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Cooper: It's Been a Tremendous Ride

Longtime Suffolk County legislator honored at farewell event Wednesday.

Chairing his first economic development meeting twelve years ago, was an uncomfortable public speaker who sometimes had to be reminded to second a motion or table a bill, according to his own admission.

That certainly wasn't the case Wednesday night.

In a speech that brought tears to some, the now polished six-term lawmaker eloquently said farewell and thank you to a large group at a send-off party given in his honor.

Calling his term-limited run 12 of the most exciting and fulfilling years of his life, Cooper thanked supporters, friends, family, colleagues and legislative aids, while describing last week's transition from office as "sort of tough."

He said his strange feeling was an indication of how much he enjoyed serving.

"It seems like just yesterday that I was sworn in," recalled Cooper. "But at the same time, I literally cannot remember not being a Suffolk County legislator."

The Duke graduate reflected on his legislative tenure as a "great life experience" which he said passed quickly — but not without accomplishment.

His biggest victory in office came in his 2003, he said. In a 10-month fight to ban ephedra, the Cooper-initiated move eventually spread from a county law to federal legislation signed by the Pres. George W. Bush.

"It started right here in Suffolk County," Cooper said proudly in Centerport. "Potentially, thousands of lives were saved by that ban," Cooper said recently to Patch.

Days before leaving behind a legislatutive body which he says works together for the most part, Cooper hinted that his fight for poitical cohesion has paid off. 

In a show of the Suffolk County biartisanship he has helped to create as the six-year majority leader, representatives from both sides of the isle turned out to honor their former colleague Wednesday.

Those on hand included current county Majority Leader Duwayne Gregory, Tom Muratore, R-Ronkonkoma, and Bill Lindsey, the Suffolk County Legislature's presiding officer.

"From my perspective he was the best majority leader there ever was," said Lindsey, regarding Cooper.

At the event, the former lawmaker introduced his father, William Cooper, the chairman and CEO of Spectronics Corporation, the Cooper family business based in Westbury.

"He's probably one of the only residents in the 18th district that is thrilled that I'm not in office because I get to work with him full-time," joked Cooper, the Spectronics president.

With more time on his hands, the Lloyd Harbor Democrat said he will serve on the Board of Directors of LISTnet, the Family Service League and the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center.

Cooper said he will also be actively involved in Pres. Obama's re-election campaign.

After losing his first attempt at office to longtime district incumbent Steve Hackeling 14 years ago, Cooper was elected by larger margins each election throughout his tenure, a sign of his political popularity and accomplishment.

Elected to office in a close 51 to 49 percent vote 12 years ago, Cooper was honored by his 18th District predecessor Dr. William Spencer, who won in a close race in November to begin his first term. 

"I think that if I can just continue to follow his example then I'll be fine," said Spencer Wednesday.

In a sit-down with Patch just days before leaving office, Cooper said he was disappointed that he couldn't do more to bring additional law enforcement resources to Huntington Station. Part of the reason, he explained, was the frustration he had in working with former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy. 

"That prevented us from accomplishing some things," said Cooper.

Newly-elected Suffolk County Commissioner Steve Bellone will embrace new ideas regarding crime, according to Cooper. "Bellone agrees that we need more cops on the street," he said to Patch.

Cooper, who once took more than a year off after college to backpack throughout the world, said he's ready to move on after an enjoyable political run in the legislature.

"It's been a tremendous ride," said Cooper Wednesday. "I'm looking forward with great anticipation to the next chapter and I hoping it will be as exciting and rewarding as the first chapter was."

Cooper has not ruled out another run at politics.

Babaloo January 19, 2012 at 10:51 PM
We will miss you. Doc Spencer has big shoes to fill. Good luck, Jon.
2 Turn Tables January 20, 2012 at 12:00 PM
I don't know much about this fellow, besides being part of the Democratic Machine that has watched certain parts of Huntington deteriorate. But what I do remember is he having a childish tantrum, and in a school-yard bullying tactic, threatened Carl Marcellino to vote for the Gay Marriage referendum in Albany "or else", he would come back and run for Carl's seat. So he assumes that one, he can just waltz in and take Marcelino's seat, and since he personally is connected to the referendum, he got crazed and made threats against another elected official to vote his way... or else. Good bye Cooper, good riddance. I know you are planning on running for another office, and probably think you can waltz in and take whatever you want, but don't count on it.
Babaloo January 20, 2012 at 12:24 PM
David, you are right and obviously don't know much about this fellow since he is not part of the 'Democratic Machine' as you put it (but happens to be a Democrat). He was also elected/re-elected to the job six (6) times in a legislative district that has more Republicans than Democrats so apparently he did something right. Since Jon Cooper is gone, I am curious to know your thoughts about Wm. Spencer.
2 Turn Tables January 20, 2012 at 12:36 PM
You're spot on, I don't know a heck of a lot, but what I do know, I am not too impressed. Bullying another politician to vote a certain way is reprehensible, and I am surprised he has not been called out on that to a greater extent. Are you aware of what I am alluding to? I do disagree with your assessment that Huntington is district with more Republicans. Huntington's Democratic party is strong. Before Mayoka and Cook took office, Democrats have ruled the town for decades. Spencer was hand selected by Petrone and Cooper because of his liberal background promoting low income housing. To deny Huntington is not a Democratic stronghold is just false. As far as Spencer, he hasn't done anything good or bad yet. Check with me in a couple of years. I wasn't too impressed with where he stands on certain issues though. In an age where bullying is a problem of epic proportion, everyone seems to just give him a pass on what he did to Car Marcelino.
Babaloo January 20, 2012 at 01:43 PM
I have to disagree with you on a couple of points... Marcelino has been around the block a few times and he can take care of himself and has proved it be being re-elected several times. As for Dr. Spencer being hand picked, nothing is further from the truth. There were three candidates vying for the 18th LD. (see http://huntington.patch.com/articles/democratic-candidates-to-debate and others) Since the 18th LD is a county position, it would fall under the jurisdiction of the county committee and not the town. The position of the county Democratic party was neutral and the candidate was selected at the Democratic County convention in Hauppauge. Committee people in the 18th LD voted in a roll call vote and overwhelmingly voted for Dr. Spencer. That is how he got the nomination. As for party affiliation the enrollment in the 18 LD is in favor of the Republican/Conservative party. This can be checked by contacting the board of elections in Hauppauge. Town enrollment is about the same. Keep in mind the independent voters (those who choose no party) make up a third of the voting rolls and the minor parties (Independence and WFP) decide most elections. Also, do not confuse the Independence Party with Independent voters. Don't take my word for it, check the Board of Elections. It is a matter of public record. By the way, the pendulum swings back and forth between Republican Control and Democratic control and it is currently swinging to the right. Hope this clears things up.
Jon Cooper January 20, 2012 at 02:11 PM
David, I never would have responded to a letter such as yours while I was a sitting elected official. However, now that I'm retired from office (due to term limits), I thought I'd get just a couple of things off my chest. First of all, I didn't physically "bully" my State Senator, Carl Marcellino, or "threaten" him. I simply stated that, as a matter of principal, although I have no burning desire to serve in Albany (I have a family business to run and frankly don't want to spend six months of the year away from my family), I would have run against Carl if he voted against the pending Marriage Equality legislation and the billed failed as a result (of course, the bill ended up being approved). As a gay man in a committed relationship for 31 years with my partner (now husband), who have raised five wonderful children together, this was an issue of personal significance to me and worth fighting for. You're absolutely correct that "bullying is a problem of epic proportion." That's why I authored the first law in NY State to criminalize cyber-bullying and introduced legislation dealing with bullying on school grounds. Please don't compare my pledge to run against Carl to bullying of our children, since it serves to belittle that serious problem. More...
Jon Cooper January 20, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Number two, when I first ran for office, Huntington was indeed a Republican stronghold. Republicans also controlled every major office at the county level, including the County Legislature and the County Executive's. Remember, Supervisor Frank Petrone was a Republican back then! That was a little over a decade ago - so it's simply not accurate for you to say that "Democrats have ruled the town for decades." You also charge that my successor, William Spencer, was "hand selected" by me and Petrone "because of his liberal background promoting low income housing." I won't even dignify that statement with a comment since it's so totally without merit. I will say that it's easy to complain about how other people do things; it's a lot tougher to actually try to change the world yourself. Don't just talk the talk, my friend - walk the walk, if you feel as passionately as you appear to. If there's an issue of overriding concern to you, David, and you really care about making a difference, I would hope that you'd be willing to make the necessary sacrifices and consider running for office yourself if your elected representative doesn't reflect your views. More...
Jon Cooper January 20, 2012 at 02:33 PM
And lastly, it's not always Republican vs. Democrat - or, at least, it doesn't have to be. Although I was the Democratic Majority Leader in the County Legislature for the past six years, I invited Republicans to attend Democratic Caucus meetings to advocate for their bills. In fact, my best friend in the Legislature for many years was Paul Tonna, the Republican Presiding Officer. I consider the current Republican Majority Leader, John Kennedy, to be a personal friend and I have tremendous respect for him as an elected official. Democrats and Republicans in the Suffolk Legislature have had a proud tradition over at least the past 12 years of working together across party lines and trying to find common ground. We really worked hard to set aside partisanship and try to do what we thought was best for the people of Suffolk County. I'm very happy to say that we were overwhelmingly successful in achieving that goal. In fact, I believe that Albany - and Washington, D.C - would function better if our State and Federal elected officials were likewise willing to work together in a bipartisan fashion for the public good. It's certainly not easy to do at times, but it's the right thing to do.
2 Turn Tables January 20, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Well, then we agree to disagree. In my opinion I considered the overture to State Senator, Carl Marcellino bullying. I never said physically. Bullying can take all shapes. When someone is given an ultimatum to do it my way, or face repercussions, I consider that bullying. What I had read in a periodical was that if Senator Marcellino doesn't vote for Marriage Equality legislation (which I am happy passed), I will run against him. Bullying can occur at the workplace, because I once was bullied by a supervisor (who was later terminated), so I am very sensitive that bullying takes all different shapes and forms, and while it is the most serious for our children, it should not be dismissed at other levels. To deny that you did not have a say regarding Dr. Spencer running for your old position is quite frankly hard to fathom. The Town Supervisor is considered a senior member of the party and is also involved in party strategy. I am aware of the process of what transpires in party politics. I will say this sincerely, anyone that serves the people in an elected position should be thanked. I just moved here, and I do not know a lot about you or what you have done, but was incensed by the Marcellino incident. Anyone that was once bullied would take exception to it. But, thank you for your service, to be reelected as much as you have says something.
Linda Otta January 20, 2012 at 03:21 PM
COOPER CHALLENGES MARCELLINO ON EQUAL MARRIAGE Wed, Jun 15, 2011News, Suffolk Late last night, Suffolk County Legislator Jon Cooper, who is a facebook friend of LI Politics.com, added this remark to a post regarding New York State’s Equal Marriage Law. “I spoke earlier today with my State Senator, Carl Marcellino. He’s no profile in courage, that’s for sure. I warned Carl that I’ll run against him in 2012 if he votes against the marriage equality bill and the measure fails. This guy is the poster child for cowardice…shame on him!” Jon Cooper has represented the 18th Legislative District in Suffolk County for the last 12 years. He cannot seek re-election based on term-limits.
Linda Otta January 20, 2012 at 03:23 PM
Gay marriage: Suffolk's Cooper warns Sen. Marcellino of challenge Tuesday June 14, 2011 6:36 PM By Rick Brand Photo credit: Kevin P. Coughlin Lame-duck Suffolk Legis. Jon Cooper has warned Republican State Sen. Carl Marcellino that he will run against the 16-year incumbent next year if a bill to authorize same sex-marriage does not pass and Marcellino opposes the measure. Cooper said he made his feelings known to Syosset Republican in a phone call Tuesday. “I asked him to do the right thing and not act on political calculation,” said Cooper, who will leave office at year’s end after 12 years because of the county's term limit law. Cooper, who married his longtime partner, Robert, in Connecticut two years ago, also told the Albany lawmaker that if the marriage equality measure fails: “I will spend whatever it takes to defeat you."
Kyle January 20, 2012 at 04:12 PM
As defined by Wikipedia, "Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior manifested by the use of force or coercion to affect others, particularly when the behavior is habitual and involves an imbalance of power... the 'imbalance of power' may be social power and/or physical power..." Since there was no habitual behavior nor social/physical (obviously!) imbalance of power, this was clearly not bullying. As someone who claims to have been a victim of bullying, I find it surprising that you would throw around this term so loosely. It's downright insulting to people who have been bullied.
Jon Cooper January 20, 2012 at 04:29 PM
David, thank you for your respectful reply. We need more civility in politics these days. As you say, we'll probably have to agree to disagree on this one issue. I strongly agree with Kyle that the term "bullying" should not be thrown around loosely. I also agree with Babaloo that "Marcelino has been around the block a few times and he can take care of himself." In any case, I'm glad we had this chance to chat and I hope you have a great weekend!
Hillary Hess January 20, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Frankly, I don't see how saying that he was going to run against him was bullying. He didn't say that he was going after him personally or his family. A tantrum? really? So if I call my representative and tell him to vote for an issue that means a lot to me, and tell him that if he doesn't, I will not vote for him in the future, is that a tantrum too? is that what we are supposed to do? If I decide that the issue in question is so important to me that I consider running against him in the next election (allowing the people to make their choice) is that also a tantrum? I am sure that Jon brought a lot of attention to Mr. Marcellino, and I am sure he got phone calls from both republicans and democrats as a result. I know that I picked up the phone and called his office, and let my feeling be known. Isn't that just allowing the public to make a choice? As far as saying he would use his resources to win, well who doesn't during an election campaign? Are you going to say that the Republicans that are vying to go up against Obama are not using all of their available resources to get the nomination? Of course they are all spending millions. That is the way it goes. As far as bullying is concerned, I am offended at how you manipulated a belittled this term. More...
Hillary Hess January 20, 2012 at 04:56 PM
As a parent who saw my child attempt suicide because of real bullying, I really am offended by your manipulation of this term. One of her bullies is now in prison for rape. Her school didn't do anything to protect her, and when his father was told, his father threatened me and my daughter because we were "liars". Bullies beget bullies. I told him that I would bring the matter to the police and make sure that his child be placed on the sexual offender list. When the police were brought in, they blew it off and told my daughter that she would be put through the ringer. We backed down because she was too scared. Now I live with the fact that at least one other young woman had to suffer because nobody took my kid seriously. She was victimized by the offender, the school, his father and the police because boys will be boys. That is real bullying: How dare you!
2 Turn Tables January 20, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Well Hillary, we agree to disagree. We can kick this around all day, and quite frankly, to pick apart the definition of bullying bores me to tears. I stand by my opinion. Wikipedia is not the only game in town to get a definition. Here it is, and I am done with this: Source: The Free Dictionary by Farlex: "To force one's way aggressively or by intimidation" Bullying can take the shape off all forms and mediums. Don't be offended, and don't think I am manipulating anything. It is what it is. Enjoy the weekend everyone! It's gonna snow!

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