Jon Kaiman, Democratic candidate for North Hempstead Town supervisor.

Jon Kaiman, Democratic candidate for North Hempstead Town supervisor. Credit: James Escher

Find out the candidates Newsday's editorial board selected on your ballot: newsday.com/opinion/endorsements2023

North Hempstead residents have the choice between giving freshman incumbent Jennifer S. DeSena another term to grasp the reins of town government or returning to office Jon Kaiman, who ran the town for 10 years.

DeSena, who is not a registered Republican but runs on the party's line, broke through three decades of Democratic control of the Nassau County town amid a strong backlash in 2021 to Albany's changes to criminal justice laws.

DeSena, 54, has not increased town taxes in two successive budgets, instead drawing down on town reserve funds, and says she has delivered on her promise to repave more roads. The Manhasset attorney cites improved transparency by putting town meetings, previously only viewable online, on a public access cable channel. She contends that Democrats who currently control the town board made her tenure difficult by holding closed meetings with town commissioners and setting agendas to which she was not privy. 

Kaiman, 61, did not seek reelection as supervisor in 2013, and since then has served as chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority and as an administrator of the state's relief program after Superstorm Sandy. He is currently a deputy to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. He says that those 10 years of administrative experience have given him new insights on how to run the town as well as some "humility." In the past, Kaiman's drive for innovation and improvement of services sometimes ran ahead of building the community consensus needed for success. 

In his earlier tenure, Kaiman established the town's 311 program and created a better transportation service for older residents to help them age in place. Kaiman said he would review town code and projects for their environmental impact such as making sure building codes protect homeowners from the dangers of flooding. Kaiman said he would work with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on infrastructure improvements to allow expanded service on the Port Washington line. And he is critical of DeSena's budgeting strategy, saying a few dollars in tax relief now puts the town in a precarious position if there is an economic downturn.

Newcomers to elected office do need time to understand the governing process, and Democrats who currently control the town board by one seat clearly have made DeSena's tenure difficult. But she doesn't seem willing or able to work on bridging the partisan divide to move the town forward. North Hempstead did not have a comptroller for about 16 months and the person hired in April resigned five months later. Other personnel disputes seem to have paralyzed town hall. 

There is little doubt that Kaiman can jump-start the town to address its challenges, especially with his skills to engage state and federal partners.

Newsday endorses Kaiman.

ENDORSEMENTS ARE DETERMINED solely by the Newsday editorial board, a team of opinion journalists focused on issues of public policy and governance. Newsday’s news division has no role in this process.

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