2021 Businessperson of the Year: Paul Romanelli

Selfless. Passionate. Caring. All have been used to describe Paul Romanelli, owner of longtime Southold business Suffolk Security Systems. 

In addition to running his own company, the Cutchogue resident has been a prominent business leader on the North Fork over the years and a critical asset to the community — during the pandemic, for instance, he helped raise over $450,000 to cover the costs of protective gear and other lifesaving equipment at Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital. Because of his leadership and community dedication, Paul Romanelli has been named The Suffolk Times’ 2021 Businessperson of the Year. 

Besides currently serving as chairman of the ELIH Foundation, Mr. Romanelli has served as treasurer of the North Fork Chamber of Commerce, been a member of the Mattituck Chamber of Commerce and was the former director and vice president of the Long Island Alarm Association. He is also a member of the ELIH Foundation’s Golf Classic Committee, and is involved with the hospital’s fishing tournament, gala and walk/run. 

Mr. Romanelli has been president of Suffolk Security Systems, a Southold-based alarm company, since 1999. 

“He’s one of those few individuals who is selfless. He puts himself way second. And he really puts the community and his passions, like our hospital, oftentimes before his interests,” said Paul Connor, president and CEO at ELIH. “Sometimes we have to say, ‘Paul, wait a second. Take it easy.’ ”

During the first wave of the pandemic, the state order to cancel all elective surgeries hit a significant revenue stream for hospitals. “We had to make up this money, plus we had to load up on personal protective gear and respirators,” Mr. Connor said.

Mr. Romanelli helped the hospital coordinate with the community to provide face masks and purchase the personal protective equipment and other equipment needed to care for patients. “100% of [the donations] basically went into the pandemic operation of the hospital,” Mr. Connor added. 

“He’s known as a real stand-up guy in the business world,” said Denis Noncarrow, Southold town clerk and a member of the North Fork Chamber of Commerce. “He really is a go-to guy. If somebody needs advice in the business community, he’s the one. And he’s not afraid to tell you something you might not like. He has his opinion and he will tell you … which is a positive thing these days.”

Mr. Romanelli is known for both his philanthropy and civic engagement; his portfolio of contributions include helping to organize the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Cutchogue and the Maritime Festival parade in Greenport for years. 

“With any organization you could have 15 people on the board and maybe four of them, five tops, do all of the work and Paul was one that would always be in that group,” said Joe Corso, a board member at the North Fork Chamber of Commerce and co-parade organizer.

Mr. Corso has known Mr. Romanelli for about 25 years; they were involved in the North Fork Chamber of Commerce together and, with kids the same age, interacted a lot at local community events. Mr. Romanelli stepped away from the chamber to focus on his work at the hospital, Mr. Corso said, but “even though he’s not on the board anymore, he still helps out with different functions.”

“I ran into him after he had been doing the hospital stuff for a few months. He’s like, ‘Man, I thought the chamber was a lot of work,’ ” Mr. Corso added. “When you can actually take time away from your family, your business, and work on something that benefits the community, that’s a special person.”

Previous Winners

2020: Southold Pharmacy
2019: Marc LaMaina
2018: Chris Manfredi
2017: George Giannaris
2016: Lucy Senesac
2015: Wendy Zuhoski
2014: Greenport Harbor Brewing Co.
2013: Charlie Manwaring
2012: Jill Schroeder
2011: Shelley Scoggin
2010: Peconic Landing
2009: Rocky DiVello
2008: John Romanelli
2007: North Fork Press/Academy Printing
2006: Soundview Restaurant and Inn
2005: Joe Frohnhiefer
2004: Dan Damianos
2003: The Arcade
2002: Kate McDowell
2001: Mattituck Chamber of Commerce
2000: The Harbes Family
1999: Sue Rempe
1998: Bob Scott
1997: Jackie Copas
1996: Richard Mullen
1995: The Claudios
1994: Jeff Strong
1993: The Hargraves
1992: The Rowsoms
1991: Mark Middleton
1990: John Wickham
1989: Ray Terry
1988: Dave LeFreniere
1987: Linda Livni