The Long Island Regional Planning Council on Tuesday voted to hire three staff members, including an executive director — filling a position that has been vacant for more than a year because of lack of funds.
The council voted unanimously to hire Richard Guardino, former Hempstead Town supervisor and current vice president for business development at Hofstra University, as executive director. He has been vice-chair of the council’s board since 2008.
Elizabeth Cole, legislative analyst for state Assemb. Michelle Schimel (D-Port Washington), will become deputy executive director. David Berg, a land-use planner and environmental analyst, will be program manager for the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan, a $5 million state-funded venture that the council is managing along with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Two members of the council’s board were absent for the vote.
The council — a regional planning body that has operated in various forms for more than four decades — has been without an executive director since Cara Longworth resigned for another position in February 2015. It was able to make the hire after it received commitments of $500,000 in operating funds, $250,000 each from Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Guardino will resign from his position at Hofstra, where he has worked since 2003, to become executive director of the council at an annual salary of $178,500.
He said he was interested in several economic and environmental initiatives, including transit-oriented development and an update of the council’s visioning plan for the future of infrastructure on the Island.
“I think this is a critical time in terms of the Island, and I’m very grateful the council has given me the opportunity to come on board,” Guardino said.
“We could not have gotten somebody who is more up to speed with what the council has been doing and the issues facing Long Island,” Chairman John D. Cameron said.
Berg, who retired last year from Cameron Engineering and Associates in Woodbury, will earn $65 per hour in his role overseeing the nitrogen plan, which aims to find ways to tackle the problem of the pollutant in Long Island’s waterways from wastewater and other sources. Cameron is founder and managing partner of the engineering firm.
“The council is the right entity to manage this project along with DEC,” Berg said. “It’s a critically important project as well as one that is going to have far-reaching implications . . . I’m excited.”
Cole, who was traveling on Tuesday, has worked for Schimel since 2010. She will make $82,500 yearly in her new role.
“She’s been involved with any number of issues related to topics we deal with here,” said Michael White, an environmental attorney and council board member. “We look forward to her joining the staff.”
After the votes, Cameron expressed relief.
“So now we’re staffed,” he said. “It’s been a long time since we could say that. I’m a very happy camper, I can tell you that.”