The state's second-biggest village saw a sea change in its government last night when Andrew Hardwick was sworn in as Freeport mayor, becoming the first person of color to lead the waterside community.
Hardwick's running mates for trustee candidates also took the oath: Robert Kennedy, a local business owner, and Carmen Pineyro, a longtime school board member who became the first woman of Latino descent to sit as village trustee.
As Mayor-elect Hardwick entered the hall and the crowd of more than 300 stood to clap, Fran Trani, 73, climbed onto a meeting hall bench and waved a bright yellow poster board reading "Good luck."
"They have an opportunity to make a change in the climate here in Freeport," she said earlier.
Hardwick took the oath of office with his hand on a red-bound Bible that had belonged to his deceased mother, Georgia, and was held by his wife, Cherie.
Hardwick said his administration would push for federal stimulus money beyond the $178,000 that he said has been designated. Stimulus funding is "hanging out and we've got to go get it before it disappears," he said.
His March 18 victory over three-term Republican Mayor Bill Glacken - by 328 votes out of 5,842 cast - was a surprise to many in a village that hasn't elected a Democratic mayor since at least World War II, Nassau County Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs has said.
The two biggest villages in the state are now run by Democratic African-American mayors.
Hempstead Village Mayor Wayne Hall Monday was sworn in for a second term at the head of the state's most populous village, with nearly 50,000 residents, according to Census figures.
Hall can count on a Democratic majority on the board this term, following the re-election of Henry Conyers, Hall's deputy mayor, and the election of Livio A. Rosario. The three were sworn in along with Village Justice Tanya Hobson-Williams at a morning ceremony Monday at Hempstead on the Green, on Fulton Avenue.
According to Census figures, Freeport has more than 41,000 residents - 34.2 percent African-American, 35.9 percent Latino, and 44.2 percent white. (Data do not add up to 100 percent because Latinos may be of any race.)
In Hempstead, 55.1 percent of residents are African-American, 35.8 percent are Latino and 27.9 percent are white, according to Census figures.
Eileen Weaver, on the executive board of Freeport-Roosevelt NAACP, said she was "concerned that we didn't have any African-Americans in significant positions [in Freeport] for years and years except for Renaire," she said, referring to outgoing trustee Renaire Frierson-Davis.
About the election of Freeport's first African-American mayor, she said: "We were surprised and pleased. And we're wishing really the best for him."