Great Neck Library holds forum for trustee, committee candidates

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Great Neck Library holds forum for trustee, committee candidates
The Great Neck Library will hold its annual election on Oct. 25. (Photos courtesy of the Great Neck Library)

BY JOHN NUGENT

Candidates for the Board of Trustees of the Great Neck Public Library voiced their views on current library issues at a “Meet the Candidates Night” last Thursday.

The meeting, which was conducted in a Q&A format, was moderated by Jane Thomas of the League of Women Voters of Nassau County.

Voters will elect two trustees and two members of the Nominating Committee later this month. Board seats have terms of four years. Nominating Committee positions run for three years.

Kim Schader, a social media content creator, is running as an independent candidate challenging Donald Panetta, a retired financial and sales analyst, for the board seat currently held by Weihua Han, who is retiring from his position. Barry Smith, a hospital physician and instructor of emergency medicine, is seeking re-election to the board. He is opposed by independent candidate Douglas Hwee, who is employed by the Williston Park Department of Public Works.

For the Nominating Committee positions, Kate Berman is being challenged by independent candidate Sara Rivka Khodadaian, a preschool teacher’s assistant, for the seat currently held by William Gens. Josie Pizer, an education consultant, is running unopposed for Francine Ferrante Krupski’s post. Gens and Krupski are also retiring.

Panetta, Smith, Berman and Pizer have been endorsed by the Nominating Committee.

Panetta, Schader and Hwee participated in the event.

The panelists were asked to state their objectives in joining the board. Panetta responded that he wants to make this “the best library on Long Island, not one of the best.”

Hwee said that he will work to “assure fiscal responsibility and better transparency with public and private funds.”

Schader said that she offers “new energy and perspective” to address the next phase of library growth. “I represent the future of the library,” Shader said and added that “the library created a meaningful connection” with the community during the COVID crisis.

Looking forward to the “next phase of growth,” Schader said she seeks to encourage innovative programs that will serve everyone in an increasingly diverse community.

The candidates were asked, “What programs would you want to add to the library’s roster?”

Hwee said he favors expanding the STEM lab and increasing arts and crafts programs for children.

Panetta suggested using the outdoor space for more concerts.

Schader said that the role of the board is not to create library programs. The library staff should focus on that, she said.

A question directed to Panetta asked why he has described himself as the “Library endorsed” candidate for one of the trustee seats when in fact he was endorsed by the five-member Nominating Committee, not by the library as a whole. His opponent, Schader, commented that the “library” endorsement implies that he has the backing of the library staff and the larger community.

Panetta countered, “I am the Nominating Committee endorsed candidate,” and went on to say “the Nominating Committee is a subsection of the library, therefore I assume that the library endorsed me.”

Panetta cited his experience as a financial analyst as his most important qualification for a position on the board.

Smith issued a written statement saying that if re-elected, he, as the most senior member of the board, will seek to be the president.

Smith said he wants to create a better working relationship with the Great Neck schools “to work together to provide our children with the tools needed to be competitive academically.”

Pointing to his service on the board over the past four years, Smith noted his success in meeting the goals of advancing all the capital improvement projects and bringing more children’s books and programs to all branches.

In addition to the slate of candidates, there is a proposal to amend the library by-laws to eliminate the Nominating Committee.

Advocates of this change want to shift the selection of trustee candidates from the panel to the overall community.

Panetta opposes this idea, saying that “it is imperative to have an independent committee to search, interview and nominate members of the community to serve as a trustee.” This is “against every rule of checks and balances” on the board, Panetta said.

The election is scheduled for Oct. 25 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the Main Library and the Parkville Branch.

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