About Legislator William Spencer
Dr. William R. Spencer is a physician and Legislator representing the 18th District of Suffolk County. As the first physician to serve on the Suffolk County Legislature since its inception in 1970, he was selected to serve as the chairman of the Legislature’s Health Committee. Additionally, he is the Vice Chair of the Ways & Means Committee and a member of the Public Safety Committee. Of concern to Legislator Spencer are the issues of access to safe and affordable housing, the increased availability of good, fair-paying jobs, ensuring that our children have the best education and healthy environment possible, and keeping our communities drug-and violence-free.
Dr. Spencer received his early education in Welch, a small town in West Virginia, and went on to continue his higher education at Wesleyan University, Connecticut Missionary Baptist Association, and University of Connecticut School of Medicine. After finishing medical school, he moved on to St. Vincent’s Hospital and Medical Center in New York City, where he completed his Internship and Residency in Surgery. He completed his residency in Otolaryngology at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, and his fellowship in Pediatric Otolaryngology at the University of Miami in 2000. That same year, he started his own private practice, Long Island Otolaryngology & Pediatric Airway, P.C. Huntington, NY. He is currently the Chief of Otolaryngology at Huntington Hospital, an Associate Clinical Professor at Stony Brook University Hospital, and the Past President of the Suffolk County Medical Society. He was licensed as a Minister in 1986 and ordained in Ministry in 1993 by the Connecticut Missionary Baptist Association. Dr. Spencer, who is also a licensed pilot, lives in Centerport with his wife, Rachel, and three children: William Robert III (Robby), Hannah, and Ava.
From a young age, Dr. Spencer has known the importance of giving back, and has been committed to bettering the community in which he lives. He first became active in government serving as the Chairman of the Town of Huntington Housing Authority from 2003 to 2012. In 2011, Dr. Spencer was elected to his first term as Legislator and was re-elected in 2013 and 2015. Since 2012, he has sponsored more than 100 resolutions, with almost 1/3 of them related to health and safety issues. Working together with local residents and civic groups, Legislator Spencer has been able to make a meaningful difference on a host of issues directly impacting our community.
Protecting Suffolk County beaches and harbors, and searching for new and more efficient sewage treatment technologies in an effort to ensure the safety of our drinking water and the good health of Suffolk’s residents, are among his top priorities. Knowing the importance of preserving Long Island’s Sole-Source Aquifer, he was instrumental in creating the Long Island Commission on Aquifer Protection (LICAP). The bi-county commission between Nassau and Suffolk was formed to address water quantity and quality issues and to create a regional working relationship between the counties when approaching groundwater resource management.
Legislator Spencer helped to secure more than 4.5 million dollars in funding to upgrade the Northport Sewage Treatment Plant. Already, the upgrades have yielded positive results that the beach and the entire harbor complex are benefitting from. In the last three seasons, there has been no red-tide in the harbor and the amount of nitrogen that was being released, which had been 19.4 lbs. per day, has been reduced to as low as 5 lbs. per day. Additionally, these efforts lead to the re-opening of a Centerport beach which was permanently closed by the state for over 5 years.
Also in an effort to protect our environment, Legislator Spencer took action to ban toxic hydro-fracking waste from being sold or used in Suffolk County, passed legislation to reduce the prevalence of single-use plastic bags, protected open space in Cold Spring Harbor by opening the Wawapek Nature preserve, and is currently partnering with the Town of Huntington to purchase the development rights of the historic Tilden Lane Farm in Greenlawn.
Legislator Spencer introduced and passed a first-in-the-nation law that prohibits the direct marketing of energy drinks to children. It also established “The Truth about Stimulant Drinks,” a public education campaign to increase awareness of the potentially dangerous side effects associated with energy drinks and caffeine toxicity among children and adolescents. The guidelines and restrictions enacted by Suffolk County have been adopted as recommendations by the Suffolk County Medical Society, the New York State Medical Society, and the American Medical Association. His insights were invaluable to the United States Senate Commerce Committee and its chairman, Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, who requested Legislator Spencer’s testimony at the Capitol in July of 2013. Legislator Spencer’s efforts to protect the community in Suffolk County have served as a model for other municipalities and have started a national debate. In April of 2014, Legislator Spencer was invited to be a guest lecturer at the institute on social and policy studies, Yale Rudd center for food policy & obesity at Yale University. During his lecture, entitled “The Politics of Public Health Policy” Legislator Spencer discussed his experience with the powerful Energy Drink lobby, and his strategy to develop and garner support for effective public health policies.
In 2014, he introduced and passed legislation to prohibit the sale of tobacco products to individuals under the age of 21 in Suffolk County. Such products include cigarettes, chewing tobacco, e-cigarettes, liquid nicotine, rolling papers, and other smoking apparatuses. This change will help us reduce smoking among teens by limiting access to products, as it has been shown that legal purchasers 18 to 20 are the largest source of cigarettes for adolescents under 17.
Legislator Spencer co-sponsored a bill prohibiting the sale of the highly potent and dangerous stimulant, powdered caffeine, to minors in Suffolk County. Since being approved, the bill has opened up conversations on the national level. Legislator Spencer and his colleague, Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory, joined a delegation in Washington D.C. in December of 2014 to meet with five United States Senators and to lobby the FDA on the dangers powdered caffeine poses to our youth. In September 2015, the FDA took action in the form of enforcement letters warning five distributers that continuing the sale of powdered caffeine as labeled would not be tolerated, and could potentially lead to seizure of the products under the law. The delegation is hoping that the FDA’s next step will be to ban the product.
Dr. William R. Spencer, Jr. is a rare combination of scholar, medical doctor, reverend, and Suffolk County Legislator. He focuses on these passions in his life to try and better the lives of his friends, neighbors, and members of his community.