Every Sunday, we'll publish a quick Q&A with someone from the local political world. Instead of touching on the latest in policy issues and proposed legislation, the intent is to catch a glimpse of the person behind the title. The interviews are done via email.
Timothy M. Kennedy
Job title: State Senator
Family: Married to Katie; father to Connor, 6, Eireann, 3, Padraic, 1. Son of Martin and Mary, brother to four siblings.
Education: Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Occupational Therapy from D’Youville College.
Party affiliation: Democrat
What's one thing people don't know about you?
I’m an occupational therapist by trade. While I’m not currently practicing, I still maintain my status as a licensed occupational therapist. Also, I’m told that as a New York state senator, I hold the highest elected office of any occupational therapist in the entire country. As a result, I was invited to deliver the commencement address to OT graduates at Columbia University last year.
What's your favorite restaurant?
There are so many great places to eat in Buffalo and throughout Western New York. If I named my favorites, you’d have a very, very long list. I will say this – there’s one place that is always there for me in a pinch. With such a packed schedule, there are many days when I don’t have time to stop for lunch. On those days, I’m fortunate to have a great restaurant right next door to my office – Leo’s Pizzeria. You can’t beat their banana pepper pizza!
Who's your political hero?
It’s tough to pinpoint just one. I often get asked if I’m related to the Massachusetts Kennedy’s, who produced the great leaders John, Robert and Ted Kennedy. Although I haven’t identified a direct link, I do admire their work. But if I have to choose just one, I would pick Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a reform-minded New Yorker who took office in the State Senate exactly 100 years before my first day. We both took office after running campaigns focused on changing politics as usual in the State Capitol. The success of FDR as a state representative and obviously as president are unprecedented. He stood up and fought for this country at a time when America needed a fighter. He led us through a challenging period of our history and helped America come out stronger, prouder and more united.
You are trained as an occupational therapist. Are any of those skills useful in your current job?
As an occupational therapist, you go to work every day to help people. I’ve kept that same mindset as a state senator and prior as county legislator. Throughout my career as an OT, I worked with senior citizens and with children with disabilities. Today, I continue to fight for vulnerable New Yorkers as a state senator.
When you get down to the specifics of the jobs of occupational therapist and state senator, they are obviously different. But there are many similarities. First and foremost, you must always look out for what’s best for the people you serve – both jobs require a similar type of selflessness where you put others before yourself. In addition, the interpersonal communication skills that I fostered as an occupational therapist have been immensely helpful in the State Senate. Every day, I’m working with so many different constituents, as well as my colleagues in government. Honestly, in many cases, you just have to get back to basics and simply communicate effectively to get things done.
What's the worst part of your job?
I love going to work and fighting to make Western New York heard in Albany. The travel from Buffalo to Albany, however, gets to be tough when I have to leave my wife and my three children at home every week. I can’t thank my wife, Katie, enough for being such an amazing mother to our children and taking care of things at home when I’m away in Albany doing the people’s business.
(A "Five Questions" interview with Kennedy's Democratic primary rival, Betty Jean Grant, can be found here.)
-- Jill Terreri
Follow me on Twitter: @jillterreri