Thomas Shanahan, a lobbyist for the Long Island Water Conference who was active in both local and state politics, died Monday at his home in upstate Schodack Landing.
Shanahan, 64, a native of Bay Shore, was known to family and friends for his passion for politics, history and dogs — he was an ardent supporter of the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind. He died apparently of a heart attack, according to family members.
“We are shocked about Tom,” said Jeffrey Szabo, CEO of the Suffolk County Water Authority. “We had worked very closely with him just this last year. He was instrumental in working with the Long Island Water Conference in getting significant legislation passed for the Suffolk County Water Authority.”
Shanahan helped Long Island water suppliers get a law passed to ban a gasoline additive called MTBE that was getting into drinking water and also lobbied successfully against a proposed tax on drinking water, said Paul Granger, legislative chairman of the Long Island Water Conference, a regional organization of about 55 water suppliers.
“He was good at getting us to the middle ground,” Granger said. “He was — and I saw this firsthand — well respected by Republicans and Democrats.”
Shanahan graduated from Islip High School in 1970 and from the SUNY Geneseo in 1974 with a degree in political science. He got his start in politics working with Islip Democrats.
He served as a Suffolk County legislative aide to Phil Nolan, now Suffolk OTB president, and also worked on the successful congressional campaign of George Hochbrueckner in 1986.
George Hoffman, now a political consultant, said he first met Shanahan when they worked in the county legislature.
“He was a pretty passionate guy. The one thing I found really interesting about him is that he had a real reverence for history,” Hoffman said. “He saw government as a noble profession.”
State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) said Shanahan would often call him with advice, sometimes solicited and sometimes not.
“He was a gentleman, a very good person, a wonderful human being, and he always cared,” Flanagan said.
Shanahan’s interest in history led him to produce a web-based documentary on the War of 1812, called “Uncle Sam’s First War.” He also lectured on the War of 1812 as a speaker for the New York Council for the Humanities.
Shanahan moved to Schodack Landing, outside Albany, about 25 years ago to launch his career as a lobbyist. There, he met his wife, Kate, according to his brother, Kevin Shanahan of Manhattan. Thomas also changed parties and became a Republican.
Though busy both professionally and with his volunteer work, Shanahan never hesitated to drop what he was doing to help out someone, his brother said.
“A couple of years ago I had a medical problem, so he would drive 60 miles each way two or three times a week to take me to physical therapy,” he said.
In addition to his wife and brother Kevin, Shanahan is survived by his mother, Margaret Cannon of Bay Shore; and brothers Brendan Shanahan of Hauppauge and Peter Shanahan of Columbus, North Carolina.
Visiting hours will be Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Raymond E. Bond Funeral Home, 1015 Kinderhook St., in upstate Valatie. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be sent in his name to The Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, 371 E. Jericho Tpke., Smithtown, NY 11787.