81° Good Morning
81° Good Morning
Long IslandColumnists

Suozzi says he's through with local politics

Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi stands in his

Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi stands in his near-empty office the day before his last day in office. (Dec. 29, 2009) Credit: Howard Schnapp

He was "completely shocked" he lost.

He's unlikely to run for local or county office again, though maybe for something on the state or federal level.

He's proud to have turned "the worst-run county in America" into a government that is "much more professional and better run and more financially secure than it's been in decades."

He doesn't have a new job lined up.

Thursday is Thomas Suozzi's last day as Nassau County executive, beaten unexpectedly by a low-profile Republican legislator after eight whirlwind years. And with his boxes already gone from the big Mineola office, the man often described as the quintessential modern suburban leader has turned suddenly self-reflective.

"When change like this happens," Suozzi said, "you have to make something positive out of it. It's not like, 'Oh, what a shame, and I'm discouraged.' This is what happens in life. The challenge for me and the people who have worked with me, my team, is to find fresh new ways to contribute. And we will."

They have plenty to feel good about, he said.

"I'm handing off to Ed Mangano a very well running government, a professional $2.6-billion enterprise," Suozzi said. "The workforce is the smallest it's been in 30 years. The crime rate is the lowest it's been in 30 years. The bond rating is the highest it's been in 20 years."

Two big problems haunt: "One, the national economy and its effect on our budget. And two, the assessment system. That has to be reformed."

He gives himself much lower marks on politics.

"The people who turned out to vote were mad as hell about property taxes. It didn't matter that the county executive doesn't control a big part of what they were angry about."

And he was caught off guard.

"I was completely shocked that I lost," he said. "It was totally unexpected. I had no inkling of the possibility until 9:05 on election night. Every election night, I check the polling results at the place my wife and I vote, the middle school in Glen Cove. Three districts vote there, and I won huge. But I noticed turnout was 25 percent lower than it had been in 2005. I was like, 'Oh, my gosh, this turnout is so low.' Then, as I was driving in, I thought to myself, 'Can you imagine if I lost?' And then, 'Aw, that's impossible.' "

Does he kick himself for not spending more of his pile of campaign cash?

"There are no less than 100 different things I could have done differently to get 386 more votes," he said. "The reality is it just wasn't meant to be."

Suozzi said he'll go to work in the private sector - at a law firm, an investment bank or in some corporate position. "Certainly, I'm going to be able to make more money," he said.

And what about another run for office?

"Never say never," he said, "but let's just say it's 95 percent certain that I will never run again for local office or county office. If I ever do again, it will only be for statewide or federal office. I was the mayor of my hometown. I was the executive of my home county. It's time to do some new things."

But the timing would have to be right.

"When I became county executive, it couldn't have been at a better time," he said. "The birthplace of the suburbs was a fiscal shipwreck. There was so much opportunity for change. My Fix Albany campaign in 2004, saving billions of dollars with the Medicaid cap, that was great timing. But when I ran for governor, talk about bad timing! The guy I ran against, Eliot Spitzer, was a superhero, and I didn't have a shot. If it was a year later, I'd be governor."

And his bid in November for a third county term? Terrible timing.

"The height of the anti-tax, anti-incumbent feeling," the outgoing Nassau executive said. "Here I was, trying to be the leader of the tax revolt, and I was the victim of it."

>>For breaking news, follow Newsday on Twitter
>>Friend Alicia P. Newsday on Facebook


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

Latest Long Island News