When Republican Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano fired 160 political appointees from the previous Democratic administration, he didn't surprise many in the political world.
Ever since Sen. William L. Marcy famously noted in 1828 that "to the victor belongs the spoils" - the spoils being the ability to make political appointments - widespread staffing changes during the transition between administrations have been a fact of political life.
"Sure. This kind of thing goes back to [President] Andrew Jackson's time," said former Long Beach Democratic leader Lawrence Elovich. "The new county executive is entitled to surround himself with people who share his philosophy."
Many in politics understand that a new administration generally brings in its own folks. In fact, former Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi, a Democrat, did the same thing in 2001 when he was elected. He fired more than 140 nonunion employees, many of them high-level administrators who served under former Republican County Executive Thomas Gulotta.
"For [Mangano] to remove Suozzi's people is the natural course of politics," Elovich said. "Suozzi did it when he came in eight years ago. Those people who are being replaced didn't waste tears over the people they replaced. That's life."
Mangano came in Friday and immediately made good on a campaign promise to cut patronage employees. The administration has filled fewer than 100 of those 160 jobs. The rest of the jobs are vacant so far, officials said. "Although we are still a work in progress, Nassau County cannot afford the government of the prior administration," said Mangano spokesman Michael Martino.
"In this instance, part of Mangano's agenda is to reduce the administrative staff - patronage jobs," said Republican Richard Guardino, former Hempstead Town supervisor and now vice president for business development at Hofstra University. "I think that many of those cut positions will not be refilled."
Even when the new leader is of the same party as the outgoing one, there are changes.
Gulotta, a Republican who was county executive for 14 years before being replaced by Suozzi, didn't know how many people he let go, but said he judged all exempt employees on their qualifications. But he added, "Even that, though, can be altered if you have serious budgetary constraints that require you to cut costs."
When Steve Levy became Suffolk County executive in 2004, he replaced fewer than 100 noncivil-service employees, according to his former chief deputy county executive, Paul Sabatino. He said Levy was unable to make changes in the beginning because then former County Executive Robert Gaffney, a Republican, worked with civil service to put many aides into civil service jobs before he left office.
Levy aides said they have no precise numbers of how many Republicans were replaced when Levy came into office. "When we came into office, we never looked for an R or a D, we looked for 'the B and the B' - the best and the brightest," Levy said.
Among Gaffney's top Republican appointees Levy left in place were planning director Thomas Isles; Alan Schneider, head of civil service; Public Works Commissioner Charles Bartha; Consumer Affairs director Charlie Gardiner; and Bruce Blower, director of handicapped services.
With Rick Brand