“Neil Foley always comes when he’s called. There should just be a Batman signal for him every time he’s needed,” said Jeannine O’Grady, from Bayport, about Brookhaven councilman Neil Foley.
If you’re confused as to why a Town of Islip resident would make such a remark about a Town of Brookhaven councilman, it’s all part of a community testament to Foley’s devotion to service to helping everyone in need.
Often tagged in community Facebook groups, Foley has become a go-to person for everything Blue Point-related, and Bayport as well at times, proving that his dedication to public service is innate and not just drawn by arbitrary property lines.
Recently, Foley’s name has come into the talks of being the Republican nominee for Congressional District 1, to be vacated by Rep. Lee Zeldin, who is pursuing a run for Governor in 2022.
Foley has served as Town of Brookhaven Council District 5’s representative since 2014 and has won subsequent elections in 2015, 2017, and 2019.
With 85,000 people to represent in Blue Point, Patchogue, East Patchogue, Holtsville, Holbrook, Ronkonkoma, Lake Ronkonkoma, Fire Island (from Seaview to Westhampton), Foley has fielded a wide variety of concerns and been steadfast in bringing about the best possible solutions to issues from all walks of life.
The Suffolk County News sat down with Foley to discuss his tenure as councilman and his thoughts on public service:
Q: What was your biggest motivation for pursuing elected office?
A: Simple question. I’m here to help people and be a voice for my constituents.
Q: What is the role you have played as councilman for your constituents?
A: To really listen to the people I represent. I take my lead and my fight from their needs and concerns.
Q: What would you say is your greatest challenge in representing your district, as varied in life as your constituents are?
A: I don’t see it as a challenge. In working with [Brookhaven] supervisor [Ed] Romaine, I have learned that listening is a critical behavior. The greatest challenge is always wanting to please everyone, but sometimes you can’t, so you do your best to get them to a better place than where they were in the beginning.
Q: When did talk of you running for CD-1 start?
A: Around mid-March. It was an organic start because the interest came from constituents of mine who wanted to see me pursue the office. From there I spoke to political leadership.
Q: How has your background in the private sector, particularly pharmaceuticals, prepared you for office? Has it hindered your ability to be neutral?
A: My background is an asset. I didn’t grow up in the political world and that, combined with my experience, allows me to see both the private and public sector side of the issues, and this has been integral to me facilitating efficient solutions.
Q: How do feel acting in an executive capacity as a councilman has prepared you for a legislative role?
A: As a councilman, the buck stops with you and decisions I make, along with the council have lasting effects for three, five, 10 years. It’s a training ground for any level of government as you touch almost every aspect of a person’s life. As a councilman, I’ve truly learned how to be an advocate for people. It is with great pride that I have been able to serve all these interests of my constituents faithfully as their representative.
Q: What are some of the initiatives accomplished as councilman are you most proud of?
A: I’ve been very proactive with zombie houses in my council district. In the past seven years that I’ve served District 5, we have been able to demolish 20 zombie houses that have been a blight on their communities and opened a new beginning for these properties. The process itself takes about a year from when an unsafe situation at an abandoned property is called in to the town, to the public hearing, the engineer’s report, and the 30-day window for owners (generally banks) to improve or rectify the situation.
Another initiative we’ve worked on as a council is preserving open spaces. Since the start of my service as councilman in 2014, there has at least one open space in every part of the 5th council district. We live in a beautiful part of the state and we have to be smart about growth, i.e., keeping retail, commercial use within the bounds of a specified location and preserving our residential and natural areas.
Finally, I think I am most proud of my work as being a hands-on elected official. I answer emails and tags on Facebook within minutes of receiving them because my constituents’ concerns are my primary goals. The sanctity and efficiency of being accessible to people is something I’ve learned from supervisor Romaine.
Q: What role does social media play in an elected official’s work?
A: Wow. It’s a great form of communication with constituents and a necessary tool for starting important conversations from all, and opposing, sides.
Q: How has being an elected official affected your family’s life?
A: The biggest issue, and this is the case with most families, is time management. When you’re elected there are a lot of events to attend, and your attention is often taken over by the important role you have in the community. My family and I have had to really learn how to prioritize and organize time together, but it makes for more valuable and focused moments with my wife and children.