If any member of the State Legislature can be said to have risen organically from his community, it was Jim Conte. He was deeply rooted in Huntington Station, where his family ran a hamburger stand for 47 years until 2008, and that community kept returning him to the Assembly election after election, starting with the special election he won in 1988. Conte was a staunch advocate for Long Island Sound and for people in need of organ transplants. He knew that need viscerally, because he received a kidney transplant himself, and he served on the boards of both the New York Organ Donor Network and the Alliance for Donation.
Conte toiled in the minority for more than two decades. But that handicap didn't keep him from representing the Station faithfully. His steadiness and hard work earned him a rising position of leadership in the Assembly minority. Conte, who died Tuesday in Manhattan at age 53, was not about flash and charisma, but reliable, decent, kind-hearted service to the people of all ethnic backgrounds whom he represented in Albany.
Pictured above: Assemb. Jim Conte hosted an Operation Recognition graduation ceremony to recognize World War II, Korea, and Vietnam veterans who left school before graduation. He awarded them high school diplomas in an event at the VFW Nathan Hale Post in Huntington Station. (June 25, 2009)