Suffolk County legislator and Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory will step down next month to fill a seat on the Babylon Town Board.
Gregory, 50, said being term-limited largely influenced his decision to take the town board spot, which will mean a slash in salary from $123,270 to $58,443. He was elected in November to his sixth — and final — two-year term. Gregory (D-Copiague) said he was looking at where he could next hold public office, but with no state or countywide positions possibly open for more than two years, he said he’d be “looking for a spot to land.”
“This was an opportunity, and if this door closes I’m not sure when the next opportunity will be,” Gregory said. “It’s like coming home. This is where I first cut my teeth.”
Gregory will assume the seat held by Democratic Councilwoman Jackie Gordon, who said she is resigning from the board on Jan. 3 to focus on her run for Rep. Peter King’s congressional seat.
Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer, who is also Suffolk County Democratic Party chairman, said Thursday that he and Gordon, who was reelected last month to a four-year term on the board, began discussing her possibly stepping down to make the congressional race a priority. Schaffer said he then reached out to Gregory.
“Having someone with his background, experience and leadership ability is going to be a great benefit to the town,” Schaffer said. “It’s almost like we’re getting two people in one.”
Gregory, who has frequently butted heads with Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, started his career in 2000 working in the town for Schaffer, first in constituent relations, and later under Bellone as general services commissioner when Bellone was Babylon town supervisor.
“I thank DuWayne for his years of service to the County and wish him well in his future endeavors,” Bellone said in a statement.
Gregory’s colleagues said they were caught off-guard by the news, only learning of it when Newsday sent out a news alert.
“This has taken them by surprise,” Legis. Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue), the deputy presiding officer, said of his members. “We are all going to just respect his decision and thank him for the years of service he’s given to the county.”
Calarco, the second-ranking Democrat, said the Democratic caucus would convene next week to discuss a succession plan.
Schaffer said that after Gregory resigns on Jan. 15, the Legislature will have to schedule a special election to take place within 90 days. Schaffer said that right now the likely nominee is Jason Richberg, the Legislature’s clerk and Gregory’s former chief of staff.
Democrats have a 10-8 majority in the Legislature.
Suffolk GOP chairman Jesse Garcia said it was too soon to announce a candidate to run for Gregory’s spot, but said the Republican caucus and Suffolk Republican Committee are “prepared to fight and lead an independent Suffolk County Legislature that for too long [has been] the legislative lapdog of the county executive, and the result has been lost jobs, higher taxes, astronomical fees and bond downgrades,” he said.
Legis. Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), a former minority leader, predicted a “free-for-all for the presiding officer spot.”
“We have seen some cracks in the armor there in the Democratic caucus,” McCaffrey said. “You never know what’s going to happen. It is the Suffolk County Legislature.”