Trish Bergin, after a stunning win on election night, is stepping out of the television studio and into Town Hall.
The former News 12 and "Inside Edition" anchor placed first in a field of four Islip Town Board candidates, outshining her Republican partner, Councilman Steven Flotteron, who nabbed the other seat, and pushing out longtime incumbent Christopher Bodkin, a Democrat whom both sides had expected to win.
"It's a bittersweet change for me to have one door close, another door open," Bergin, 38, of East Islip, said Wednesday, after meeting with Supervisor Phil Nolan, a Democrat, at Town Hall. "I have my research cut out for me."
Bergin, who once made headlines for her relationship with Billy Joel, is now married to a land use attorney and has three sons.
She had no political experience when she began contemplating a run for office last spring. Because her job required her to report objectively on local politics, she had eschewed both major parties and was a registered member of the Independence Party.
But she said she found it difficult to remain neutral on the federal bailouts, chaos in Albany and a local political establishment that she said seemed to have a sense of entitlement.
"I know that probably most reporters at some point feel a certain level of frustration with not being able to have an opinion," she said.
"She was just what I was looking for in a candidate," said Islip Republican Committee chairman Frank Tantone.
Bergin says she knocked on 600 doors and made nearly as many phone calls. At Islip Town Board meetings, she stood and encouraged employees who were protesting scheduled layoffs. And in a blistering attack ad, she called her opponent Jim Morgo sexist.
Morgo, former chief deputy to Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, denied the charge and said she wasn't qualified for the job.
Bergin halted her freelance arrangement with News 12 when she launched her campaign. Her former News 12 colleagues declined to comment on Bergin, citing the need to remain neutral as journalists.
Assemb. Philip Boyle (R-Bay Shore), a friend and adviser on the campaign, said her greatest asset is her intelligence.
"She's a problem solver," he said.