Peter Schmitt, the Republican presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature who died Wednesday, was an outspoken politician who frequently pulled no punches in dealing with the public and with fellow legislators, especially those of the Democratic persuasion. Surprisingly, though, he was respected by most of them.
“He might have been your political opponent but he was never your enemy. There was no 'nuance' about Peter. What you saw was what you got. He was the archetypal 'straight shooter,' " said Democrat Bruce Nyman, the former Long Beach supervisor who joined the legislature with Schmitt at its beginning in 1995 and is himself a former leader of that body.
“He [Schmitt] was a strong advocate for what he believed in, and spoke his mind even when it was not popular to do so,” said Hempstead lawyer Frederick Brewington, a Democrat with whom Schmitt was often at odds.
“We had a lot of great battles in the chamber, but behind the scenes we had a lot of laughs, too. He had a great sense of humor,” former Democratic legislative member David Mejias said.
“Peter Schmitt was a dedicated public servant and a fierce advocate for his vision for county government,” said Assemb. Charles D. Lavine (D-Glen Cove).
Legis. Francis Becker of Lynbrook pretty much summed up the feelings of his fellow Republican legislators:
“He was a great friend and I can’t imagine being at the legislature without him being there. He was so enjoying his new grandson. This was a new beginning for Pete and his family. He loved what he was doing and retiring was not something he ever talked about. He was a warrior Republican.“
Peter J. Schmitt during a Nassau County Legislative session on the 2003 budget in Mineola. (Oct. 28, 2002)