Manorhaven resident Gina Sillitti will serve as the Democratic nominee for 16th State Assembly District being vacated by Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso (D-Port Washington), the Nassau County Democratic Party said Monday.
D’Urso, 80, whose district includes Great Neck, Port Washington, Manhasset, Roslyn Heights, North Hills, Flower Hill, Lake Success, Baxter Estates, Manorhaven and Sands Point, had announced last month that he would retire after two terms.
Sillitti, 41, who has worked in town and county government for the past 20 years, was announced as the nominee at the Nassau County Democratic Committee Convention on Feb. 11, where the party selected candidates to run on all levels for 2020.
Her career in politics began in the Nassau County Legislature in the early 2000s, working for former Nassau County Legislator Dave Mejias, representing parts of Plainview and Farmingdale, among other areas.
“We were a Democratic official in a Republican area, and it was there I learned the value of constituent service,” Sillitti said. “Our constituents came first, and I worked for them.”
Sillitti later worked in the Department of Community Services for the Town of North Hempstead, where she organized “constituent-based” community events. She later worked directly for Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman as his director of legislator affairs and deputy chief of staff.
“I worked with the town board members on resolutions for the public agenda, vetting items, and was the primary point of contact for town’s lobbying in Washington and Albany,” Sillitti said. “It was a good position to learn all the little details and what it takes to run an official, smart government.”
In 2015, after five years with North Hempstead, Sillitti was recruited as human resources director for the Nassau County Board of Elections, where she says she has spent the past five years implementing new policies and procedures.
“When you’re an HR person, you really get to know the people you work with, and the coworkers become like family,” Sillitti said.
Upon hearing of D’Urso’s retirement, Sillitti said she thought about trying for the nomination.
“When I heard Tony was retiring, I spoke to my family and my husband, and I said, ‘I’m interested in doing this, I think I could do a good job,’ Sillitti said. “So I contacted some leadership in the party.”
After a screening before 20 leaders in the party, Sillitti was announced as the nominee last week.
“She earned the nomination through hard work and years of commitment to the community,” state and county Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs told Blank Slate Media. “She will be great.”
“I have Jay Jacobs’ support and (town Democratic Chair) John Ryan’s support, and Judi Bosworth did my nomination at the convention. It was so kind,” Sillitti said.
Sillitti says her mission will be advocating for “Long Island and Long Island values.”
“I want to be able to stay here and it’s hard, as everyone knows,” Sillitti said.
She added that increasing state funding to schools would be a paramount issue.
“We get 12 percent of funding, but we have 18 percent of students,” Sillitti said. “I’m also interested in getting more money for roads and municipalities. Every dollar I can deliver from the state is a dollar less that schools and villages need from the property tax.”
Sillitti also counts caring for the Long Island Sound and the bays, as well as protecting drinking water, as “a priority for me.”
In the way of constituent services, Sillitti wants to hold town hall meetings and regularly meet with community leaders.
“It will be a full-time job,” Sillitti said. “And I want my constituents and community leaders to hold me accountable.”
Raised in Mount Sinai and parts of Florida, Sillitti attended the University of Georgia, majoring in political science, and moved to Manorhaven eight years ago. Her husband, Kevin Clemency, is a native of the Manhasset-Port Washington area.
While she says that the seat has some “big shoes to fill,” Silletti says she’s “very humbled by the fact that I was chosen to run.”
“I want the constituents to know my face and know I’m a person they can count on, even if we don’t agree,” Sillitti said. “I think that’s one of the most important things we can ask of our elected officials.”