Community and business leader Leo R. Kaytes Jr. has been named Warwick’s 2021-2022 Citizen of the Year.
Kaytes and recipients of this year’s Outstanding Community Service Awards – Vincent Poloniak, Pine Island onion farmer and county community development director noted for his large Halloween and Christmas displays on Spanktown Road, and acclaimed Warwick Advertiser photojournalist Roger Gavan, whose thousands of news articles and photographs have publicized activities of local civic organizations and businesses - will be honored during a ceremony Wednesday evening, Sept. 15, at the Chateau Hathorn.
Because of COVID cancellation of the 2020-2021 event, last year’s honorees will also be recognized.
Frank Truatt, who purchased an off-the-air AM radio station and turned WTBQ into a respected community-minded media outlet, is the reigning Citizen of the Year. Also being honored are last year’s recipients of Outstanding Community Service Awards – former Warwick Valley Dispatch editor and community volunteer Jennifer O’Connor, and the duo of Carmela Borrazas and Nichole McCormick, whose unpaid efforts raised an estimated $700,000 to assist local small businesses during the pandemic
‘Much of what he does is behind the scenes’
One nominee described Kaytes as “an upbeat person who has his priorities straight. He is devoted to his parents, his siblings, his wife and two children. He honors his religious beliefs, maintains the highest business ethics and gives bountiful support and service to his beloved Warwick community. Much of what he does is behind-the-scenes with little recognition expected or received.”
Kaytes has been a coach and remains a big supporter of little league baseball and soccer, Warwick school academic and athletic programs, Odyssey of the Mind and scouting. The same could be said about his efforts for local military veterans, first responders and numerous area non-profits and service organizations.
Community service resume
He has served many years as a Rotarian officer at the local and eight-county district level, including three years as an assistant district governor and currently is in his second term as president of the Warwick Valley Rotary Club.
During his five years as chair and co-chair of the June Tent Party, the event raised $284,000 for St. Anthony Community Hospital, Winslow Therapeutic Riding Center, Warwick Rotary and the Warwick Humane Society. He has honored local military veterans with a Veterans Day breakfast which has served hundreds of meals to these heroes. He even drove a car in this year’s Warwick Memorial Day Parade.
Kaytes has donated cars to almost every area charity golf “hole in one” challenge. Some of the other local activities he has participated in include the Holiday Party for Needy Children, Flags for Heroes, Backpack Snack Attack, Coats for Children of Migrant Workers, Warwick’s Sesquicentennial Celebration, Roses for Seniors, Veterans and First Responders, Bowling for Causes and the Warwick Senior Barbecue, Sunset at Winslow and the Luau at Wickham Woodlands.
Kaytes was praised as a problem solver. He successfully navigated the business challenges of COVID to keep the family auto dealership profitable and then donated profits to finance fireworks at this year’s Warwick Firemen’s Carnival.
He used his college degree in architecture to convince Ford Motor Company to make an exception to the standard dealership design and to allow him to design a more community-friendly and award-winning facility.