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2019 Public Servant of the Year: Kevin Webster

Editor’s Note: The video below was prepared for our 2019 Times Review Media Group People of the Year event in March. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, we were forced to postpone and ultimately cancel this year’s event. Each Sunday in August and early September we are sharing the video presentations that would have celebrated each of the honorees that evening along with the original People of the Year features published in January. A special thank you to our event sponsor, People’s United Bank, for helping to make these awards possible each year.

Seated in the bleachers at Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton, as the Greenport boys basketball team tipped off its biggest game of the season, Kevin Webster smoothly began his introduction. 

“All right, you are looking live at the Final Four here, Class C between Cooperstown and Greenport,” he said to begin the broadcast. “…And good morning, I’m Kevin Webster along with Tommy Tsavaras and we’re going to try to bring this broadcast to you for as long as we can.”

A few seconds after tip-off, Greenport’s star guard Ahkee Anderson swiped the ball from a Cooperstown player and raced the other way for a driving layup and the game’s first points.

Mr. Webster’s voice quickly rose as he described the action.

“Hard foul and one! Strong finish!” he said.

The live video streamed on Facebook of the Porters’ state semifinals game with Mr. Webster on the play-by-play was the product of the Webster Sports Network. Beginning in late 2017 when Mr. Webster teamed up with students at GPO TV, Greenport High School’s student-run broadcasting service, fans of local sports teams have been treated to a steady stream of live game broadcasts. Mr. Webster takes the lead on play-by-play, bringing student-athletes’ games directly into the phone or tablet of fans anywhere in the world.

“Let’s go Porters from Jamaica, WI,” one fan commented on the Porters’ broadcast. “Watching from West Palm Beach,” another fan wrote.

Mr. Webster, shown here in 2012, is also a longtime town assessor. (Suffolk Times file photo)

As a lifelong sports enthusiast whose day job is a Southold Town Assessor, Mr. Webster volunteers his time to conduct the play-by-play on game broadcasts. What started primarily with basketball games and has since grown to feature soccer as well.

“The Greenport community is very supportive of our athletic teams,” Greenport athletic director Chris Golden said last year. “Kevin has now provided a means by which people who can’t attend athletic contests can watch, and comment during his broadcasts via the live-stream.”

With just a phone, tripod and Facebook, Mr. Webster, 49, created a platform to expand access to local high school sports. For his volunteer efforts, dedication to his community and unbridled enthusiasm for student-athletes, The Suffolk Times selected Mr. Webster as its Public Servant of the Year.

Supervisor Scott Russell said he’s worked alongside Mr. Webster for many years.

“Not only does he display his dedication to Southold as a public servant, he also displays his deep commitment to his family and to this community,” he said in an email. “He dedicates himself to the youth by his work in youth sports programs and is involved many community activities. His wit, his charm and his graciousness brings joy to everyone.”

Giving back to the community is at the heart of Mr. Webster’s life. The East Marion man volunteers with the East Marion Fire Department and was elected as a town assessor for the first time in 2005. It’s a position he’s held ever since, taking on a mostly behind-the-scenes role in town government where he works to keep the inventory of more than 18,000 parcels up to date based on changes either through additions to a property or demolitions.

Mr. Webster also volunteers with the East Marion Fire Department. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

Charles Sanders works alongside Mr. Webster as an assessor. He said Mr. Webster has created an inviting and open environment in the office where people can walk right in and speak with an assessor. That doesn’t always happen in assessor offices in other towns, he said.

“He has a very positive rapport with the community,” Mr. Sanders said. “His giving back to the community makes him very approachable.”

A graduate of Ithaca College, Mr. Webster moved back to Orient and started working in the fall of 1992 in the assessment, appraisal and real estate field. He is currently chairman of the Board of Assessors Office.

Mr. Sanders pointed out how Mr. Webster — who’s known for his impeccable memory — has led the office’s digital upgrades, a process that began after a flood in the office in 2018.

He has the ability to liven up anyone’s day and is never shy to dress up for an occasion. On Halloween, he dressed as Batman’s enemy, Riddler.

“Everybody loves him,” Mr. Sanders said. “He has an incredible amount of patience.”

Mr. Russell recalled one time Mr. Webster dressed as George Washington in a full-length wool coat and powdered wig to march in the town’s Fourth of July parade. It also happened to be about 90 degrees that day.

“His wit, his charm and his graciousness brings joy to everyone.”

Scott Russell

Previous Winners

2018: Rodney Shelby
2017: William Price
2016: Jim Grathwohl
2015: Jack Martilotta
2014: Ted Webb
2013: Heather Lanza
2012: Ed Romaine
2011: Greenport and Southold Highway Department Crews
2010: Leslie Weisman
2009: Betty Neville
2008: Thomas Crowley
2007: Philip Beltz
2006: Jesse Wilson
2005: Martin Flatley
2004: Mattituck-Cutchogue School Board
2003: Ben Orlowski Jr.
2002: Jack Sherwood
2001: Dave Abatelli
2000: Melissa Spiro
1999: Valerie Scopaz
1998: Jamie Mills
1997: Karen McLaughlin
1996: Lisa Israel
1995: John Costello
1994: Ray Jacobs
1993: Judy Terry
1992: William Pell
1991: Beth Wilson
1990: Antonia Booth
1989: Frank Murphy
1988: Venetia McKeighan
1987: Paul Stoutenburgh