Handshake across the aisle
White. Male. Republican. Executive at big pharma.
Councilman Neil Foley of the 5th District of the Town of Brookhaven is a surprising choice for the magazine's first profile on a politician given that HiConcept's team will all be voting for Lady Darth (well, maybe not Rye, he has been grabbing the cats). But proving that what unites us is stronger than what divides us, the profile showcases Councilman Foley's measurable good work and progress for his constituents, instead of focusing on inevitably argumentative stances.
With the most polarizing presidential election in recent memory (I remember a political cartoon during the 2000 race that was critical of Bush and Gore for being indistinguishable, drawing them side-by-side in the middle of the political bell spectrum), the electorate is united in wondering how their family, close friends, neighbors, co-workers, probably pets, could possibly support the other candidate and still have normal brain function. It's exhausted us all. It's made us pray for the end of the election. It's had us de-friend people whose children we're godparents of. What is most refreshing about Councilman Neil Foley's responses to "hot button issues" (and I started off this interview with a two big ones; someone going out in "blackface" for Halloween as a deceased rapper and Brock Turner) is that every answer is so thoroughly thought out to be inclusive of both sides of an argument that even if his final view is in disagreement with mine, I can still respect it.
And that's the beauty, granted probably obliterated in 2016, of real politics. Compromise. Consensus. Coming together to enact change for the better.
This Election Day (may we all survive it!), remember that the presidency isn't the only vote that matters and that true citizens pay attention to the issues after the fanfare.
ORIginally published in the OCTOBER issue of the bayport-blue point gazette
Don’t worry, dear reader! I promise that despite this article being about an elected official, it will not devolve into a polemic of beleaguering political views of either end of the spectrum. This promise is precisely the reason why Councilman Neil Foley (Fifth District), a fourteen-year Blue Point resident was the perfect political choice for this profile. In my two-hour interview with him at a local eatery, the Blue Point Diner, Councilman Foley answered so directly (on the record!) that it felt like Thanksgiving dinner with a Cowboys/49ers game missing in the background instead of the tooth-pulling political avoidance dance I expected.
Ironically both from working-class, Irish families in Queens (my dad’s side anyway), the councilman and I are from seemingly diametrically opposed political views, but hearing all our eventual points of agreement (yes, even on the most incendiary of issues from Kaepernick/BLM, uniquely women’s health issues, to millennials and all our annoyingness), an outsider would assume that we watch the same cable news channel (albeit difficult to determine which one it would be).
But this willingness to come to a consensus, to fully represent a diverse and sprawling constituency (approximately 84,000 residents in his district), is at the heart of Councilman Foley’s term in office. “Representing the fifth district---Blue Point, Patchogue, East Patchogue, Medford, Holtsville, Holbrook, Ronkonkoma, Lake Ronkonkoma, all of Fire Island---I have tens of thousands of residents whose everyday lives I am working to improve. Their individual needs or concerns require different phone calls or introductions, but my job is the same---move everyone forward to have the best community possible.”
When pressed for specific examples, Councilman Foley did not dance around the question with eloquent red herrings, but instead gave concrete examples like the clean-up of Lake Ronkonkoma. Polluted to the point of swimming being prohibited, Councilman Foley joined with a local civic group that alerted his office to the problem and led a grass roots effort to clear away 20,000 pounds of garbage and debris. He also had the parks department and private waste removal companies do their fair share to keep up the clean-up.
Speaking of an issue tragically prevalent on Long Island, Councilman Foley was refreshingly honest, but solemnly accurate about the heroin crisis. “It’s a pizza pie issue, meaning each sector---insurance companies, pharmaceuticals, parents, schools, doctors---have to do their part in self-awareness and monitoring to battle this issue. Prevention, honesty with your kids in addressing the dangers of all drugs is key, but the town is also there for families or individuals seeking help. We have gratis social workers, licensed MSWs, through the Town’s health department available for those who’ve lost their way and are seeking to start the rehabilitation process.”
Councilman Foley’s devotion to public service with the Town of Brookhaven begins with his personal commitments at home in Blue Point where he and his wife Karen of fifteen years are raising their four children, twins Neil and Grace Ann (thirteen), Ryan (10), and Cole (6). As two modern, working parents, Councilman Foley acknowledges the challenges of a dual-income partnership, “I honestly don’t know how we do it, but you just have to carve out time. You have to be creative. I had my children campaign with me door-to-door. We teach them that the problems don’t get solved by simply complaining. You have to get involved, join or start a civic group that shares your passion or concern. If you believe in an issue, see it through to its full resolution---anyone can complain about the trash on Nicholl’s Road, but I teach my kids that they can pick it up too to make a difference. Or better yet, start a clean-up committee to maintain the change. You don’t just passively live in your community, you have to be an active part of it.”