Stellato defeats Nachmanoff in park commissioner race

Stellato defeats Nachmanoff in park commissioner race
Tina Stellato and her husband Rob Villegas stayed at Great Neck House past midnight to hear the final results and shake hands with supporters. Stellato won 700 - 490. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Tina Stellato defeated incumbent Dan Nachmanoff 700 to 490 in the Great Neck Park Commissioner race on Tuesday night, becoming the first woman since Ruth Tamarin resigned in 2014 to be elected to the Board of Commissioners.

Stellato, a 17-year employee of the Great Neck Park District and member of the E.M. Baker Elementary School PTO, said that while it was late — after midnight, once the race was called — she was happy with the results and promised to improve the district.

“I’m hoping to make the park sistrict better for everybody,” Stellato said, adding that her first priority would be to improve the morale of district employees, get more people involved and create residential committees for areas like Camp Parkwood, the playgrounds and the pool.

Stellato had campaigned on promises to stand up for children, implement more programs and bring the voice of a young mother onto an otherwise male-dominated board.

Initially, Neil Leiberman, who has ran in many races for commissioner in the past — including one where he said he lost by one vote — said he was considering running again. But, Leiberman said in two separate interviews, he felt Stellato was a strong candidate and threw his support behind her campaign.

“We needed a woman on the board, but a qualified woman,” Leiberman said on election night at Great Neck House.

Jean Pierce and other poll workers had to check absentee ballots with documented signatures to ensure each of the hundreds of absentee ballots were legitimate. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)
Jean Pierce and other poll workers had to check absentee ballots with documented signatures to ensure each of the hundreds of absentee ballots were legitimate. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Election results read off by poll workers on Tuesday night suggested that Stellato held a distinctive edge when it came to absentee ballots, which each had to delivered to Great Neck House and checked.

Of the 308 absentee ballots counted, Stellato got 240 of them, they said, while Nachmanoff received 68.

Stellato said her campaign “had definitely focused on absentees initially” because other winning candidates had also sought absentee voters.

Nachmanoff had emphasized his experience as a mayor, head of the Great Neck Village Officials Association, working under then-County Executive Tom Suozzi as a director of intergovernmental relations and his two terms serving with the Great Neck Park District during the campaign.

Nachmanoff said he wasn’t surprised with the results, but he was feeling “okay,” proud of his service and looking forward to spending more time with his wife, Gloria.

“I’m proud of the six years I did here,” Nachmanoff said. “I think I’ve done a good job and the people have spoken. I congratulated her and I hope they’ll have a good relationship.”

Issues of employee morale, responsiveness to residents and the amount of program geared towards children both with and without special needs arose during the campaign.

Additionally, questions were also raised about whether or not Stellato, whose husband currently has a contract to oversee tennis throughout the Great Neck Park District, faced conflicts of interest.

Stellato has repeatedly said she would recuse herself from any park district matters related to her husband.

The responsibilities of the Great Neck Park District Board of Commissioners include setting district policy, approving budgets, projects and contracts, overseeing park business and responding to concerns of residents.

The Great Neck Park District’s purview stretches into six villages: the Village of Great Neck, Great Neck Plaza, Kings Point, Kensington, Thomaston and Russell Gardens.

Stellato’s three-year term will begin Jan. 1, 2018.

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