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WLNG
April 05, 2006

Oh, Deering From Czar To Commissioner



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Neighbors living near nightclubs like the Star Room in Wainscott are complaining about the noise of amplified music.
Independent / Kitty Merrill

Call him Commish: Yesterday the county legislature was expected to name Mike Deering Suffolk's new Commissioner of the Department of Environment and Energy.

Oh, Deering From Czar To Commissioner

By Kitty Merrill

With a fondness for elegant corporate attire, Mike Deering looks more like part of the problem than part of the solution. There may be shiny wingtips on the surface, but inside and in deed, Steve Levy's environmental czar is all Birkenstocks. Throughout a lengthy career, he's spearheaded legislative measures that preserve open space, remediate properties, restore the Long Island Sound, address the public health implications of pesticide use, and protect the island's aquifer as well as water resources throughout the state.

Prior to his service as Director of Environmental Affairs for Suffolk County, Deering served as legislative director for the State Legislative Commission on Water Resource Needs of Long Island. He was chief of staff for New York State Assemblyman Tom Balboni.

For three years Deering helmed the Oyster Bay-based environmental organization, Friends of the Bay. As executive director, he helped negotiate the cleanup and public purchase of a number of properties, and developed a plan for Oyster Bay that will ultimately see a restored waterfront boasting a marine education center. In 1987 he was chosen president of the board of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society. He's also served on the State Board of Environmental Advocates, the Long Island Board of the New York State League of Conservation Voters, plus a panoply of local, regional, and state technical and policy committees. He's served as Levy's rep on the county's Environmental Trust Review Board, the Cornell Cooperative Extension Board, the Yaphank Center Review Committee and the Central Pine Barrens Planning and Police Commission. He wears cool ties, though they are often yellow.

Like many members of Levy's inner circle, Deering traces educational roots to the CE's alma mater, St John's University, where he received a Master's Degree in Government and Politics. As an adjunct instructor, he taught courses on government and politics and environment and the law. He earned his Bachelor's at C.W. Post College.

Yesterday the legislature was expected to elevate the CE's top advisor to head a just-minted Department of the Environment and Energy. Levy's very first appointment, Deering was anointed environmental czar and expected to head the department since he joined the newly elected lawmaker's transition team in 2003. The creation of a department that would bring the county's myriad environmentally- focused functions under one umbrella was one of Levy's earliest pet proposals.

All he needed to do was get the legislature to affirm the creation of the new department. Under Republican domination, members wouldn't. Opponents said caucus members refused to approve the plan "because they could." Legislators worried that veteran workers might lose jobs under the re-organization, but failed still to approve the department once the fear was allayed. Creating the department was one of the first measures adopted once Democrats took control of the horseshoe this year.

Asked to pose for a photograph following unanimous confirmation by the legislature's Environment, Planning and Agriculture Committee last Thursday, Deering demurred. "Put a picture of Steve in," he suggested, ever loyal to his champion.

The admiration is mutual. Commenting on the impending approval on Monday, the county executive said, "Already, as my Director of Environmental Affairs, Mike Deering has spearheaded our successful effort to rejuvenate the county open space program, which was on life support when we came into office. As Commissioner of the newly created Department of Environment and Energy, Mike will be able to focus on other important issues facing Suffolk such as alternative fuels, recycling, and the links between the environment and cancer. Mike's skills are varied and combine an acute knowledge of environmental issues with an uncanny gift for building consensus on sometimes contentious issues."

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