Republican Bruce Blakeman was sworn in Monday as the 10th Nassau County executive, vowing to change the property tax system, step up policing and push back against state mandates.
Blakeman, 66, of Atlantic Beach took the oath of office in a 1 p.m. ceremony — where masks and vaccinations were not required — that drew an estimated 400 attendees to the atrium of the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City. His wife, Segal Blakeman, an attorney, administered the oath.
"Starting today, Nassau is normal again," Blakeman said in his speech. "We have seen the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, but we can no longer be afraid. Yes, we still have challenges, but they are manageable."
He is the county's seventh Republican to hold the executive office after defeating one-term Democrat Laura Curran by 2,150 votes in the November election.
Blakeman, an attorney, businessman and former member of the Hempstead Town Council, takes the reins of Nassau County government two years into a pandemic that has disrupted nearly every facet of life.
Blakeman supports free vaccinations and increased free testing for COVID-19.
But he questions the efficacy of protective masks and refuses to enforce the state's indoor mask mandate during a surge in virus cases.
In his speech, Blakeman pledged to manage the pandemic with the "economic, social and mental health consequences" in mind.
"Government has an important role in giving people options to create a healthier environment," Blakeman said.
"But government should not act in a heavy-handed way by curtailing important constitutional rights, such as the right of patients and their physicians to make health care decisions," he said.
Blakeman also promised to join new county Comptroller Elaine Phillips in investigating the Curran administration's countywide property tax assessment system.
"Keeping county taxes down will be a key priority for my administration," Blakeman said.
Phillips and county Clerk Maureen O'Connell also took their oaths of office Monday.
Republican Anne Donnelly is expected to be sworn in as county district attorney on Wednesday in front of the county's new police academy.
Phillips, 61, a former state senator from Flower Hill who spent 25 years working in finance, is the county's first woman comptroller.
"As your comptroller, I see my role as being the independent protector of our taxpayers," Phillips said.
O'Connell, 70, of East Williston is beginning her fifth term as county clerk.
Former and current lawmakers who attended the inauguration included former Rep. Peter King; former-U.S. Sen. Alfonse D'Amato; Democratic state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli; Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove); Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-Bayport); and Town of Hempstead Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby (D-Uniondale).
In an introductory speech, DiNapoli said Blakeman loves public service.
"Bruce, we want to make sure you succeed because when you succeed we all succeed," DiNapoli said.
All 12 members of the Nassau County Legislature's majority Republican caucus also were present.
Legis. Arnold Drucker (D-Plainview) was the only member of the seven-member minority caucus at the Blakeman inauguration.
"I'm an eternal optimist and I believe that in our heart of hearts we are going to work together," Drucker told Newsday.
Drucker said he was willing to start off "with a blank slate," and attended the inaugural because he believes, "in democracy and an orderly transition of government."
But Drucker said he was, "not pleased that right off the bat that the new county executive is rejecting masking as important and effective."
Blakeman, Nassau's first Jewish county executive, pledged to, "embrace our diversity and respect all of our residents — Black, white, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, South Asian and all religions. "
In line with his campaign platform, Blakeman also said he would work for repeal of the state's 2020 bail reform law, which eliminated cash bail for most misdemeanors and nonviolent crimes.
Blakeman in the 1990s served as the first presiding officer of the Nassau County legislature. He also ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives, New York City mayor and New York State comptroller.
"My vision for Nassau County is for us to become the most exciting and vibrant place to live. Not just in America, but in the world. We will dare to be bold. We will leave no community behind," Blakeman said.