Two North Hempstead town officials who are running for new offices in November, Wayne Wink and Councilwoman Viviana Russell, cited their experience at a candidate meet and greet last Wednesday.
The Lakeville Estates Civic Association in New Hyde Park held the event at the Clinton G. Martin Park Community Room for candidates for Town of North Hempstead supervisor and clerk and for Town Board in the 3rd District. The event was moderated by Steven Blank, editor and publisher of Blank Slate Media.
The candidates for North Hempstead supervisor, Republican candidate Jennifer DeSena and Wink, a Democrat who currently serves as town clerk, each spoke for 20 minutes.
Questions focused around code and violation enforcement. Each candidate agreed more often than not, but each said their backgrounds show voters they can follow through on promises.
Wink cited his five-point plan and experience in the town as a differentiating factor between him and his opponent. His plan calls for improving processes for building permits and applications, and leading a recovery effort for small businesses and downtowns, among other things.
“I think with my experience as a town clerk, county legislator and a Town Board member, I have the experience necessary to make the changes that we both agree need to be doing,” Wink said.
DeSena said that it is hard to believe now is the time these issues, which have been campaigned on multiple times in the past, are going to be changed.
“For years people campaigned on fixing the Building Department, but we have a lot of empty stores on our streets,” she said. “We’ve seen years of patronage hires and some corruption in the past; this is part of the problem.”
The two candidates running for town clerk, Republican Ragini Srivastava and Russell, a Democrat, each got five minutes to speak.
Srivastava, a small-business owner in the retail food industry, said her experience running last year in the state Assembly election for District 16 was a sign of her motivation.
She lost to current Assemblywoman Gina Sillitti with almost 46 percent of the vote.
“I was able to do something,” Srivastava said. “And your support is what motivates me and encourages me to do better, work harder.”
Srivastava said her values include accountability, doing what is right and supporting small businesses.
Russell, who is serving her third term as town councilwoman for the 1st District, recounted her public service from when she was working for the nonprofit National Association of Mothers’ Centers, currently known as Mom-mentum. Russell said she believed it was important to highlight this because it provided experience in advocacy.
“As a result of this work, we were instrumental in pushing for things such as the Fair Pay Act, Family Leave Act,” Russell said. “Which gave many residents the opportunity to be able to take care of their families.”
Russell also said she believes she has adequate experience and context on issues in the town. She said during her time she was instrumental in bringing the town’s 311 call center online.
“I will continue to make sure that we are doing the best that we can,” Russell said. “And we are being the most responsible for our taxpayers dollars.”
Also speaking were Mineola Trustee Dennis Walsh and Democratic candidate Christine Pusateri, a speech language pathologist, who are running for the Town Board in the 3rd District, currently represented by Republican Angelo Ferrara, who is not seeking reelection.
When asked about increasing resident participation in town government, each candidate said the best avenue was either through schools or making town operations more accessible.
“This is my favorite question. I think we can inspire young individuals to learn about local challenges,” Pusateri said. “We have amazing schools in our community, and I want to support those growing up that have any interest in civic duty. Whether it’s volunteering or focusing on identifying that we love our town we can then support people who do so as well.”
Walsh said he believes that implementing what has been done in Mineola and making public hearings and public sessions on TV or online would help. He also said that the council member has to be on the street throughout the district hearing firsthand what people want.
“As a trustee, it’s a part-time job,” Walsh said. “But as a council member, I will make it full time.”
The Lakeville Estates Civic Association will host another “Meet the Candidates Night” on Tuesday, Oct. 19. Present to speak will be candidates for county executive, county comptroller and the Town Board in the 5th District.