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Kevin McCaffrey, Suffolk legislature's expected new leader, hires Nicholas LaLota as top aide

Nicholas LaLota, left, will become chief of staff

Nicholas LaLota, left, will become chief of staff to Suffolk County Legis. Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), right, the expected new legislative presiding officer. Credit: James Escher

Nicholas LaLota, the Republican commissioner of the Suffolk County Board of Elections, said he is stepping down with a year left in his term to serve as a top aide to the new Republican majority in the Suffolk County Legislature.

LaLota will serve as chief of staff to Legis. Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), who is expected to become legislative presiding officer in January after a Republican wave at the ballot box on Nov. 2 flipped control of the legislature from Democrats.

"It’s a huge opportunity," LaLota, 43, of Amityville, said. "I look forward to running a tight ship so that we can deliver the right services at the right price to Suffolk County taxpayers."

"Nick brings a wealth of knowledge and experience administratively," McCaffrey said.

LaLota will replace Lora Gellerstein, who became chief of staff in 2014 when former Legis. DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague) was presiding officer.

McCaffrey, the legislature's minority leader, said he also expects to replace Democratic appointees including legislative counsel Sarah Simpson and chief legislative clerk Amy Ellis.

LaLota is expected to take a pay cut, from $152,906 a year at the elections board, to $140,183 to match Gellerstein's salary.

Deputy GOP elections Commissioner Erin McTiernan, who acted briefly as commissioner last year when LaLota gave himself a leave of absence to run for State Senate, will fill in until party leaders nominate a permanent replacement for LaLota and the county legislature approves the appointment.

McTiernan is a former campaign manager to Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who is running for New York governor next year.

LaLota, a former Amityville Village board member and officer in the U.S. Navy, said the job change could allow him to run for public office again.

In 2020, an appellate court disqualified LaLota's Senate candidacy because of his position at the county elections board.

McCaffrey also has hired as legislative aides Brendan Sweeney, who lost to Suffolk County Legis. Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) in the November election, and Ali Nazir, formerly legislative aide to Legis. Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset).

Both work for Brookhaven Town as citizen advocates.

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