Former Nassau County Executive Thomas Gulotta died on Sunday, Aug 4, in Oceanside. He was 75 years old.
Gulotta served as county executive from 1987 to 2001, the second-longest tenure of anyone to hold that position. During his time in office, he endeared himself to voters with the personal touch he brought to politics. His early years brought lower property taxes for residents and the establishment of the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, two of the measures that helped push his approval rating above 70 percent.
The success of his early years did not translate to the final part of his stint, however. The supervisor’s tenure ended with the county in steep debt, and Gulotta was maligned by both parties for what his critics saw as fiscal mismanagement after nearly a decade of freezing tax increases. At the turn of the millennium, the county was near bankruptcy, and New York State created the Nassau Interim Financial Authority (NIFA) to provide financial aid. By the time Gulotta left office, his approval rating had sunk below 20 percent.
Still, those who worked with him remember Gulotta as a dedicated public servant who always had time for county residents.
“Tom Gulotta was in a class by himself,” Nassau County Police Benevolent Association president Jim McDermott said in a statement. “If Tom made an agreement with you, you knew you could trust him. He was a man of the people, it was clear he was deeply involved with the community and his responsibility to his constituents was never lost on him.”
New York Second District Congressman Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), who succeeded Gulotta as county executive until 2009, expressed his admiration for his predecessor’s cordial political demeanor after hearing of his passing.
“Tom Gulotta’s death signals the official end of an era,” Suozzi said in a statement. “He was a true gentleman who came up in Nassau government during a time of growth and prosperity. He was never nasty or divisive and always made a point of asking how my family was whenever I saw him. My deepest sympathy to his wife and family.”
Current County Executive Laura Curran, who ordered flags be flown at half mast in Gulotta’s honor, also weighed in on his passing.
“Tom was a dedicated husband, father and public servant,” Curran said in a statement. “In his career in government that spanned over four decades, Tom served our residents with distinction.”
The longtime North Merrick resident, a Columbia-alum lawyer by trade, came to head the county at age 43 after serving as the supervisor of the Town of Hempstead starting in 1981 and as the Assemblyman for the 13th district for four years before that.
Funeral services for the former executive were held at Walker Funeral Home in Merrick on Friday. He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, son Christopher, daughter Elizabeth and three grandchildren.