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Obama campaign transforms lives of LI supporters

The day after Barack Obama was elected president was an odd one for Marvin Kreutzberger. The education consultant had spent the previous months tirelessly working to get Obama elected. With that goal accomplished, he didn't know what to do with his free time.

"It was the first time in months that I was able to sigh and think about something other than the election," said Kreutzberger, 64, of Merrick. "The campaign took over my life more than anything else I have done. It was a day of conflicting feelings."

Life for several early Obama supporters from Long Island has been transformed since their participation in one of the most surprising - and longest - presidential runs in history.

Their early involvement in the campaign for the then mostly unknown senator from Illinois started before it was cool - or even comprehensible that he could beat home state favorite Hillary Clinton. Now they have returned to their lives recharged and inspired.

"I'm a better person for this," said Kreutzberger of his first political campaign involvement. "There's a sense of personal gratification that I helped accomplish something that will restore some of our faith in the way the country conducts itself."

Kreutzberger joined the Obama team in the fall of 2007. The work so consumed him that by the following spring he informed two colleges, where he sometimes worked as an adjunct professor, that he would not be available for the fall term.

Now he will continue his political lobbying with Yes We Can Long Island, a group he helped organize last year to support Obama.

"We will remain an active group," Kreutzberger said. "We will be in support of the new administration, but challenge them if they look like they are not going to live up to their commitments."

Diane Smith, 48, also a Yes We Can Long Island volunteer, said she gave up her job as a New York City schoolteacher in September 2007, in part to stump for Obama. But she feels like the winner now.

"It has set me on a new path," said the Long Beach resident. "I'm now following a calling to be a community organizer."

Sue Hornik, 60, of Bellport said after hearing Obama speak at a Manhattan fundraiser in March 2007 she decided to join his campaign.

"He was in such command of the issues and he thought out of the box," said Hornik, who put her consulting business on hold to lead campaign efforts on the East End. "I saw that he was what I was looking for in a candidate."

She said working with the campaign renewed her faith in the ability to motivate people to change and has reignited a desire to go back to work full time. "I realized I liked to manage people," she said. "And I'm good at it."

Mark Cronin, a writer and former health care executive from Huntington Bay, staked his claim with the Obama camp in the spring of 2007, basically putting all professional obligations on the back burner. Now he is back organizing on a grassroots level to have councilmanic districts drawn in Huntington. He was recently named a Democratic committeeman in Huntington.

"It was a tremendous time commitment," Cronin, 50, said. "But it's always good to commit to something larger than yourself. And I'm going to continue my grassroots efforts here in Huntington."

He said he sometimes thinks back to when he first told people he would be supporting Barack Obama.

"It first bordered on condescending," Cronin said. " 'Oh, that's nice. He's a nice guy, but he's not going anywhere.' But I always felt pretty confident," Cronin said.

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