Letter From Jon Cooper
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
A recent recommendation from the National Transportation Safety Board caught my attention and made me realize that, for now at least, my work is done. The NTSB advised that states should ban the use of all cell phones and other portable electronic devices by motorists, except in emergencies.
That NTSB recommendation took me back to my very first significant piece of legislation—making Suffolk the first county in the nation to prohibit the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. Back when the Legislature adopted my law in 2000, the word “text” was only a noun, not a verb. While I still do notice too many of our fellow drivers multitasking while they should be focused on the road, I also see many responsible drivers who got the message and adorned their vehicles with my red and white “Hang Up and Drive!” bumper stickers.
At this point in my career—and especially at this time of the year—I’m also thinking about the parents of Peter Schlendorf. Constituents of mine, they lost their 20-year-old son when he died after taking the over-the-counter dietary supplement ephedra. But Peter’s death was not in vain. Not wanting to see another family devastated by this totally preventable and senseless tragedy, in 2003 I authored the nation’s very first ban on ephedra. Within a few months, the Federal government followed Suffolk’s lead and imposed a nationwide ban. While I realize nothing can bring Peter back, I hope the countless lives saved after the ban was enacted provides the Schlendorf family some small measure of solace from their grief.
I’ve been very fortunate in my career to have been able to enact laws that make our families safer, our communities more livable and our environment more sustainable. Whether it was authoring the nation’s first anti-loitering law for child sexual predators, preserving our valuable open space, promoting renewable energy technologies or creating the world’s first animal abuser registry—it’s actually the people I worked with that I’ll cherish the most.
I couldn’t even begin to list all of you here. But to those who were in the trenches with me during my many legislative battles, I thank you for your support and inspiration. And to those who disagreed with my ideas, I bear you no malice. Indeed, the free expression of diverse opinions on issues is to me the anchor on which our great democracy is rooted. Each of you played your part robustly and honorably.
Of course, a huge expression of thanks is also due all my constituents for showing your faith in electing and then re-electing me to office six times. While I’m honored to have earned your trust, I am humbled as to how welcoming and accepting the people of Huntington have been to me, my husband Rob and our family.
I know it’s with that same warmth that you will welcome my successor, Dr. William Spencer, when he takes office. Doc, I wish you much success and I can’t wait for you to come to know the great people of the 18th legislative district the way I have.
While I’m closing this chapter of my life as a public servant, I’m by no means done with public service. While I can’t say for sure what form my work will take in the future, I can only hope that the second act is as exciting and fulfilling as the first one was.
I wish everyone a wonderful holiday season and a happy and healthy New Year.
Suffolk County Legislature