After 12 years, Kate Murray is leaving her job as Town of Hempstead supervisor. That leaves the position open to new blood, even if the right candidate is an old hand.
Republican Anthony Santino has been on the town board for 22 years and active in party politics for longer. The East Rockaway resident, 54, clearly knows every inch of the town, Long Island's most populous, and how it works, the ins and outs of its $436 million budget and governing processes. And how to best get things done. He'll need the experience. The town's cash reserves and bond rating have fallen in the past few years, and in a town with little appetite for tax increases, a tight grip on the finances is needed.
He's also well-versed in the political tradition of patronage that has come with more than a century of GOP rule in Hempstead, which is not so good. Santino is a close adviser to Nassau Republican Party chairman Joseph Mondello and is the party's spokesman. He says he will leave that job if elected, but he also must make sure he leaves the "party first" and the "party is always right" thinking behind.
Santino says he will be fair, open, inclusive and see that services are provided to all residents and areas regardless of politics. Certainly, his willingness to talk about building rental housing in communities like Baldwin and his openness to ideas like having a Spanish-language translator at public meetings show he knows the town must change.
Democrat Rita Kestenbaum, 57, of Bellmore, served a term on the town board 15 years ago, and remains a talented watchdog on the budget, the animal shelter and the town's lack of transparency. She is a powerful voice for change, but she does not have Santino's experience.
Newsday endorses Santino.