time open for other potential ventures, such as radio or TV commentary.
Levy first publicly disclosed his plans to the Long Island Mid-Suffolk Business Action breakfast in Bohemia on Friday. He told 40 business leaders he is doing consulting work to leave flexibility to work on regional policy issues.
As for plans to advise political candidates, Levy, also a former state assemblyman and Suffolk legislator, said, "I've run close to 15 races myself over 25 years and I pretty much have been my own campaign manager over that span. I don't think there are many people with more inside-baseball knowledge of how to run an effective campaign."
Levy, a Democrat who turned Republican in 2010 in a losing bid for governor, said he expects political clients to be "predominantly Republican, but I would not shut the door on a good candidate from any party."
But Levy said he expects his work for businesses to take up the bulk of his time. "Being able to talk purely about efficiencies without the concept of political opposition hanging over everything makes it infinitely easier," he said.
Legis. Thomas Barraga (R-West Islip), often an ally when Levy was county executive, said he sees a "good market" for Levy's services. "Look at his track record," Barraga said. "If I was running for office for the first time . . . I'd want to bring on board someone with all his experience. . . . It's input you couldn't get from anyone else."
Others questioned whether Levy's prospects could be hurt by his decision last year not to seek re-election and turn over his $4 million campaign fund to District Attorney Thomas Spota to end a probe of campaign fundraising. "I think the unanswered questions could make people nervous dealing with him," said Legis. Edward Romaine (R-Center Moriches).
"Businesses don't care about political rhetoric," Levy replied. "They care about getting a better bang for the buck and that's my expertise."