Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman has named Andrea Spilka of Eastport as his legislative district’s “Woman of Distinction” for 2012, recognizing her tireless involvement in more community organizations than can be counted on one hand.
Mr. Schneiderman surprised her with the award at a community meeting last Wednesday, January 30, where local residents had gathered to share their frustration with the two trailers in Southampton Town that have been housing all of the county’s homeless sex offenders for the past six years. It is an issue that Ms. Spilka has long worked to help solve.
“I don’t know where you find all this time, Andrea, but thank you for all the work you do for the community,” Mr. Schneiderman said, before presenting her with a plaque.
She accepted the honor and spoke about her own accomplishments with the goal of encouraging others to get involved. “All my life, while I was working, I was fighting from the inside wanting to make things better,” she said, referring to the years she spent working to develop computer systems for the New York City Board of Education.
She moved to Eastport after retiring in 2002, and turned her efforts to a number of civic organizations, working to protect the East End and its environment. “I did have a sense of how government worked, and I felt that I was in a position to work with government from the outside to try to make change,” she said. “It’s time so well spent, in terms of protecting the area we love and protecting issues we care about.”
Ms. Spilka served as a member of the Anti-Broadwater Coalition, which opposed the construction of an offshore natural gas facility in the Long Island Sound, as well as the Long Island Climate Solutions Network, the Clean Water Open Space Committee, the Southampton Town Citizens Advisory Committee-West, the Speonk-Remsenburg Civic Association and the Group for the East End. She lobbied to keep the Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing stationed at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton and worked to see legislation passed in Southampton Town that allowed for more community involvement in Planned Development Districts.
Her proudest accomplishment, she added, was the development of the Southampton Town Civic Coalition, which brings together civic groups from across the town to work together on issues of importance.
“Too often people say, ‘Oh, we can’t change it,’ or ‘My voice doesn’t count,’” she said. “And I don’t agree with that. I think you may not get everything you want, but our voices do matter.”
Each January, the 18 county legislators select a “Woman of Distinction” from their respective districts and, next month, one woman from the pool will be honored as the county’s “Woman of Distinction” for 2012 by the Suffolk County Women’s Advisory Commission. Mr. Schneiderman’s district encompasses the entire South Fork, from Montauk Point to East Moriches.
Ms. Spilka stressed that she is just one voice of many. She credited Robert DeLuca, president of the Group for the East End, for inspiring her to get involved when she took his class at Stony Brook Southampton, and she expressed gratitude for how well Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst has embraced the local civic associations.
“It isn’t just me—it’s all the people who show up with me or who taught me,” she said. “One voice doesn’t do it.”