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A Yonkers Political Patriarch Will Be Laid To Rest

Leonard Spano
Leonard Spano

A prominent figure in public service in Westchester County died over the weekend. Leonard Spano, the father of the mayor of Yonkers, is being remembered as a gentleman and true bipartisan politician.

The Spano family issued a statement over the weekend announcing the death of 88-year-old Leonard Spano, who served in various public service capacities, including as Westchester County clerk from 1994 to 2005. The statement added that Leonard Spano was the proud patriarch to his family of 16 children, 42 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren, a bedrock of the family. Westchester County Executive George Latimer directed county facilities to fly flags at half-staff in honor of Spano. Latimer says Westchester lost a pillar, calling him a tireless public servant and true champion of the county. There is no relation, by the way, to former Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano. Democratic Westchester County Clerk Tim Idoni calls the Spanos one of the great families of Westchester County, and remembers Republican Len Spano.

“I’ve known Len Spano since the mid-80s when I was the village manager of Ardsley and he was a county legislator, and was always a soft-spoken and quite man who got an awful lot done because he understood how to maneuver within the political systems of Westchester County. He then brought that acumen to the county clerk’s office. He was an extremely gracious and knowledgeable guy. The staff here just absolutely loved him,” Idoni says. “And he took on this job when the real estate market boomed and really had to take on a lot of new challenges, which he handled extremely, extremely well. He also was responsible for the, what we call the Pistol License Accountability Act, which forced everybody in Westchester with legally-owned pistols to recertify every five years so we could keep track of the guns in Westchester. And, lo and behold, the state of New York finally caught on to what a great idea it was, they put it into the Safe Act in 2013.”

Prior to serving as county clerk, Spano represented Yonkers as a county legislator from 1971 to 1993. Today, one of his sons is the mayor of Yonkers, Democrat Mike Spano. The oldest son, Republican Nicholas Spano, served in the state legislature for 28 years, from 1979 to 2006, starting in the Assembly and rising to the third-highest ranking member of the Senate leadership. He pleaded guilty to federal tax evasion in 2012 and was sentenced to one year in prison.

Jim Cavanaugh is Yonkers deputy mayor and recalls Len Spano.

“I’ve known him since 1980. I was a fairly young reporter. He was a county legislator I met him by writing some stories about him that actually he didn’t really enjoy. He represented an area of Yonkers, they were expanding a wastewater treatment plant and he was inundated with complaints, and so I wrote about that. And he was good about it,” Cavanaugh says. “And then a couple of months later I got a call and they asked me to apply for a job as communications director of the county legislature, he being one of the legislators. So I ended up working for him.”

And then for state Senator Nicholas Spano and now, Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano. Cavanaugh describes Len Spano as a bipartisan, no-nonsense person.

“He was a perfect legislator for Yonkers. Yonkers was and is a very blue collar community. And he made his living selling oil. Just knocking on doors and trying to get those accounts. And so he knew everyone,” says Cavanaugh. “And I think he applied the same experience that he used in selling oil, which is treat the customer right, get to know people, it’s a personal kind of business. That’s what allowed him to do so well in politics.”

“The Journal News” cites the cause of death as heart failure brought on by complications from lymphoma, according to Nicholas Spano. Democratic New York state Senator Pete Harckham is a former Westchester County legislator whose 40th District includes portions of northern Westchester.

“Well, they’re really one of the great families of public service in Westchester. And he was a true gentlemen. He was a patriarch,” Harckham says. “And I met him several times at public functions and he was always the consummate gentleman, respectful, and carried himself with an air of a real gentleman.”

Calling hours are scheduled for this evening at Sinatra Memorial Home in Yonkers, with the funeral service Wednesday morning at St. Mary’s Church in the city.

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