Majority Republican Nassau lawmakers Friday are expected to select Legis. Richard Nicolello of New Hyde Park, a founding member of the county’s legislature, as their next presiding officer.
Nicolello, 57, who has served as deputy presiding officer since 2012, would succeed Norma Gonsalves, a Republican from East Meadow, as head of the 19-member legislature. Gonsalves did not seek re-election in November.
“If you look at my history, and I’ve been doing this a while, I have a record of getting this done,” Nicolello said in an interview.
“My focus is on getting the work done for the taxpayer and the people of this county,” he said.
Republicans hold an 11-8 advantage over Democrats in the legislature.
Nicolello said he hoped to work with new County Executive Laura Curran, a former Democratic legislator from Baldwin, to address the county’s opioid crisis, fix its property assessment system, hold the line on property taxes and end the control period imposed by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state monitoring board.
“We need to manage the budget so residents get the services they need with the least possible impact on their wallets,” he said.
In a statement, Curran said she has “tremendous respect for Presiding Officer Nicolello and I’m confident we will work together for the benefit of every Nassau resident.”
All 19 members of the legislature will be sworn into office Friday at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City. Nicolello will take the gavel officially when the legislature holds its first meeting of 2018 Friday afternoon.
Legis. Howard Kopel (R-Lawrence), who will serve as deputy presiding officer, said Nicolello has the temperament to control the legislative chamber, where partisan shouting matches and disruptions sometimes break out.
“Rich is very experienced, talented and capable,” said Kopel, who has represented Nassau’s 7th District since 2009. “He’s a very even-tempered guy who will do a wonderful job of controlling the chamber.”
Nicolello was elected to his 12th term in Nassau’s 9th Legislative District last year and serves as chairman of the Finance Committee and vice chairman of the Rules Committee.
Nicolello serves as of counsel to Uniondale law firm of Congdon, Flaherty, O’Callaghan, Reid, Donlon, Travis & Fishlinger, of Uniondale, and heads the firm’s insurance coverage group. He is a former counsel to the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park School Board and a graduate of St. John’s University and Fordham Law School.
As presiding officer, Nicolello would earn a salary of $103,000.
Nassau lawmakers, who work part-time, voted unanimously in 2015 to boost their pay from $39,500 a year, in effect since the legislature’s inception, to $75,000 effective this month. As presiding officer, Nicolello would receive an additional $28,000 stipend.
Democratic Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said he expects to have a positive working relationship with Nicolello.
Abrahams called Nicolello “a longtime respected colleague of the Democratic caucus. As one of the original members of the Nassau Legislature, he will be ready to lead on day one.”
Abrahams will continue as minority leader. He receives a $24,000 annual stipend in addition to his salary.
Hometown: New Hyde Park
Education/career: Bachelor’s degree in government and politics from St. John’s University, 1982; degree from Fordham Law School in 1985. Of counsel to Uniondale law firm of Congdon, Flaherty, O’Callaghan, Reid, Donlon, Travis & Fishlinger, where he heads the insurance coverage group
Family: Married with two children