Leonard Fries, former Babylon Democratic leader, and savvy political adviser,...

Leonard Fries, former Babylon Democratic leader, and savvy political adviser, who consulted in the elections of several prominent Long Island politicians, died on Dec. 8, 2022. Credit: Fries family

Leonard Fries, former Babylon Democratic leader, and savvy political adviser, who consulted in the elections of several prominent Long Island politicians, died on Dec. 8. He was 69.

His nephew, William Fries, a former executive chairman of the Conservative Party in Suffolk County, said his uncle died after his body had complications with his double lung transplant.

“He was the guy everyone would gather around,” William Fries said. “Everything to him was about family. He had an infectious personality that was just fun.

“Later on in life, Lenny became like a father to me and mentor,” William Fries said while fighting back tears. “One of the memories I always have… he always said he was proud of me.”

Leonard Fries was a graduate of Lindenhurst High School, where he met his wife Margaret Mattina Fries. While he did not attend college, his former colleagues described him as a sophisticated leader with a surplus of street smarts.

William Fries, 58, who resides in Jupiter, Florida, said his uncle, a former Lindenhurst resident who was living in Ormand Beach, Florida, at the time of his death, stumbled into politics during his time as president of the Lindenhurst American Little League, when he advocated for better field conditions for the players. He was successful, William Fries said, and the ballfields near Babylon Town Hall were upgraded and a concession snack stand was built. A plaque giving special thanks to “Lenny Fries” still is on the stand.

When David Bishop was running for a seat on the Suffolk County Legislature in the early 1990s, Fries started a competition between Bishop and Richard Schaffer, who at the time was running for Babylon town supervisor, to see who could knock on the most doors, Bishop recalled.

“He made the hard work fun,” said Bishop, 57, of Oak Beach. “His candidates would run through walls for him. He had everyone motivated.”

Freis helped change the landscape of Babylon politics, including when he ran the campaign of young Schaffer in 1992, who would become the longest-serving supervisor in town history and continues to hold the seat.

“He was always good at getting people engaged and keeping them energized,” said Schaffer, who described his former mentor as a “larger than life figure” who was always the center of attention.

Fries served as Babylon Democrat leader from 1992 to 1994, succeeding Wayne Horsley.

“Lenny was instrumental in moving Richie Schaffer into the supervisor office,” said Horsley, 72, of Babylon Village. “He was a dynamic personality.”

He also worked as the executive director of the Babylon Industrial Development Agency. Prior to his work in government, he held a position at Northrop Grumman in Bethpage, his family said. He also served as an assistant Suffolk County executive under Patrick Halpin in the late 1980s.

“He was smart, very organized and strategic,” said Halpin, 69, of Babylon. “He just understood people and was a terrific representative for me in the county.” 

Fries also mentored Frank McKay, 55, of Rocky Point, as he began his journey in Suffolk County’s Independence Party.

“He was a brilliant man, who showed me the ropes … his advice withstood the test of time.” McKay said.

In the mid-1990s, after Fries had moved to Florida, he helped run campaigns there as well.

In 2008, William Fries would call on his uncle’s expertise to assist him in Rep. Lee Zeldin's congressional campaign.

“Lenny was a key member of my team when I first ran for Congress in 2008,” Zeldin said in a statement. “His charm had the ability to reverse anyone‘s bad day in an instant. His political acumen was deeply respected, his creativity was limitless, his work ethic was second to none, and his loyalty was unconditional.”

Beyond politics, Fries had a passion for wrestling, sports and his family.

He is survived by his wife Margaret of Ormand Beach; daughter Jennifer; sons Lenny Jr., Robert, and Michael, all of Florida. He is also survived by thirteen grandchildren and his brothers Michael and Ed Fries.

A wake will be held for Fries on Dec. 18 at Lohman Funeral Home Ormond Beach from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., followed by a graveside service at Daytona Memorial Park.

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