The Life of Westchester’s Rob Astorino
On the road (in an election year) with the County Executive
(page 5 of 8)
The driver heads north toward the Kensico Dam Plaza. For the past three years, Westchester County’s Albanian community has raised its national flag there to commemorate the day in 1912 when the tiny but tough eastern European country declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire. We are on schedule to get there by 2 pm. Brendan keeps busy posting photos to Astorino’s Facebook page and Twitter. Astorino does his own Twitter posts once in a while. “The first time I Tweeted, someone on the staff assumed we were hacked and went into panic mode. I finally said I did it. Like I’m not capable of doing my own Tweets?”
Of course he’s capable. Astorino is a media guy after all, radio in specific. His first job out of Fordham University (where he majored in communications) in 1990 was the Shadow Metro Traffic reporter, trolling the skies over Westchester in a chopper. (It got really exciting when his pilot got lost in the fog and got “a little too close for comfort” to the Citigroup building in Queens.) He worked as reporter and anchor at WFAS in Hartsdale for 10 years. In 2001, he helped to launch ESPN Sports, becoming its senior producer, and after losing to Spano the first time, he joined SiriusXM’s The Catholic Channel as program director and on-air host. When he beat Spano the second time, he got a shout-out from his talk-show sidekick Archbishop Timothy Dolan.
Given the C.E.’s willingness to take on unions over pension contributions, it’s a little surprising to hear that he’s a union man: His on-air radio hosting gigs earned him a SAG-AFTRA card. He misses radio, but gets his fix by guest-hosting The John Gambling Show on 710 WOR every now and then. As we drive around, the radio is tuned to news or sports.
He takes a call from Ned McCormack, his communications director and advisor. They talk about five times a day. The C.E. has two cellphones, a Blackberry for official business, an iPhone for personal and campaign use. He talks to McCormack on the BlackBerry, to his wife on the iPhone.
The C.E. says Sheila didn’t know what she was getting into when he ran for County Executive. “I don’t think either one of us did.” His voice softens. “She’s the best. There’s no way you can do this kind of a job without a balanced life and complete and utter support at home. It’s impossible. I come home and I’m exhausted some days, but with three kids, she’s as exhausted as I am.”
What does he do on his day off?
“Day off? What’s that? I’m thinking of joining the County Executives Union.” He chuckles. “I do get invited to a lot of places. I wish I had more time.” He loves to play golf. He’d like to play with his friend Michael Bloomberg, who has a quiver of private golf club memberships, not to mention two properties in Westchester. “Funny story,” says Astorino, who has no private golf club memberships. “After I got elected, during the transition, Mayor Bloomberg invited me down to Gracie Mansion. We start talking about golf. I said, ‘Where do you play?’ He starts rattling off Bermuda, two courses in Westchester, Long Island, the Hamptons. He says, ‘Where are you a member?’ I said, ‘I just got accepted to six different courses: Saxon Woods, Maplemoor, Dunwoodie…’”
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