John F. Randolph, a political novice elected Brookhaven supervisor as a Democrat in the 1970s, when Republicans dominated Suffolk’s largest town, has died. He was 77.
Randolph, of East Patchogue, died Sunday after suffering ill health in recent years, according to his family. Randolph was buried at Woodland Cemetery in Bellport on Wednesday.
He was a telephone installer who had never run for office when he first won election in 1975, in the aftermath of the national Watergate scandal, beating veteran GOP Town Supervisor Charles Barraud and a powerful town Republican organization.
Randolph, who headed a townwide civic coalition called Associated Brookhaven Civic Associations, not only won, but took control of the town board with a Democratic majority that was elected with him.
“I’m a product of the middle class and I have an ability to relate to the wants and needs of that constituency,” he said shortly after his election.
Former Deputy County Executive Paul Sabatino said Randolph was a trailblazer.
“It was huge for the Democrats who were struggling in the wilderness,” Sabatino said. “Bringing Democrats in was an achievement and he broke new ground.”
Among Randolph’s achievements was reining in the stable of special town attorneys whose fees were higher than those of staff lawyers, and construction of Avery Village, a senior housing complex in East Patchogue.
However, Randolph, a self-described moderate, sometimes clashed with his caucus. Asked how he navigated board Republicans and more progressive Democrats, Randolph once responded, “delicately.”
Randolph in 1978 made a losing bid for Congress against Conservative Suffolk Legis. Bill Carney, who also ran with Republican support. A year later, Randolph lost re-election as supervisor in 1979 for a third term to GOP town board member Joel Lefkowitz, who labeled Brookhaven Suffolk’s “tax capital” even though Randolph countered that town taxes made up only 5 percent of the property tax bill.
Still, Randolph never let political differences turn personal.
“He didn’t have an enemy in the world,” said his wife, Mimi Randolph, to whom he was married for 36 years. “I once asked, ‘Don’t you dislike anyone?' And he said, 'No.' ”
After stepping down, Randolph briefly owned a waterfront restaurant in Patchogue called Randolph’s and went to work for new Republican Suffolk County Executive Peter Fox Cohalan, a colleague when both were town supervisors. Randolph became Suffolk’s director of telecommunications, a job which he held through five administrations — three Republican and two Democratic — until he retired in 2006.
Richard Schaffer, Suffolk Democratic chairman and a former county lawmaker, attributed Randolph’s longevity to his “terrific disposition” and the fact that he was “a very honorable man” to all.
“He was a Democrat when there were very few of us around,” Schaffer said.
Survivors include his sister, Suzanne Kurovics of Port St. Lucie, Florida.; his daughter, Belinda Randolph-Mills of Sayville; his son, John Randolph of Smithtown; and three grandchildren.