Steve Levy is a graduate of Sachem High School, Stony Brook University (Magna Cum Laude) and St. John’s University Law School. In 1985 Levy was elected to the Suffolk County Legislature at age 26 – the beginning of a 15-year tenure as a member of that body. During this time he served as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and as a Deputy Presiding Officer. He left the Suffolk Legislature after 2000 when he was elected a member of the New York State Assembly. In November 2003, Mr. Levy was elected as Suffolk County’s seventh County Executive. In 2007, he was re-elected with a record 96% of the vote.
County Executive Levy earned a reputation as a proactive executive who successfully reinvigorated the County with his “smart government principles” and fiscal reforms.
The Levy Administration lived up to its motto of professionalizing government by hiring the best and the brightest with an emphasis placed on expertise rather than party affiliation.
Mr. Levy is a fiscal conservative whose “do more with less” philosophy helped pull the county out of the $238 million budget hole he inherited upon taking office. He crafted the largest budget restricting plan in the County’s history, saving over $120 million by cutting unnecessary travel vouchers and cars doled out for political purposes, and reducing upper management salaries, including his own. He returned over $80,000 of his salary during his tenure. He even eliminated the three police drivers assigned to previous executives – saving half a million dollars per year. This penny-conscious approach helped him provide eight straight general fund property tax cuts or tax freezes in the eight years he served in office. Three of Levy’s budgets have seen spending reduced from the previous year, something never before done in Suffolk history. Spending increased on average only 1% a year over his tenure. Steve’s 2012 budget was lower than the spending levels in 2008. His strong fiscal management helped Suffolk earn its highest bond rating in county history.
Steve made the county more affordable not only by cutting taxes, but also by increasing the stock of housing through his Workforce Housing Commission that facilitated the construction and planning of over 1,000 units in Patchogue, Southold, Bay Shore and Riverhead to name a few. He was presented with the prestigious Woodson Award from the federal government as one of the top four elected officials nationwide in promoting affordable housing for the next generation.
As county executive Steve also transformed a dormant open space program into one of the most aggressive preservation programs in the nation. Mr. Levy banned outside business conflicts, placed the program under the guidance of an established environmentalist, and created a master list of environmentally sensitive properties and farmland parcels targeted for preservation. He helped broker a $75 million open space bond and created a $50 million Environmental Legacy Fund to be used in land partnerships with other levels of government. He also extended the county’s Clean Water Act through 2030. Since Mr. Levy’s first day in office, Suffolk has made the largest monetary investment in open space in Suffolk’s history, and preserved 80 farms and pristine properties equating to eight times the size of New York’s Central Park. As a result, Mr. Levy was presented with the Environmentalist of the Year Award from the New York League of Conservation Voters, as well as awards from the Group for the North Folk and the Long Island Farm Bureau.
County Executive Levy has also undertaken numerous initiatives involving alternative energy, including retrofitting numerous county buildings (saving $2 million in energy costs), requiring solar panels on county buildings and replacing the county fleet with hybrid vehicles. He also spearheaded the first public solar carport project in the state, producing 17 kilowatts of clean energy, while gaining the County $8 million in rental earnings. Steve’s leadership in this area has earned him awards from the Sierra Club and the Nassau-Suffolk Neighborhood Network.
Mr. Levy has also won acclaim for the county’s landmark program to revive the hard clam and scallop populations of the Great South Bay and the Peconic Bay, making significant strides during his time in office through collaborative seeding projects with local conservation groups.
Levy earned acclaim for simultaneously promoting environmental protection and economic development through his landmark Rebuild Suffolk, Clean Water program that created the first recurring fund in Suffolk to expand sewers and improve septic systems. The $200,000,000 investment adds to Levy’s legacy of creating or retaining over 15,000 jobs through economic incentives – including the crown jewel of luring 2000 new jobs via the relocation of Canon Corporation’s headquarters to Suffolk.
As county executive, Steve Levy cut taxes while maintaining important human services. Bus routes have been increased, pre-natal deaths reduced and troubled youth were afforded a unique crisis intervention program as an alternative to being institutionalized, keeping families intact and saving millions of dollars. Under Levy’s leadership, Suffolk had the highest child support collection rate of any county outside New York City, while Levy’s innovative Scripts program saved residents an average of twenty to fifty percent on their prescriptions and saved the county government a million dollars in its employee drug plan.
Levy’s landmark Long Island Purchasing Consortium is serving as a successful model for other jurisdiction, having saved millions through economies of scale coming from intergovernmental bulk purchases.
New reforms implemented in the Police Department, including schedule changes, civilianization and the creation of centralized narcotics unit and gang units, helped reduce Part I and II crimes in Suffolk by over 20 percent, and aided in its ranking as one of the safest suburban regions in the nation, all while keeping the police district budget within the tax cap parameters for the first time in years.
The county executive’s “Smart Management” policies have garnered over 70 major awards from the National Association of Counties over the last few years. Additionally, in 2008, his fellow county executives elected him president of the New York Association of County Executives.
The tax cuts, the enhanced services and the courteous, prompt response to constituent needs all stem from the motto carved on the sign that greeted all visitors to the executive chambers. It read: “We Work For You.”