Olena Nicks has been service-oriented since she was a teenager educating her peers through Planned Parenthood. During high school she continued helping her community of Uniondale by joining the fire department, rising through ranks to become the first woman captain of the Manor Company for a term.
Now, she’s setting her sights on the Town of Hempstead supervisor seat to expand her outreach by addressing the township’s housing crisis, water quality and making it easier for small businesses to launch.
Nicks, a lifelong Uniondale resident, is running as a Democrat on the Working Families Party line. She’s challenging Republican incumbent Don Clavin on the ballot in the upcoming town elections Nov. 7.
Clavin has been the Town of Hempstead supervisor since November 2019. He was elected to this position in 2019 and is currently serving his second term. Before becoming supervisor of the largest township in New York, Clavin served as the receiver of taxes for the town for nearly two decades.
The Town of Hempstead is the largest among the three towns in Nassau County, encompassing North Hempstead, Oyster Bay, Hempstead and 22 incorporated villages. The combined population of these areas reached 793,409 as of the 2020 census, establishing Hempstead as the most populous town in the state.
“From the moment I graduated high school, and even really before then, I started a lot of work within the community because all around me there was much work that needed to be done,” said Nicks.
As a teenager, she began her mission to help her community early on. “At 14, I started working at Planned Parenthood as a teen advocate,” she said, where she provided education to help prevent and lower teen pregnancies and STD rates in the area. Uniondale High School was an abstinence-only practicing school.
After high school, Nicks joined the Uniondale Fire Department, where she was the first woman captain of Manor Company 3, after serving in multiple positions over a 12-year span. “So, a huge accomplishment to, of course, breaking the glass ceiling,” she said about her journey that started as a secretary.
Nicks did not run for captain again to focus on the upcoming town elections and holds the title of ex-captain. She also said it is a tradition in Uniondale that after serving as captain, the individual makes room for more junior members.
She also is a trustee on the Uniondale Public Library Board of Trustees, where she finished her first term and was elected into her second term late last year.
In 2021, Nicks ran for Hempstead town clerk, but lost to incumbent Kate Murray.
Other than public service, Nicks has financial analytical expertise in the public and private sectors and has overseen budgets exceeding $70 million. She pursued her undergraduate studies at CUNY Baruch, earning a bachelor’s degree in business operations, and subsequently attained an MBA from American University.
Nicks is passionate about addressing the housing crunch on Long Island and is actively involved in numerous civic associations, including the Uniondale Land Trust, which focuses on bringing affordable housing to those on Long Island.
“The term affordable housing has been weaponized,” she said. “It has been used to have some underlying tones, negative tones to it and, you know, working with a land trust, when we say affordable, what’s affordable to you and what’s affordable to me are two very different things. But what we do know is that affordability all around on Long Island, especially when it comes to housing, is out of control,” she said.
Nicks said she sympathizes with the struggles millennials face and future generations will encounter when buying homes despite working full time. “Millennials and the generations that are coming after me, and even those before me, are having such a hard time buying a house,” she said, despite working 40 hours a week or more.
Addressing quality-of-life and environmental issues is also part of her key goals. Nicks cited concerns like gas-powered leaf blowers and ensuring access to drinkable water for residents. She believes using the platform of America’s largest township can work to her advantage in achieving these objectives.
Fostering a business-friendly environment that removes some of the barriers to opening like numerous permits is another aspect of her campaign.
“We want to explore different models of business and be open to those ideas, because that’s really what’s going to support each community throughout. And that’s OK, every community is different.” she explained.
Beyond her current candidacy, Nicks has engaged in policy and lobbying work. She has been actively involved in the policy committee in the Uniondale School District.
As a young candidate without prior elected experience, she remains undeterred.
“I think being young is certainly a challenge and not being in a prior elected role. That is certainly something people are going to be apprehensive about,” she acknowledged.