Jennifer DeSena, the Republican candidate for Town of North Hempstead supervisor, said she wants to build coalitions if elected Nov. 2.
The Manhasset resident, who is executive director of the Manhasset Community Coalition Against Substance Abuse (CASA), said she believes her experiences suit her perfectly for a role she says involves a lot of uniting.
“As far as bringing people together, you need to have an active role in planning, attracting new businesses and energizing the community.” DeSena said in an interview with Blank Slate Media. “I’ve been a coalition builder… As supervisor, I want to promote a common good together.”
DeSena is running against Town Clerk Wayne Wink, a Democrat. The current supervisor, Judi Bosworth, is not seeking re-election after taking office in 2014.
DeSena, a former SEC enforcement attorney, said she thinks one of the most pressing issues is the town Building Department. She acknowledged that not all residents feel this way, since incorporated villages have their own means of working with their municipalities. However, Manhasset and others require more customer service, she said.
“The Town of North Hempstead has 31 villages, so if you live in a village you get pretty good attention,” DeSena said. “if you need a permit to renovate your bathroom or if you have a question, you can get a response from the mayor, your local trustees. For the unincorporated neighborhoods, we sometimes feel like we’re not being heard.”
DeSena said she has spoken with Oyster Bay’s building commissioner and Smithtown’s supervisor to gather insight on possible solutions. Possibilities are combining both zoning and code review for applicant accessibility, and reasonably interpreting the town code.
The town has long had a AAA rating from Moody’s Investors Service, in a large part thanks to the commercial tax base. However, long delays for businesses and residents increase the chances of them going elsewhere.
“If we don’t attract businesses, that just means more taxes for the residents to bear and eventually people will leave,” DeSena said. “A lot of money has had to be spent on COVID recovery, and people are just worried that they’re not going to be able to keep paying higher taxes. If people leave, we just can’t pay for our schools anymore.”
Another aspect of possibly generating revenue for municipalities is the Dec. 31 deadline to opt out of retail marijuana sales. North Hempstead currently has a cannabis task force, moderated by her opponent Wink, which is gathering views from the public at town meetings.
DeSena said she believes, for a number of reasons, allowing retail sales of marijuana is unnecessary.
“There’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation where you say, ‘we’re going to sell marijuana so that we can make money to treat people who are addicted.’ I would rather people not get addicted in the first place,” DeSena said. “The philosophy is for every dollar spent on prevention, you save $27 in treatment, lost economic opportunity, incarceration, or car accidents, for example.”
When residents walk into the voting booths on Nov. 2, DeSena said she wants to stand out as the outsider who is going to build towards results.
“I feel like I’m the person who would be a good, responsive supervisor and also unite people,” DeSena said. “I don’t come from a political background. I think people trust me for that. They know I’m not doing this for party loyalty, I’m doing this for the community.”
A recording of DeSena’s interview can be found on The Island Now’s YouTube channel.