Nicolello becomes presiding officer of county Legislature

Luke Torrance
The Nassau County Legislature at its first meeting in January. (Photo by Luke Torrance)

An 11-8 vote down party lines in the Nassau County Legislature confirmed what many expected: that longtime legislator Rich Nicolello would become the new presiding officer.

“It’s very exciting, and I’m looking forward to working with all my colleagues,” Nicolello, a Republican from New Hyde Park, said after the meeting.

He defeated Kevan Abrahams, the Democratic minority leader.

Nicolello takes over the position from Norma Gonsalves, who retired when her term expired last year.

Nicolello has served as the legislator for the 9th district, which now snakes south from Manhasset down to Mineola and then west to New Hyde Park, since the county Legislature was established in 1996.

He had previously served as the deputy presiding officer under Gonsalves, a position he had held since 2012.

That position will now be filled by Howard Kopel (R-Lawrence), who previously served as alternate deputy presiding officer.

Denise Ford (D-Long Beach) was appointed by Nicolello to serve as the new alternate deputy presiding officer.

Nicolello said that, as the presiding officer, he wants to cut down on shouting matches that have occasionally overwhelmed the chamber in the past.

“What I want to focus on is getting business done in this chamber,” he said. “I think, the last couple of years especially, we tended to get sidetracked in these lengthy debates that really went around in circles.”

There was no fighting on Friday, as the first meeting under Nicolello was mainly one of housekeeping.

Committee assignments were given out, and those committees briefly discussed any rule changes. Then it was time for a group photo.

Nicolello took time after to have his picture taken with members of the Legislature’s Republican caucus. He said his goal for the county was to cut down on debt.

“Making sure the budget works for 2018, preparing for future budgets and we would like, as soon as possible, to get out from under NIFA oversight… and we will be working with the county executive [Laura Curran] to get that done,” he said.

It was a big day for other members of the Legislature, including Josh Lafazan, an incoming legislator and the youngest member.

After the meeting, Lafazan took time to mill about and talk with some of his fellow legislators.

“Some people see seeking help as a weakness, I see seeking help as a huge strength,” he said. “I’m building a rapport with the more senior members to learn about procedure and rules and institutional knowledge. I’m like a sponge soaking up knowledge and information.”

It has been a quick rise for Lafazan, 23, who spent the last five years on the Syosset school board.

He campaigned on ethics reform, but when asked what he wants the Legislature to focus on, he mentioned the growing opioid crisis.

“My goal is to make my legislative legacy healing the opioid crisis,” he said. “I’m looking to gather a bipartisan coalition of legislators to make Nassau County the most progressive battleground in the fight against heroin and opioids.”

About the author

Luke Torrance

Luke Torrance is a reporter for Blank Slate Media covering the Port Washington area.
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