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Tom Croci, Islip Town supervisor, returns from deployment in Afghanistan

Town of Islip supervisor, Tom Croci, presided over

Town of Islip supervisor, Tom Croci, presided over his last town board meeting Tuesday before his deployment with the Naval Reserves. Credit: James Carbone, 2013

Islip Town Supervisor Tom Croci has returned from his deployment in Afghanistan and is expected to arrive at Long Island MacArthur Airport on Wednesday, according to his family.

Croci, a commander in the U.S. Navy, is already in the Washington, D.C., area being debriefed, said Croci's sister, Kristina Inserillo.

"I'm completely relieved to have him back on U.S. soil and very proud of him for his service," she said. "And I can't wait to give him a big hug."

Croci was deployed last July, 16 months into his first term as town supervisor.

During his yearlong deployment, Islip has been rocked by the Suffolk County district attorney's investigation into the dumping of thousands of tons of materials laced with contaminants on sites in the town, including Brentwood's Roberto Clemente Park.

Also, Croci's planning commissioner, Dave Genaway, was fired in November by the town board; the massive Islip Pines and Heartland Town Square development projects moved forward; and the town-owned airport lost two of its four airlines.

Inserillo said Croci might not immediately return to office. "He will be spending some time with his family before resuming as supervisor," she said.

In March, Croci returned on furlough to attend his father Thomas Croci Sr.'s funeral in West Sayville.

Town officials hailed Croci's return. "We are grateful for Supervisor Croci's safe return and appreciate his selfless service to our country and to all Americans over this past year," town spokeswoman Inez Birbiglia said in a statement.

Acting town supervisor Eric Hofmeister said, "It was my pleasure and honor to serve the residents of Islip this past year, and I look forward to meeting with Supervisor Croci upon his return to discuss my future role."

Hofmeister was the town's environmental control commissioner before Croci appointed him to act in a non-voting capacity during his deployment. Councilman Anthony Senft said Croci's leadership restored to the four-member board will help the town through the ongoing investigation into the illegal dumpings and the town's park remediation efforts.

"Certainly having a fifth person and the supervisor involved will benefit the town of Islip," he said. "He will be an important leader with the balance of the town board in ensuring the park is restored to the condition it was in before this crime occurred."

Croci, 42, has served in the military for much of his adult life. He graduated from New York Law School in 1997 and was accepted to Navy Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, Florida, in 1999.

He then spent eight years on active duty and earned the rank of lieutenant commander and was promoted to commander last summer. After his first tour in Afghanistan, Croci worked in the White House situation room under President George W. Bush, who later appointed him to the Homeland Security Council staff.

President Barack Obama asked him to stay on as part of the presidential transition team. Afterward, Croci was again mobilized to active duty and deployed to Afghanistan as an intelligence officer with a Navy SEAL team.

Inserillo said her brother's return Wednesday comes at an auspicious time. "It will be his niece Nicole's birthday -- she's going to be 5 years old. And it will be a year to the day that he was commissioned as a commander," she said. "There will be lots of celebrating."

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