Al Krupski has been a Southold Town Councilman for eight years and a town trustee beginning in 1985 for years before that. He is also a successful farmer on the North Fork as the head of Krupski’s Vegetable Farm, a business that he bought from his parents after receiving a degree in plant science from the University of Delaware.
And now that his three children are grown and either working or still in college themselves, Krupski, 52, is running on the Democratic ticket to fill a seat on the Suffolk County Legislature left vacant by Ed Romaine last November. He is running against Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter for the seat.
After Monday night’s debate at Martha Clara during the short campaign before a special election on Jan. 15, Patch got to chat with Krupski at his Cutchogue home.
Patch: Why did you decide to pursue the legislature seat?
Krupski: Because I know I can represent the East End at the county level. I have a proven track record that I can work with everyone else no matter what the party or background. And, this is just a good time in my life, with my children grown and off to college. It was just a good time to decide to do this.
Patch: What is the biggest challenge facing the district?
Krupski: The budget is the overriding issue obviously. But I would face the issue at the county level the same way as we face budget challenges in the town — you don’t need a degree in economics to know that you cannot spend more than you are taking in. If elected I would look at each department and see what we could do more efficiently. I’m on the renewable energy committee in Southold, and we’re working on a LIPA grant to replace incandescent streetlights that would save the town about $8,000 a year. There are always things like that you can look for and work on. I have always been very responsible with taxpayer dollars, because it’s not my money, it’s theirs. But the county budget is not an easy fix and will not happen overnight.
Patch: What would be your first goal, upon taking office?
Krupski: The health department needs to streamline the process of granting approvals in order to better serve the people. They need to be more timely – almost all applications that come through the planning process fall into three or four categories and there is no need to hold these applications up because of the health department.
Also, the health department needs to be more progressive in looking at alternative sewage treatment systems, because nitrogen loading is a real problem in our water. Someone needs to take the leadership role there and stop dragging their feet. And it’s not just the East End — updated systems would make all the redevelopment taking place to the west much easier. I also believe that the county should push to let towns decide on dredging schedules based on the needs of individual creeks, and we need better information on whether there is or is not spawning sites for winter flounder at each site in question, because this is not a money issue for the county — they have the dredge and the crews, we just need to be able to get the state and the feds to work with us.
The same goes for deer and goose management — the town has no authority, really, even though we have a great deer management program set up now. What I will push for is home rule, which paralyzes our state people with fear, but really, this kind of management varies from town to town — let pest control be tailored to each individual problem.
Patch: At the debate, you had said that farmers will flourish more so if the county, basically, leaves them alone .... but what can you as a legislator to proactively help create jobs and boost the economy?
Krupski: There are 50 sites that the county owns right now that are brown fields — sites that are environmentally impacted and need remediation and are a big financial drain on the county. But I see that if they are made available for public purchase they could be put pretty cheaply back into circulation — to build another manufacturing business or other business and to get people to work.
Patch: How much power will you have to help preserve land on the county level vs. the town level?
Krupski: It’s 50/50 — Suffolk County and Southold Town have a great track record partnering on open space deals for passive recreation, and on deals for active recreation in the case of Strawberry Fields in Mattituck. But what I will do if elected is make sure that no land preservation funds are plundered in the county to plug a budget hole somewhere.
Patch: Do you share Mr. Walter's advocacy of manufacturing at EPCAL?
Krupski: Anything the county can do to develop EPCAL appropriately, I'm all for it. But there are so many ideas floating out there right now. I really think that this is a Riverhead issue and Riverhead Town should have a big say in what happens there.
Patch: How do you respond to criticisms that you are a "Babylon Democrat," Bellone puppet?
Krupski: [Laughs] Well, you shouldn’t really ask me, because I will deny all charges. You should ask anyone who has ever served with me on the town board or who has ever worked with me over the years. I’m a hometown boy, and that’s it. But I do think Steve Bellone has done a great job as county executive, inheriting this mess, and as supervisor in Babylon. But there is no us-against-them thing going on. We are all going to have to pay for bad past practices.
Patch: How will you address the lack of public transportation on the North Fork in the legislature?
Krupski: I’m not against something like a light rail system out here, but the whole thing boils down to who is going to pay for it. How much does it cost, and who will use it. So I’ll have to look into how feasible it is.
Patch: Why should voters chose you?
Krupski: I have the leadership experience to work for everyone in the county. I grew up out here and I have a deep understanding of the issues — and as you know, so many issues come up working in government, things you would never foresee, but you have to be flexible with your colleagues and solve the problems before they overwhelm you.