People of the Year

Celebrating The Suffolk Times 2023 People of the Year

The Times Review Media Group celebrated several exceptional members of the North Fork community at its annual People of the Year Awards reception Thursday night.

Honorees and their guests joined the Times Review Media staff along with newly elected town supervisors Al Krupski and Tim Hubbard to share stories and express their thanks and gratitude to the entire North Fork community during a cocktail reception at The Vineyards at Aquebogue.

The annual awards, which have been handed out since 1987, are given to leaders in local public and community service, education, business and sports by the editorial staff of The Suffolk Times, Riverhead News-Review, and Shelter Island Reporter newspapers as well as the Northforker and Southforker lifestyle brands.

“The best part of our People of the Year awards reception is when we hear directly from the award recipients themselves because they are so impressive and mean so much to our community,” said Times Review Media Group publisher Andrew Olsen. “As journalists we are incredibly honored to tell their stories.”

Members of Cutchogue Fire Department’s water-rescue team Capt. Joe Hinton, Lt. Christian Figurniak, Lt. Ken Pearsall and Lt. Bryan Zissel were honored as The Suffolk Times People of the Year after saving two teenagers drifting out in open water last July. They were recognized for their dedication, their training and their heroic efforts on the Sound that day.

Cutchogue Fire Department Chief William Brewer spoke with pride about his team, expressing his gratitude for the recognition and assuring the room the honorees would simply chalk up their remarkable efforts as simply doing their jobs. The room responded with a standing ovation.

The first ever North Fork Pride Parade held last summer in Greenport brought joy to residents that was visible, palpable and has had lasting positive effects for the local LGBTQ community. Lori Panarello, owner of Craft Hair in Greenport, spearheaded the efforts to launch event. Due to the parade’s lasting impact in the community, Ms. Panarello was chosen as The Suffolk Times Community Leader of the Year for 2023.

Rebecca Szymanski, the 2023 Educator of the Year, received scores of nominations from Suffolk Times readers this year for her inspiring perseverance in battling lifelong health struggles, including a recent double organ transplant, and the lasting influence her strength and determination has had on her colleagues and students.

“Thank you for this honor,” Ms. Szymanski said after receiving her award Thursday. “I just wanted to get back to my regular life. I wanted to get back to the classroom. I’m so happy I was able to accomplish that; it was not easy, I’m not going to lie.”

News of Candace Hall’s appointment as the new Greenport Village Clerk was met with widespread support across the community. Ms. Hall’s family roots stretch back seven generations in Greenport and the surrounding area. So it’s no wonder that she took to her new job with such natural enthusiasm. On day one she dove into a massive archiving project. Her colleagues say that she’s brought a sense of organization to Village Hall and imbued it with a new warmth and a welcoming light-heartedness rare to municipal government offices.

In accepting the 2023 Public Servant of the Year Award, Ms. Hall said she is hoping to keep spreading joy in Village Hall. She thanked her mother for inspiring her to accomplish anything she put her mind to. “There are not a lot of women who look like me or are my age [in government],” Ms. Hall said. “I’m grateful to be the representation.”

In 2023, a century after Alvah Goldsmith Sr. sold his first outboard motor, Goldsmith’s Boat Shop, on Main Road in Southold, celebrated its 100th year in business. For their century of dedication to the community, and their continuing love and protection of the saltwater world around them, The Suffolk Times named the Goldsmith family its 2023 Business People of the Year.

Glenn and Craig Goldsmith accepted the award on behalf of the family. They agreed that the business would not have been able to achieve the honor without the community’s support.

The 2022-23 school year was the single greatest in the history of Southold Robotics Team RICE 870 — or any Long Island robotics team for that matter. Last April, Team RICE, which is made up of Southold and Greenport students, and co-advisor Bob Gammon, rode a bus to Houston, Texas, to compete against more than 600 teams from over 30 countries in the FIRST Robotics Championship. Southold took second place. Second place in the entire world. For leading high school students on their journey from building and testing their robots to representing their hometowns on the world stage, Bob Gammon was honored as The Suffolk Times’ 2023 Sports Person of the Year.

In his acceptance speech, Mr. Gammon thanked his colleagues and students for working together to achieve their success.

For sharing his vision, passion and talent, and bringing The Rites of Spring Music Festival to life, Paolo Bartolani was named 2023’s Northforker of the Year.

“I don’t want to talk about me; I want to talk about the Rites of Spring Music Festival,” Mr. Bartolani said upon receiving his award. “Our goal is to bring music and outstanding musicians close to the community. We are constantly looking for new partnerships. We are so honored and so proud to be part of this community.”