An open letter to Nassau County Executive-Elect Laura Curran:
Come New Year’s Day, you’ll be the boss. The Big Kahuna of Nassau, one of the largest and wealthiest and most prestigious suburban counties in the nation.
You’ve been a newspaper reporter. And a county lawmaker. But never an executive. And that inexperience is going to work against you — which is why you want to surround yourself with the most experienced, most talented staff possible to proffer expertise and advice as you come up to speed.
And then there’s the question of politics.
Which we’ll get to early because, to be frank, several folks seem to be worried about who will be running the show: You, or Jay Jacobs, chairman of the Nassau Democratic Party.
Jacobs, in a recent interview, scoffed at the notion, saying that while your political campaign site now includes a link to upload résumés, your transition team will screen candidates for government posts. And then pass them along to you — for a final decision by you, and you alone.
Still, there are optics to be dealt with.
For one, Jacobs served as a master of ceremonies after Election Day, introducing (most of) the Democrats who had been elected. Usually, the political chairman does that on election night — and leaves what comes next to the elected officials.
Then came the appointment of Jacobs’ political second-in-command as chair of your transition team; and then there were comments by Jacobs — in an interview last week — that the party intended to be fair in hiring.
Well, it’s not the party’s job to be fair in hiring for county positions; it’s the county’s — and, more specifically, yours.
The last time Democrats had the top spot was in 2002, when County Executive Thomas Suozzi started the first of two terms. Suozzi was a micromanager, who loved deep dives into the minutiae of governing as Glen Cove mayor and Nassau executive.
Even some Republicans agree that Suozzi’s first term was picture perfect. He reorganized government, put systems into place, settled in and governed. And it’s just as essential that you do the same, even when that means drawing a line in the sand between government and politics.
The last Nassau lawmaker to win the top spot was outgoing Republican County Executive Edward Mangano. But he also (like Suozzi) had the governing advantage of a same-party-majority legislature. Not so for you.
Republicans maintain the legislative majority. And although Joshua Lafazan — a registered blank, who, at 23, will become Nassau’s youngest-ever lawmaker — will caucus with Democrats, he intends to remain open to working with either party. “I value my independence,” he said Friday. “I think it will make me effective as a legislator.”
In short, Lafazan’s neither a sure vote, or voice, for Democrats.
Meanwhile, how’s the fence mending with Democratic lawmakers going? You got tossed out of the caucus (for a time) for giving Republicans a necessary vote on borrowing.
But you’re the county executive now. A Democrat who, because of that show of independence, also has a relationship with Republican lawmakers.
That’s rare for Nassau, but it’s a start.
Your challenge — in the few weeks left before you assume office — is to talk to as many successful, veteran government executives as possible. And to build a staff experienced enough to govern as deputies, commissioners and advisers.
It’s all on you, County Executive-elect Laura Curran.
And, trust me, Nassau residents will be watching.