Hello, Mr. Ambassador…
Cold Spring Harbor resident George Tsunis was nominated Tuesday by President Barack Obama as ambassador to Norway.
“I am incredibly humbled and it is the privilege of a lifetime to be asked by the president to serve,” Tsunis said Wednesday.
The Senate must approve of Tsunis’ nomination before the Commack native can be confirmed into office.
The Commack High School graduate is the founder and chief operating officer of Chartwell Hotels, formerly based in Huntington village. The hotel company, according to Tsunis’ website, owns, develops and manages Hilton, Marriott, and Intercontinental Hotels throughout the northeast and mid-Atlantic states.
Before establishing himself as a hotel mogul, Tsunis, 45, was a partner at the Uniondale-based Rivkin Radler law firm.
The potential ambassador-to-be boasts not only an extensive professional resume, but also a philanthropic one.
Gary Melius, owner of Oheka Castle in Huntington, described Tsunis as one of the “most generous people” he knows.
“Certainly for his means he gives away a lot of money, even before he made it to his current station in life,” Melius said.
According to Melius, the two first met in shared “political circles” 15 years ago. Tsunis then became Melius’ attorney, and their relationship evolved into a close friendship, which they still maintain today.
“I say this with no hesitation, I think he’s been the brightest one who has a position like this… He’s a great friend and I’m proud to know him,” Melius said.
Tsunis’ parents came to the United States as immigrants from Greece, and when Tsunis entered the public school system in Commack, those who know him well said he could hardly speak a word of English.
The hotel tycoon and attorney attended New York University for his undergraduate studies and received his law degree from St. John’s University.
Locally, Tsunis served as counsel to the Dix Hills Water District and the Town of Huntington Environmental Open Space Committee. He was also a trustee for the Huntington Chamber of Commerce’s Good Government Committee.
Tsunis, 45, contributed at least $41,375 to Republican committees throughout the country in 2008. The Chartwell executive donated $50,000 to John McCain’s presidential campaign in June and October of 2008, according to federal disclosure reports.
In 2011 however, Tsunis’ political ties seemed to shift to the left. Federal disclosure reports reveal Tsunis gave at least $134,000 to Obama’s reelection campaign, $125,000 to the Senate Majority Political Action Committee in 2012 and at least $143,100 to Democratic Super PACS.
Additionally, federal disclosure reports name Tsunis as the top political contributor in both Huntington and Cold Spring Harbor zip codes.
Before moving to Cold Spring Harbor four years ago with his wife, Olga, and three children, Tsunis resided in Centerport.