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Joseph Mondello nominated as ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago

Joseph Mondello, seen on Nov. 8, 2016.

Joseph Mondello, seen on Nov. 8, 2016. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Nassau Republican Chairman Joseph Mondello, an early supporter of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, was nominated by the president on Monday to serve as U.S. ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago.

The White House announced Mondello’s appointment, which must be confirmed by the Senate, in an email, calling him a “prominent New York attorney.”

“What can I say other than I’m thrilled to be considered,” Mondello, 80, said in a phone interview. “Still, I’m never one to count my chickens before they hatch.”

Asked if he expected a challenge getting confirmed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mondello said, “I don’t think so.”

“I don’t see why, I’ve done the best I can in the positions I’ve had in the past 35 years. I feel I’ve worked hard. I think that should count for something,” Mondello said.

Since 1983, Mondello has been the head of the Nassau County Republican Committee, and also served as chairman of the state Republican Party in the mid-2000s. He is the longest-serving county chairman in the state, party officials say.

Asked about likely successors, should he be confirmed, Mondello said he hadn’t had time to “put my thoughts together” on possible replacements.

First Vice Chairman Joseph Cairo is expected to take over leadership of the Nassau party.

A fixture in Nassau County politics, Mondello endorsed Trump in March 2016, a month before New York’s presidential primary, as Trump battled other GOP candidates and as the homegrown candidate faced calls to drop out of the race. Mondello, at the time, told Newsday Trump offered “somewhat of a new, refreshing approach.”

Mondello said the offer to serve as ambassador came up during a conversation with Trump “a year ago.” He couldn’t recall the exact location of their conversation, but believed it occurred during one of Trump’s trips to Long Island.

Mondello said he has never been to the twin Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago, but had spoken to a previous ambassador who held the position a few years ago, who told him “it was really a great position to be in.”

“My job is going to be to help continue the good relationships that exist, to make sure I keep those going and improve upon those relationships, and to try to increase trade,” Mondello said when asked about his expectations for the position.

Mondello, a former Hempstead Town councilman, also served as the town’s presiding supervisor in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He also served as an airman in the New York National Guard from 1955 to 1956, as corporal in the U.S. Army from 1956 to 1958, and in the New York Guard for 25 years, according to a biography released by The White House.

— With Celeste Hadrick.

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