The Suffolk Legislature's Democratic caucus voted unanimously Friday to select Majority Leader DuWayne Gregory as presiding officer, and the choice also made history: Gregory is the first black person to assume the post.

"I'm very humbled and honored to have been selected by my colleagues and I look forward to working with them and to continue moving Suffolk County in the right direction," Gregory (D-Amityville) said.

The economy is uppermost on his agenda, he said, adding that the legislature must find ways to raise revenue without laying off workers or compromising services.

"I think we still have budget issues," he said. "The economy has not turned around and we still have to address that. That's going to be top priority."

Gregory, whose term begins Jan. 2, was chosen after a 3 1/2-hour meeting at Democratic Party headquarters in Holbrook, where the caucus also selected Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) for deputy presiding officer and Legis. Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) for majority leader, said Richard Schaffer, Suffolk Democratic chairman.

"DuWayne's demonstrated great leadership skills," Schaffer said. "He was the majority leader for the past couple of years so I think the caucus felt that the good work he's done will translate into him being an effective presiding officer."

Gregory had served as majority leader for two years.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Others contending for the top spot included Legis. Louis D'Amaro of North Babylon, Kara Hahn of Stony Brook and Steven Stern of Dix Hills.

"I think it was a good selection," said Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley). "He got very strong support from the caucus and while DuWayne and I have not always seen eye to eye -- none of us do -- I think he's a great choice who will work well with both sides of the aisle."

The fact that Gregory is black shows how far the legislature has come, she said.

"Clearly it is a good example of what our legislature is," she said. "The Suffolk County Legislature is very diverse, myself being an immigrant."

The 12-member caucus met to replace Wayne Horsley (D-Babylon), who left the legislature as presiding officer last week to become the $120,000-a-year regional director of Long Island state parks.

The selection is scheduled to be formally ratified at the legislature's annual reorganization meeting on Jan. 2.

Marvin Smith, vice president of the NAACP branch in the Town of Islip, said Gregory is a wise selection.

"I think it's a good choice," Smith said. "He's deserving, he has the skills and he is going to do an outstanding job. He's easy to get along with and is a capable person in that position."

With Rick Brand