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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Harvey Weisenberg: not just another politician

These days there is so much media attention focused on national politics that some local happenings go unnoticed. That very much applies to the case of State Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, who last week announced his retirement from the Legislature after 25 years of service.

I know Weisenberg will be showered with many accolades from the community for all his good work, and that’s well deserved. My recollections of his time in office may be more insightful, because he succeeded me when he became an assemblyman. For the record, it should be pointed out that southern Nassau County has had only three Assembly members since 1945, a span of 69 years.

Joe Carlino represented the district for 19 years, was the leader of the county’s Republican Party and served as speaker of the State Assembly. When Carlino was defeated by Jerry McDougal in 1964, he left big shoes to fill. A year after his defeat, I was elected to the Assembly with great expectations about what I could accomplish.

I had the good fortune to rise to the position of chairman of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, and with that job came the opportunity to give out taxpayer money in the district. I was able to help the city of Long Beach pave its streets, take the tolls off the Loop Parkway to Point Lookout, build a new Long Island Rail Road trestle, and do many other good deeds for all areas of the district. After 23 years I made the decision to step down. When Harvey was elected in 1989, he was faced with the same dilemma I faced: how to match the work of his predecessors.

It’s fair to say that he has made his mark, and done as many significant things as Carlino and I did, in different ways. It isn’t a question of how many dollars he poured into the district; his achievements are of statewide significance, and can’t be measured in money alone.

The mistake that many state legislators make is that they fail to master one subject and think they can do it all. From his first day in office, Harvey was determined to help young people with disabilities in a meaningful way. He introduced bill after bill to correct deficiencies in the mental health system. He became a voice for the voiceless.

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