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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Women rise to top elected offices on LI

Nassau County Executive Elect Laura Curran speaks and

Nassau County Executive Elect Laura Curran speaks and relaxes at home and begins to plan her transition into office on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017 in Baldwin. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Come January, for the first time in Long Island’s history, women will become the top elected official in four of the region’s 13 towns — and in one of its two counties.

Michael Dawidziak, a consultant who works mostly for Republican campaigns, said “1992 was supposed to be the Year of the Woman.”

“There was a wave of women elected in federal and state offices and the thought was that ultimately it would impact local offices,” he said. From that perspective, he added, “This has been way, way overdue.”

Laura Curran, a Democrat from Baldwin, will leave the county legislature to become Nassau’s first woman county executive.

“I am not of the school that thinks there are these great differences between temperament or management between men and women,” she said during a recent interview.

“But I guess if there is one difference, I think I bring a level of diplomacy,” she said. “Whether that is because of my gender, or because of demands of the job, I think that is key.”

Laura Jens-Smith, Riverhead’s supervisor-elect, will be the first woman to hold that office in the town, which broke away from Southhold in 1792.

With her swearing in, Jens-Smith also will become one of three women — a first-time gender majority of two Democrats and one Republican — on the town’s five-member board.

“I think that we need to have more involved in politics and in decision making in what goes on in the town, the county, the state,” Jens-Smith said in an interview. “Everything we see is through the eyes of our experience as women, and I think that needs to be represented in government.”

Laura Gillen, Hempstead’s supervisor-elect, will become the second woman — and first Democrat in more than 100 years — to hold the top spot. But unlike her two predecessors — who include Republican Kate Murray, Hempstead’s first woman supervisor — her party will not have a majority on the board of the nation’s most populous town.

“Woman, man, the responsibly is great,” Gillen said. “I think I have an extra responsibility because a lot of people have said to me, ‘You fought hard, you won this race nobody thought you could win and you are a role model.’”

Gillen and Jens-Smith will join Angie Carpenter, Islip’s Republican supervisor, who, in 2015, became the first woman to hold the post since that town’s founding in 1683. As elected officials, women “bring a sense of wanting to solve problems,” Carpenter said. “That is just infused in our very being.”

Judi Bosworth, North Hempstead’s Democratic supervisor, in 2014 became the second woman elected to the post. “My advice is simple and I think it is true whether it is a woman or a man: ‘Stay true to yourself.’”

Long Island’s first woman supervisor was May Newburger, who served North Hempstead from 1994 to 2003. Southampton also has had two women as supervisors. The first — since settlers established a colony in 1640 — was Republican Linda Kabot; her successor, Democrat Anna Throne-Holst, served until 2015.

Asked what professional advice he would offer to Long Island’s largest woman contingent of top elected town and county leaders, Dawidziak had this to offer.

“Live up to your campaign promises,” he said. “Run the government the way you said during the campaign that you would run the government, and you should do very well.”

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