Smithtown Town Supervisor Patrick Vecchio on Tuesday presided over the final town board meeting of his record-setting career.
Vecchio, 86, has led the town for 40 years, a tenure believed to be one of the longest in the nation for a town supervisor. He will leave office at the end of the month after losing a bitter fall Republican primary to Councilman Ed Wehrheim, who went on to win the general election and takes over as supervisor Jan. 1.
Tuesday’s meeting, packed so full with well-wishers that Public Safety officers had to limit entry, began with routine account transfers and Water District matters before moving on to the goodbyes.
“I’ve grown up in this town with you,” said one resident, recalling Vecchio as “the young upstart” who shocked residents and political observers when, as a Democrat and novice politician, he won an election and took office in 1977.
Vecchio later switched parties to run as a Republican in an unsuccessful campaign for county executive, and his relationship with GOP leadership was sometimes hostile. He nevertheless built friendships and alliances with figures such as Suffolk County Legis. Rob Trotta (R-Ft. Salonga), Legis. Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) and State Assemb. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James), all of whom attended Tuesday’s board meeting.
In the meeting room of the Town Hall that bears Vecchio’s name, residents thanked him for his work.
Meg Shutka, of Head of the Harbor, mentioned the senior center that her mother had cherished. Martin Thompson hailed the town’s fire training center as one of the best in the county.
We’re a modern town now, and that’s thanks to your leadership,” said Michael Kaufman, a Suffolk County planning commissioner. Several residents mentioned Vecchio’s “fiscal conservatism.” Others reassured him that retirement wouldn’t be so bad.
Wehrheim told Vecchio that he would leave “big shoes to fill, I’m fully aware of that ... Hopefully, you’ll take my calls when I need your guidance.”
In brief remarks, Vecchio praised the workers he’d employed and thanked the residents who’d given him a career.
“I’ve been in public service my whole life,” he said. “There’s no greater reward than to serve your fellow human beings ... Thank you all.”