‘Keep Politics Out Of Town Hall’

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County Comptroller Elaine Phillips swears in North Hempstead Town Clerk Ragini Srivastava. (Town of North Hempstead)

The changing of the guard took place last week in North Hempstead. Supervisor Jen Desena, Town Clerk Ragini Srivastava and councilmembers Robert Troiano and Dennis Walsh took their oaths of office at Clinton G. Martin Park in New Hyde Park on Jan. 2. New Councilman David Adhami was ill and could not attend.
Except for Troiano, all are Republicans swept in during a “Red Wave” on Election Day.
It was the first elective office for DeSena, a registered Democrat who ran on the Republican and Conservative lines. She beat political veteran and Town Clerk Wayne Wink to replace Judi Bosworth, who retired.
Among those in attendance who spoke and/or swore in the candidates were Attorney General Letitia James (Troiano), former state Senator Jack Martins (Walsh), County Legislature Presiding Officer Rich Nicolello (DeSena), County Executive Bruce Blakeman and New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli of Thomaston.
New County Comptroller Elaine Phillips of Flower Hill was mistress of ceremonies and in her opening remarks she looked at DeSena and told her, “It’s up to you and the entire council to demonstrate that bipartisan government can work and show that you will all put the needs of the people over politics. We are all watching you and we are all wishing you the very best (applause).”
In her address, DeSena praised outgoing Supervisor Bosworth, Town Clerk Wink and councilmembers Lee Seaman, Viviana Russell and Angelo Ferrara.
“Thank you for the work that you’ve done for the town and for leaving your indelible mark on our community,” DeSena said. “I want to especially thank Judi Bosworth for serving our town honorably and faithfully as supervisor and for many years of service as a county legislator and school board trustee. Thank you, Judi, for selflessly giving of yourself for public service.”
DeSena also thanked the numerous civic associations and organizations “who join with me to help address the problems in our town, especially the Greater Council of Manhasset Civic Associations, the Chinese American Association of North Hempstead and the Saint Vincent De Paul Society.”
She expressed her gratitude to county Republican Chairman Joe Cairo and Conservative Party Chairman Danny Donovan Jr. and all the countless volunteers who helped her tirelessly during the campaign.
“I’m truly honored and humbled to have received such support from my fellow residents,” DeSena said. “I’m excited to begin working to move North Hempstead forward and address the many challenges this town government is faced with. On Election Day our residents spoke loud and clear and they’re demanding more efficient government and greater accountability for the taxpayers. This will be the hallmark of my administration. I’ve been working diligently to build a leadership team that is committed to immediately getting to work to put town taxpayers first and make North Hempstead more accountable to its residents.”
She added, “For too long, North Hempstead Town Hall has been riddled with political discord and staff infighting. Politics has been placed ahead of our taxpayers and town services have suffered as a result. There is no denying it. That ends today. As of today, partisan party politics no longer has a place in town hall. It simply cannot, especially when the best interests of our taxpayers are at stake.”
She pledged to remove politics from the fray and restore government to the taxpayers, putting them first, she said to applause.
Holding out an olive branch to the Democratic majority, which holds a 4-3 edge on the council, DeSena affirmed, “Anyone who knows me knows that I value teamwork, compromise and finding a common ground to do the most good. I must take that spirit into my tenure as supervisor. I look forward to working together in a bipartisan manner to serve the public interest.”
The new supervisor hoped to make the government work better by conducting a thorough review of its operations, and to “streamline the top-heavy town management, cut wasteful spending and bring efficiency to a government known for dragging its feet on even simple matters.”
She concluded, “I ran for public office for many reasons. I believe the local government can and should safeguard our quality of life, be proactive in fostering economic growth and operate in an open, honest and transparent way. These will be hallmarks of my administration. My number one priority going forward is to make my administration the best it can be while putting our residents first.”
More Words
Blakeman, in his remarks, stated, “Remember that 90 percent of the stuff that we do is unanimous in local government. The 10 percent of the time when we disagree? Sometimes we just are going to have to agree to disagree.”
Of DeSena he said, “In her you have someone who has the strength, the will and the compassion to lead this great town. I’m sure that Jen is going to do a terrific job. Her heart is in the right place. She’s a hard worker and I want to congratulate you on what I know will be a great start as Town of North Hempstead supervisor.”
DiNapoli began by praising Phillips, his fellow overseer of government spending, and assured the assembled that she would do a great job. He joked that he had lost races for both town council and supervisor in North Hempstead and told the Attorney General Letitia James, “Tish, I’ve had a checkered past before I got to the state (laughter.)”
The comptroller drew loud cheers and applause when he pronounced, “The polarization and division that we see at the national level we cannot let it happen here. Let’s draw strength from this wonderful community, a community of talented and caring people who know how to pull together and make a difference. And so my hope for the new supervisor and the town board is that the same spirit will permeate everything that you do because as Bruce Blakeman said, when it comes to town government, it’s closest to the people and it’s where party labels shouldn’t matter. We truly have to all work together.”
Nicolello, before administering the oath of office to the incoming supervisor, said that she exemplified “the uniquely American ideal and that is a citizen who looks at what’s happening in their town and wishes to run for one simple purpose: They want to serve the community. Someone who is not a politician, looking to be elected to one office [as a stepping-stone to higher ones]. She ran for all the right reasons. She has a passion for doing the right thing. She ran a dignified and focused campaign and she did not run a negative campaign.”
American Dream
Phillips swore in Srivastava, a resident of Manhasset Hills who emigrated from India in 2001. She ran unsuccessfully for the New York State Assembly in 2020 and for the North Hempstead Town Council in 2019.
“I’m humbled and I’m grateful,” she said. “The one thing that this great nation has given to me and to thousands of people like me is hope. Hope that no matter what circumstances you’re coming from, you can achieve your dream here. You can do great things here if you are doing good things.”
She added, “This is the magic of this great nation and I believe in the magic of the United States of America (applause).”
Srivastava promised to keep the trust the electorate placed in her, adding, “There’s so many people who worked really hard for me to get here. To all of you I say you are all standing here with me today and thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
She thanked her husband for sharing her dreams and Chairman Cairo for believing in her.
After praising what she called “an amazing group of candidates,” Srivastava concluded, “Now we have to work together as one team with one single objective— to make things better for the people of our town. To make sure that there is efficiency and that there is transparency and accountability so that you get the best quality of life, you get the best value for your tax dollars and you get the best services that you deserve.”
Democratic Majority Responds
“On Sunday, Supervisor DeSena had an opportunity to serve as a uniting force, but she chose instead to once again spread divisive misinformation. As part of the town board, alongside Supervisor Bosworth, we have ensured that North Hempstead ran more efficiently and effectively than ever before. The level of transparency in town government over the past several years is truly unparalleled. The Town’s leadership team is extraordinarily proud of its track record of balanced budgets, our Aaa bond rating, and exceptional quality of life services and initiatives. Looking forward in 2022, the town board majority vows to remain focused on what really matters to the residents of North Hempstead. We will be unveiling our list of priorities in the coming days.” —Town Councilmember Mariann Dalimonte

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