Laura Gillen said the Town of Hempstead has been a one-party affair for too long and wants to demonstrate her commitment to a bipartisan approach.
“I ran against that and I meant what I said,” the Town of Hempstead supervisor elect said. “The best people will be hired regardless of the party they belong to.”
Gillen, the first Democrat to win the position in over 100 years, recently rolled out her transition team – a group composed of members from both parties.
Gillen said she and her team sought out the best talent regardless of political affiliation.
Among Republicans on the team are town Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney and former Floral Park Mayor Thomas Tweedy.
Sweeney and Tweedy both openly supported Gillen’s campaign against incumbent Republican Anthony Santino.
Tweedy said the team isn’t so much a bipartisan effort as it is independent of party affiliation – which he said is in line with the way Gillen operates.
“Gillen is an inquisitive and intelligent woman that seeks out the best tools she can find,” Tweedy said. “This is reflective in the transition team she assembled.”
Gillen wants to do the best job she can for the town by promoting an independent dialogue, Tweedy said. Her ideas don’t speak to a party affiliation, but rather to the future of the Town of Hempstead, Tweedy said.
The team is a “cross section of the Town of Hempstead,” according to Tweedy.
Lead by Gillen’s former colleague John Westerman, managing partner of the law firm Westerman, Ball, Ederer, Miller, Zucker and Sharfstein, the team includes members not only from different parties but also from a wide range of professional and social backgrounds.
In addition to elected officials from villages across the town, Gillen’s transition team has experts with backgrounds in a range of social, religious and civil rights matters.
“She’s looking for the best ideas she can get,” Tweedy said. “Really a sure sign of strength is someone who’s not afraid someone might have a better idea.”
Gillen and her team have their work cut out for them, though.
While Gillen won the long-held Republican supervisor position, her party is still in the minority on the town board. T
hough two Republicans currently serving on the board, Sweeney and Councilman Bruce Blakeman, both openly supported Gillen in her race against Santino.
Despite the clash in party power, Gillen said her bipartisan team is sending the right message from the get-go.
“I hired people that are accomplished and want to deliver the best results,” Gillen said. “It’s going to be a bipartisan effort and that’s the way I envision my administration operating moving forward.”
Earlier this month, Newsday reported that the town board voted to approve 18 personnel matters and entered into nine contracts on Nov. 14, just a day after Gillen wrote to Santino asking him to refrain from doing so. Sweeney abstained from voting on seven of the nine contracts, according to Newsday.
Gillen has not spoken with Supervisor Santino, but said the town attorney has reached out to her and her team. Gillen said she’s optimistic going forward that she and Santino can work together cooperatively for the best interest of the residents.