Editor's Note: Newsday.com is catching up with former Long Island homecoming kings and queens to have them reflect on being named royalty and see what they're up to now. If you're a former Long Island high school homecoming king or queen and would like to participate, email email@example.com.
Hauppauge High School alum Lisa Broughton, née Mirabella, lost a student government election at the end of her eighth grade year.
But in 1981, she was elected homecoming queen — and later went on to a career in politics.
Since student government didn’t pan out as she’d hoped, Broughton kept busy with plenty of other extra-curriculars and community service. She was a candy striper, a religion teacher and wrote for the school newspaper. She was named editor-in-chief by the time she was a junior.
Homecoming queen, however, was not something she’d thought would end up on her list of accomplishments.
“I really was quiet, I didn’t go to parties, and wasn’t really a big social person,” Broughton said. “I was just involved in a lot of activities at school, so I didn’t expect it to be me.”
The competition for homecoming queen, called Miss Hauppauge, involved an application and interview process, and then a popular vote.
When the big day of the announcement finally arrived, Broughton said she was “genuinely shocked” to hear her name called.
“I couldn’t catch my breath,” she said. “I was really excited and happy, and super surprised and grateful to my fellow students, who didn’t know me that well in ninth grade and didn’t vote me into student government!”
Broughton looks back on those days with whimsy, noting how fortunate she is to have taken something from her youth that she cared deeply about and made it into a lifelong passion.
During her high school years, Broughton opposed the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant. She participated in a rally at her school, where she sported a “No Nukes” shirt and “Question Authority” pin.
“It was a little bit controversial to be against it at the time,” Broughton said. She remembers the adviser of the school’s paper had told her, “You can’t just be against something; you have to be for something and say what you want if you don’t want that.”
That’s when Broughton began to research the effects of renewable energy and got interested in the environment. Her passion for the cause grew, and she wanted to attend the larger protest taking place at Shoreham in 1979, where more than 500 were arrested.
“But being a real nerd and a responsible kid, I gave my parents a heads-up,” she said with a laugh. After she warned them that her peers could get arrested at the event, her parents didn’t allow her to attend.
“I cried and cried that I couldn’t go,” she said.
After high school, Broughton went on to SUNY Albany and landed a job at Newsday’s Albany bureau as a news assistant. She ultimately returned to Long Island, and has been serving as Suffolk County energy director since 2008. She works on clean energy and energy efficiency projects in her role.
When she came back home — she now lives in Hauppauge with her husband, Blair, and their two daughters — she reconnected with her homecoming escort, Tom Kirdahy.
“I see him maybe three times a year,” she said. “It’s a wonderful friendship.”
Broughton feels strongly about young people taking action on the causes they believe in, just as she did.
“When I was concerned about the nuclear plant, I wasn’t going to rely on someone else. I did it,” she said. “Being involved in local government and to get involved in issues that I care about now, environmental issues... Some people sit out and think, ‘That’s important but someone else will do it.’ That someone else is you.”