New Brookhaven board members vow bipartisan approach

Valerie Cartright, a Democrat and civil rights attorney Valerie Cartright, a Democrat and civil rights attorney from Port Jefferson Station, and Kevin LaValle, a Centereach Republican from a prominent political family, each pledged in recent interviews to take a bipartisan approach when they join the town board.

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Brookhaven's incoming council members followed different routes to Town Hall, but they plan to take similar paths after they are sworn into their new posts Tuesday.

Kevin LaValle, a Centereach Republican from a prominent political family, and Valerie Cartright, a Democrat and civil rights attorney from Port Jefferson Station, each pledged in recent interviews to take a bipartisan approach when they join the town board.

"You're always going to have someone who doesn't agree with you, and that's OK," said Cartright, 38, who will represent Brookhaven's 1st District, including Stony Brook and Port Jefferson. "You just have to respect someone's opinion and find common ground to reach an amicable decision."

LaValle, 36, whose 3rd District includes Centereach and Selden, said he planned to follow the example of Republican Supervisor Edward P. Romaine, a former county legislator.

"He's been able to work . . . in a legislature where it was a 12-6 majority for the Democrats," said LaValle, whose family includes his brother, Suffolk GOP chairman John Jay LaValle, and a cousin, state Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson). "A good idea is a good idea. It doesn't matter what party it comes from."

A Republican and Conservative coalition will hold at least five of the town board's seven seats; the 4th District race between Democratic incumbent Connie Kepert and Republican challenger Michael A. Loguercio Jr. is unresolved.

LaValle and Cartright said their top priority will be to serve constituents.

Cartright, who is believed to be Brookhaven's first African-American town board member, said she plans to address what she called a "disconnect" between residents and officials.

"I think the complaint that the community's voice is not heard is not a unique complaint just to minorities," she said. "I think it's important that we find a way to bridge the gap."

Hempstead attorney Frederick K. Brewington, who hired Cartright in 2007, described her as a "tenacious" litigator who would leave a "chasm" if she left his firm. Cartright said she has not decided whether to resign.

"She's shown her compassion and her ability to understand complex factual and legal issues," Brewington said. "As Long Island grows into its diversity, her contribution will be only a positive."

LaValle said his brother and cousin have taught him "to work hard for the residents. . . . The best advice is to keep your eyes and ears open and do things the best you can."

John Jay LaValle, 46, a former Brookhaven supervisor, said his brother is "a good listener and a hard worker."

"The real trick to being a well-rounded council member is that you become the arbiter of all these local issues that are going on," he said. "You can tell people 'no' as long as it's for a good reason."

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