Dr. William R. Spencer is well known in Huntington as a physician and as head of the Huntington Housing Authority.
But he's also looking to to expand into a new role come the fall, that of Democratic lawmaker representing the 18th District in the Suffolk County Legislature.
The West Virginia native, one of several candidates hoping to succeed the term-limited Jon Cooper, said he comes to the role of public service because of his upbringing as a child in West Virginia.
"I grew up getting involved in the community," he said. "Growing up, as a member of my local church and Boy Scouts, I was kind of a junior deacon. My father was a pastor and school teacher, and we'd go out a lot, to single parent homes, elderly people, we'd go buy food or help them with their heat and things like that.
"I learned very early that the greatest sense of satisfaction comes from helping others.
He said he was drawn to medicine because his mother had sarcoidosis, an immune system disorder, and he wanted to find ways to help her.
"I've been blessed with support and education," he said. "I've had a lot given to me. It's important to have "had a chance to get involved in the issues."
Getting involved in the issues meant, as chairman of the Huntington Housing Authority, attempting to win permission to build several senior housing units through zoning changes that were ultimately rejected by the town's Zoning Board of Appeals. Opponents said the zoning changes would have opened the door to unwanted changes elsewhere in the area.
Spencer's term at the Housing Authority expires in June and he does not plan to continue in the role.
As part of his campaign for the 18th District, the Democrat identifies the economy as a prime problem.
"It all comes down to jobs," he said. "One of the things we're suffering is a crisis of affordability but properties are expensive and taxes are high, whether we're talking county, town or school budgets. As we've had this downturn over the last several years, must realize that if we're going to improve the economy we have to create jobs. by creating jobs we'll increase our tax base, we'll increase our revenue without increasing taxes.
"I have a lot of ideas, from getting out, and have knocked on a thousand doors, I've been on a listening tour. I really wanted to study the job and study the issues and be well versed and have a vision. I bring a vision and a plan."
Some of his top issues for the district are:
- Hiring more police, who, he said, are doing more with fewer resources; adding police would improve safety in the neighborhood of Jack Abrams school.
- Funding for public health facilities, such as the Dolan Family Health Center whose operations are jeopardized by state and county funding cutbacks.
- Improving the quality of the beaches and water in Northport Harbor
- Using Long Island's intellectual capital and improve infrastructure to attract and expand businesses, raising the tax base instead of taxes.
Spencer, who is 43, and his wife, Rachel, have three children who attend Harborfields schools. He is a graduate of Wesleyan University and the University of Connecticut medical school and serves as chief of otolaryngology at and as an assistant clinical professor at Stony Brook University.
He has hopes for better relationsand communication between the county legislature and County Executive Steve Levy.
"I think what has happened with the executive and legislature is that the executive hasn't respected the legislature as an equal branch. I look forward to working with him. It's the only way we're going to be able to solve our problems," he said.
"If you're going to solve a problem, you bring all the stakeholders together, people get to sit down and discuss everyone's views.
"It's important to listen, to bring everyone involved to a consensus. You'll never get 100 percent agreement, but once everyone has a chance to have input, you have to lead and move forward."