Dan Perkins, a Suffolk Democrat who worked for Gov. Mario Cuomo and was Eliot Spitzer's point man on Long Island when he served as attorney general, died at his Huntington home Friday. He was 56.
Perkins, a former vice president for government affairs at the Long Island Association, used his sharp wit to soften the elbows of New York's political world, friends and family said. He was also a devoted father to his daughter, Lily.
"He was a wonderful, fantastic friend who rarely took the spotlight, but was certainly deserving of it," said Resi Cooper, a Long Island political and government consultant.
He died unexpectedly from complications with diabetes, said Marc Herbst, executive director of the Long Island Contractors' Association where Perkins had consulted for the past few years.
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said Perkins "was universally respected as one of the best representatives on behalf of high elected officials. He had great credibility."
Perkins was born July 20, 1958, in Patchogue. He attended Canaan Elementary, Oregon Middle School and graduated from Patchogue-Medford High School in 1976. He earned a bachelor of arts in 1981 from the University at Albany where he majored in rhetoric and communication, and history.
Perkins would remain in Albany for about 20 years, including as a regional representative for Cuomo in the Capitol District.
"I think he was just fascinated by the workings of government," said his mother, Harriette, 78. "He always felt that working behind the scenes is where he liked to be."
Mark Grossman, who was Cuomo's Long Island representative, met Perkins during this time.
"He had a great sense of humor and never looked to take credit for himself," Grossman said.
He also worked on Spitzer's campaign for governor. Perkins then decided to take a job with the LIA, a business advocacy group, in 2007, to be closer to his daughter.
Shortly afterward the Spitzer administration came apart with the disclosure of his involvement with prostitutes.
Asked what he liked most about his new job, Perkins said, "Timing," Grossman recalled.
He worked at LIA until 2011. Kevin Law, president and chief executive of the LIA, said, "He was smart, he was funny and he loved his daughter."
He remembered Perkins' joy as he went off to a tea party with his daughter, who was 4 or 5 at the time. "He was loving it," Law said.
Richard Schaffer, Suffolk County Democratic Chairman, said, "When people had hardened positions he knew how to get them to drop their guard and accomplish things. He didn't take himself too seriously which is very rare in this business."
Besides his mother, of Patchogue, and his daughter, 13, he is survived by his sister, Bobbie Champlin, of Meridian, Idaho.
Services for Perkins were held Tuesday. The family said that donations could be made in his name to the American Diabetes Association.
With Tania Lopez