His political experience consists only of three years on the Roslyn school board. But Haber, a Democrat who is an investor in technology firms and a restaurant owner, says he's got the skills to help Nassau dig out of $3 billion in debt and escape control of a state fiscal monitoring board.
"This is what I do," said Haber, 47. "I help things run efficiently. I know how to create jobs. And I work my tail off."
Haber said he has spent the past year building a campaign organization and meeting with hundreds of civic leaders in preparation for the November election. Last week, Haber reported more than $2.18 million in cash on hand, including $2 million he loaned to his campaign. Mangano, a Republican, has $2.3 million in cash while former Democratic County Executive Tom Suozzi, who is being pressed by some Democrats to run again, has almost $1.1 million.
Haber said he will match individual contributions dollar-for-dollar for the foreseeable future. He's also started the Nassau Suggestion Box, a website where visitors can submit ideas to improve county government and vote on them.
Raised in Rockland County, Haber recalled selling snacks at Little League games and ponchos in arena parking lots to earn extra money. In the early 1990s, he went to work on Wall Street, trading commodities such as oil, sugar, coffee and cocoa. He later went into commercial real estate and restaurants. He owns Aldea, a Portuguese restaurant in Manhattan, and Lula Trattoria in Mineola.
Haber was elected to the Roslyn school board in 2009, when the district still was recovering from an $11 million embezzlement scheme that had landed six officials in prison. Haber said he's proposed cost-saving initiatives such as cooperative purchasing and debt refinancing.
Board member Bruce Valauri recalled Haber's idea to consolidate bus routes with neighboring school districts that paid Roslyn for busing some of their kids.
"Adam has come up with several innovative ideas," Valauri said. "Combining the routes was simple but visionary."
In an interview at his East Hills home, where he lives with his wife Renee and two teenage children, Haber criticized Mangano's efforts to privatize the county's sewer system and his closure of four police precincts. Haber said such moves will do little to fix Nassau's long-term finances.
Haber called Mangano's response to superstorm Sandy a "failure," arguing the county had no plan to protect key infrastructure, guard against massive power outages or inform the public about recovery efforts.
Mangano campaign spokesman Brian Nevin dismissed the criticism, saying "there's a stark difference in this race as Ed Mangano held the line on property taxes for three straight years while Adam Haber hurt Nassau families by hiking school taxes and making profits each time we filled our cars at the pump."
Nevin was referring to Haber's time on Wall Street investing in oil futures -- a fact available on Haber's website. Haber responded that "no amount of political mudslinging from Ed Mangano will hide the fact that he is driving us deeper into debt, scaring away businesses, killing jobs and offering zero leadership on how to rebuild after Hurricane Sandy."
Nassau Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs, who is lobbying Suozzi to run for his old seat, called Haber a "serious contender and a very bright businessman. He certainly offers tremendous potential." Jacobs said that while Haber's name is not widely recognized, "it's nothing that $1 million [in campaign money] can't solve."
Legis. Wayne Wink Jr. (D-Roslyn) said Haber faces "an uphill battle because of his lack of political experience. "But Adam is a very able and intelligent guy -- and he appears to be in this for all the right reasons," Wink said.
About Adam Haber
Education: Bachelor's degree from University at Albany in business; last month completed a master's degree in political science from LIU Post
Career: Retired commodities trader who now owns restaurants in Manhattan and Mineola and invests in technology firms; member of the Roslyn school board since 2009; board member and volunteer for All Hands Volunteers, a nonprofit group helping homeowners to recover from superstorm Sandy.
Family: Wife, Renee; two children, ages 16 and 14