Angel Cepeda

Angel Cepeda Credit: James Escher

The Huntington Town Board has replaced the director of the town's Community Development Agency.

Leah Jefferson, who was appointed in February 2018, has been replaced by Angel Cepeda. Cepeda was most recently a part-time special assistant to the supervisor of the Town of Oyster Bay, handling community outreach, according to town documents. He also served as a volunteer on the campaign of recently elected town board member Sal Ferro.

Town Supervisor Ed Smyth, who had been critical of the agency while he was a town board member, said it was time to bring in someone with "fresh" ideas.

“This is a chance to have a new look at how the department operates and I think Angel Cepeda will do a great job at that,” he said.

Cepeda, 61, of Plainview, twice ran unsuccessfully for the Nassau County legislature.

He is also the founder and president of Blue Mountain Consulting Group Inc., which advises nonprofit organizations.

His appointment was approved by a vote of 4 to 1 in a resolution sponsored by town board member Dave Bennardo at the March 15 board meeting.

Board member Joan Cergol, who held the CDA director job for five years before Jefferson, said she wishes Cepeda the best. But she opposed the appointment because she said Cepeda lacks the necessary technical expertise in housing and understanding of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.   

“I do have some concerns about someone coming into a position such as the director of the CDA without the housing expertise and expertise in public authorities and other areas that he is going to be confronted with,” she said.

Cepeda was the only candidate considered, town officials said. He will be paid $115,000 annually, the same as Jefferson.

The CDA’s mission is to serve the needs of low- to moderate-income residents through programs and services funded by HUD and other sources. The agency also manages the town’s rented and owned affordable housing and the lotteries related to such housing. Its board is made up of town board members.

Ferro said he did not sponsor the resolution because of the appearance of appointing someone who had just served on his campaign committee and that Bennardo offered to sponsor the resolution.

He said he respectfully disagreed with Cergol, calling Cepeda a natural for the job given his connections with the community.

But he said if there are issues there will be consequences.

“What I’m going to be looking for is results,” Ferro said. “My expectations are that Angel will deliver and if he doesn’t, well then we’ll have to get someone who does.”

Jefferson said she was informed in February she was going to be fired but submitted her resignation before that action. She has returned to working for the Town of Brookhaven in the same job she held before leaving for Huntington, deputy commissioner of Housing and Community Development.

“It’s obvious that this new administration doesn’t have any understanding of what a Community Development Agency does and how it’s regulated by HUD and that there is no room for fresh ideas,” she said.

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