When Stephen Kiely, Shelter Island’s new city attorney, was in high school, he worked at a deli in Port Jefferson where local politicians, including Suffolk County Attorney James M. Catterson Jr., and State Senator Ken LaValle, had breakfast every Sunday.
There, the 16-year-old had his first exposure to the heady world of Long Island politics and public service, and made some valuable friends. “I served them egg sandwiches,” Kiely said. “That’s how I met them.”
Public service runs deep in his family. His maternal grandfather, father, uncles and brother were police officers and his maternal grandmother, who was in the Marines during World War II, bought a house in Sag Harbor where young Stephen spent summers at grow. His paternal grandfather died at the Battle of Anzio when Mr Kiely’s father was 10 months old.
He graduated from Newfield High School, went south to graduate from Guilford College in North Carolina, and returned to Long Island, graduating from Hofstra University School of Law magna cum laude in 2004.
Mr Kiely worked as an assistant town attorney in Brookhaven and then Southampton, where he developed expertise on conservation and zoning issues, and in 2007 drafted year-round tenancy legislation which was a example for other East End towns seeking to regulate short stays. -term rentals in buildings not occupied by their owner.
He served three years as Suffolk County Senior Deputy Clerk. In 2014 he went to work as an assistant solicitor for the town of Southold, returning to the type of municipal law he found most satisfying. He drafted local laws, including a short-term rental law and a law establishing a historic preservation floating zoning district to preserve structures without punitive restrictions on landlords.
“We had issues with historic churches being put on the market, and we didn’t want the streetscape to change,” Kiely said. “A floating Historic Preservation District has introduced enhanced financial incentives to preserve churches.”
In 2016 he left the township post in Southold to focus on his private practice. Mr. Kiely ran for public office twice as a Republican, but was not elected. In 2018 he ran for Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice and lost, and in 2019 he collected enough signatures to challenge Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell in a primary . In the end, he withdrew. Mr Russell won the election by a small margin.
“I think I could have beaten him,” Mr Kiely said.
He lives in Mattituck with his wife, Julia, and their two children, Isabella, 6, and Quinn, 4. His first wife Amy lives nearby with their sons Brody, 16, and Brett, 14, and Mr Kiely says he sees them. everyday. His mother died 10 years ago and his father lives in Florida, but he still has family on Long Island and is close to his wife’s parents, Doug and Becky Broder, who have lived on Shelter Island for decades.
From the living room kitchen and porch of his in-laws’ gracious Victorian house up high, The Chequit’s renovation looms large, as it does in the story of Mr. Kiely’s first months in as Shelter Island City Attorney. Socially introduced to Stacey Soloviev when she was bringing the Peconic Winery back to life, he met her again at last year’s Strawberry Festival and asked her how the Chequit renovations were going.
Not good, she says, explaining that her contractor was unable to find the steel needed to complete the job. Mr. Kiely made a few calls and found someone who was able to supply the steel needed for the job and ready to take over as general contractor.
Still in private practice, he began representing Stacy Soloviev. He filed a zoning variance application with the Shelter Island Planning Board, which was approved. He also filed a building application, still pending, for a Chequit swimming pool.
Now that he has accepted the position of city attorney, Mr. Kiely says he will recuse himself on this, as well as on all other demands coming from the Soloviev properties on Shelter Island, including the question of the transfer of the mooring lines in Dering Harbour. “My in-laws live across the street. I’m going to be harder on her than anyone else because I’m going to hear about it at Sunday dinner,” he said.
He also filed an ethics request with the New York Bar Association regarding his work for the Solovyov Group on the North Fork. “If there is no conflict, I will continue to represent her in North Fork,” he said. “If she did something that harms the community, I wouldn’t represent her.”
Mr. Kiely said he jumped at the chance to be the city attorney for a place he cares about and to work for a council, “where each of them has the interests of the city. Where I worked before, there were always those who wanted power, or the paycheck, or as a stepping stone. This advice looks through the lens of what is good for the community.
Mr. Kiely said he sees many ways to help the City. “I’ve seen land use zoning on both sides — good government can do and bad government can do. I don’t like change, but change is inevitable and I will help to improve it.
Lightning Ride — Stephen Kiely
What do you always have with you? A copy of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and some prayers from my mother.
Your favorite place on Shelter Island? My mother-in-law’s porch.
Favorite place no on Shelter Island? My garden in Mattituck.
When was the last time you were thrilled? When I was offered this job.
What infuriates you? Fake news, rumours. Learn the facts.
When was the last time you were scared? My 16 year old son had COVID, got pneumonia and lost about 20 lbs. He is fully recovered.
What is the best day of the year on Shelter Island? We always have Easter here and it’s the real beginning of spring.
Favorite movie or book? ‘The Godfather.’
Favorite food? Spaghetti with meat sauce, we called it sauce.
Favorite person, living or dead, who is not part of the family? Robert F. Kennedy