“She’s entitled to us working cooperatively with her,” said Republican Legis. Richard Nicolello, who could be the Nassau Legislature’s next presiding officer, of Democrat Laura Curran, who becomes county executive come January.
Could this be the start of something new — or at least something not seen in Nassau since 2000-2001, when lawmakers, Republican and Democrat alike, concentrated more on governing through a fiscal crisis rather than political backbiting?
Nicolello, of New Hyde Park, was a lawmaker back then. In fact, he’s one of the few still serving on the legislature since it replaced the old board of supervisors in 1996.
But Nicolello is hardly the only Republican or Republican legislator extending a hand toward Curran, a Nassau legislator who has voted with Republicans on occasion.
Legis. Howard Kopel, of Lawrence, told Newsday last week that he was willing to give the Democrat a chance, too. “Obviously there will be differences of opinion on some issues,” the Republican said, “but we need to work together for the good of the county, and hopefully there’s no logjam.”
And then came Monday, when Curran herself took a turn at bipartisanship — and inclusivity — by announcing a transition team chockablock full of business, religious and not-for-profit leaders, along with plentiful Democrats and Republicans.
Among the GOP members is Erin King Sweeney, a Hempstead Town council member and daughter of Rep. Peter King who said she asked to be included on Curran’s transition team.
“She comes to the table as a problem solver with no ego,” King Sweeney said in an email. “I am truly happy to help in whatever small way to advance economic development on the South Shore . . . We all share in her success. It has to work.”
The transition team is charged with recommending to Curran ways to organize Nassau’s government. The team also will collect, review and interview potential candidates for policymaking positions, including deputy county executives and county department heads.
It’s a model that worked for former County Executive Thomas Suozzi, a Democrat who, during the first of his two terms in office, reorganized Nassau’s government into silos, each headed by a deputy county executive who reported to him.
Five transition team members, in fact, once worked for Suozzi as deputy county executives or in other positions, including Anthony Cancellieri, vice chair of South Nassau Communities Hospital, and Helena Williams, a former Long Island Rail Road president.
And while bipartisanship may be in the air, it’s also worth noting that Curran’s transition team is headed by Thomas J. Garry, an attorney who also is a longtime political strategist and first vice chair of Nassau’s Democratic Party.
Still, it’s been a long time since Democrats and Republicans in Nassau tried governing together to address some of the county’s pressing issues, from assessment to finances.
The ongoing fight over whether Nassau should have an inspector general to oversee contracts is one example. Republicans say no; Democrats are refusing to back borrowing for capital projects until the position is approved.
“We cannot go on like this,” Nicolello told Newsday. “These things have to get done.”