Great Neck resident Mazi Melesa Pilip touted the importance of helping revitalize downtown business districts and reflected on her unique journey to a seat in the Nassau County Legislature during an interview with Blank Slate Media.
Pilip, who ran on the Republican line, defeated Democratic incumbent Ellen Birnbaum in the race to represent the county’s 10 Legislative District, which covers Manhasset, Manhasset Hills, North Hills, Searington, Herricks and the nine villages on the Great Neck peninsula. A variety of shopping districts that were impacted by the coronavirus pandemic are spread throughout the district, something Pilip said she wants to prioritize fixing.
“I want to help small businesses affected by COVID and want to work with the mayors throughout my district to find ways to attract new businesses,” Pilip said. “I’m willing to start to explore all the options to help revitalize downtowns throughout my district.”
Pilip touted the work of elected officials who have already done work to promote businesses on a local level and various residents throughout the Great Neck community. She also said she wants to speak more with Destination: Great Neck, a grassroots organization which shares her goal of highlighting small businesses on the peninsula.
“My goal is really to bring everybody to the table and conduct monthly meetings with mayors and representatives from each village,” she said. “The bottom line is that this is an issue that is bothering all of us. It’s concerning to everyone and I think the most important thing is to come together and explore the best ways to handle this.”
Another issue that Pilip wants to address more as county legislator is the rise in antisemitic attacks and acts of hatred that have occurred on a local and global scale. Pilip said engaging in dialogue with rabbis, church leaders, college experts and youth group representatives is imperative to combat the problem.
“These acts of hatred have to stop throughout the county and especially in the 10th District,” Pilip said. “We have to do everything possible to unite this community. It’s a big mission for me.”
Unlike the route of an average elected official, Pilip’s story began in Ethiopia, where she was born, before moving to Israel with her family 12 years later as part of Operation Solomon, a secret operation arranged by the United States and Israel during a cease-fire in the Ethiopian civil war.
Going from a third world country to Israel, she said, was a bit challenging at first but the hard work it took for her, and others, to succeed was well worth it. She served in the Israel Defense Forces as a paratrooper and gunsmith before attending Haifa University, where she served as acting chairperson of the National Ethiopian Israeli Students Organization.
She was then thrust into an executive master’s program in diplomacy and security at Tel Aviv University before an internship with the United Nations, an experience, she said, that was crucial to gain insight on governmental procedure.
In Israel, she met her husband, Adalbert, a cardiologist, before moving to the United States. Along with her involvement in various organizations that promote Israel to Jewish and non-Jewish communities, Pilip serves as the director of operations at New York Comprehensive Medical Care. She also previously served as a member of the Village of Great Neck’s Architectural Review Board.
While Pilip was running, she was pregnant with twins, something that, she said, was a bit hard at times, but rewarding in so many ways.
“When you have a clear vision, there is no shortcut and you have to work very hard to get what you want,” Pilip said. “It was a great experience though. I went to a lot of backyard meetings and engaged with voters on social media to keep them updated on what I wanted to bring to the table.”
Pilip thanked Birnbaum for serving the district for nearly a decade and said she wants her constituents to know that she is open to ideas and that uniting the district will be one of her main goals as a legislator.