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OpinionEditorial

New leaders and fresh starts in Long Island government

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

New faces are taking oaths of office, from western Nassau to Montauk. The tally includes a new county executive in Nassau, six new town supervisors and a new mayor in Glen Cove.

This changing of the guard is powerfully symbolic, like the rituals that signify a new year. In some cases, it’s even historic. But it’s the aroma of real progress now possible that we find intoxicating.

We say this knowing that the best of plans can face strong headwinds. Promises can be undermined and scripts subverted. But we also know that the new leaders elected in November have deep wells of energy and ideas to tap as they try to turn their visions into reality.

Led by new Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and new Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen, this new generation of leaders is clear-eyed about the daunting tasks ahead and willing to reject old approaches. Both women promise to work in a spirit of cooperation, a virtue vital where the legislature, town board or city council is controlled by a different party, also true in places like Riverhead and Glen Cove. Voters want government that works.

The new executives face some common challenges. Each must restore faith in government. They must work within the confines of a new federal tax bill that makes it harder to raise taxes Long Islanders no longer can deduct, and which might very well stymie their ability to borrow for infrastructure.

Some challenges are unique.

Curran, Nassau’s first female county executive, must solve its budget and assessment woes and exorcise the stench of contract corruption. Gillen, Hempstead’s first Democratic supervisor in a century, has to tackle the town’s culture of nepotism and try to undo actions engineered by predecessor Anthony Santino to protect party faithful and lard the payroll. Together, Curran and Gillen can be the team that finally unlocks the potential of a revitalized Nassau Hub.

In Huntington, new Supervisor Chad Lupinacci must engineer a settlement in a Long Island Power Authority overassessment case that could cost the town tens of millions of dollars if he continues a risky court fight. With Smithtown freed from Patrick Vecchio’s yoke, new Supervisor Edward Wehrheim can pilot the town through a sea change of downtown revitalizations centered on sewers and apartments near train stations. This is nothing new, but it’s novel for Smithtown.

Laura Jens-Smith, Riverhead’s first female supervisor presiding over the town’s first majority-female board, now bears responsibility for the development of 2,900-acre Enterprise Park at Calverton and the recovery of downtown Riverhead. The challenge for East Hampton’s Peter Van Scoyoc is to continue good work by predecessor Larry Cantwell on workforce housing, water quality improvements and shoreline protection. Political newcomer Gary Gerth is poised to attack Shelter Island’s lack of year-round rental housing. New Glen Cove Mayor Timothy Tenke inherits the city’s perennial challenge of balancing resident concerns with moving forward on development projects like Garvies Point.

It’s tough work in an ever-difficult environment for innovation. We wish them well.

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