Port Washington Police District Commissioner Angela Lawlor-Mullins is running for re-election against challenger Michelle Hsiao.
Mullins, who has served as a commissioner in the district since first being elected in 2009, is a retired New York City police detective and a Port Washington resident for 25 years. Before becoming a detective, Mullins said, her experience in the financial sector allowed her to become familiar with budgeting, contract negotiations and obtaining funding from grants.
Hsiao and her family moved to Port Washington in 2015 after she oversaw multimillion-dollar budgets for prominent companies and was the vice president of a privately held department store. Hsiao has also been involved in various community groups, including serving as a fundraising director for the Port Washington Children’s Center’s Parent Teacher Organization and spends time volunteering to the Jewish Community Center in Roslyn, the community coat drive and others.
In terms of the district budget, Hsiao said, the expenses outside of salaries and benefits for employees increased by 52 percent over the past three years, something she will closely analyze to try and protect taxpayers’ wallets. Hsiao said the 52 percent increase is “an unconscionable number” and a “miscarriage of financial management.”
Mullins said about 85 percent of the near $25 million district budget consists of salaries and benefits for officers, leaving roughly 15 percent of funds “to run the department.” She touted her ability to be fiscally conservative in terms of financing equipment, vehicles and anything else the officers need to police effectively.
“I’m known as a conservative person and I look at every detail and every expense in the budget,” Mullins said.
In terms of generating more revenue for the district to make up for increased costs of equipment or other upgrades in expenditures, Hsiao suggested going to villages across the peninsula and try to come to terms on splitting revenue from the more than 10,000 summonses handed out each year by police.
“We’re using the man and woman power to enforce these restrictions, writing tickets, interacting with the citizens, and yet we’re not receiving a single dollar because the revenue is going to where the courts are based,” Hsiao said in a phone interview. “We could share the revenue between the villages and, of course, share the impact of the expense from that.”
The district, Mullins said, uses opportunities for state and federal grants in the form of seat belt checkpoints and other initiatives, while constantly searching for other ways to increase revenue.
Transparency is another aspect of the district that Hsiao said she will look to improve. Increasing web traffic on various social media pages by publicizing officer achievements and keeping residents informed of what is happening throughout the district, she said, is key to having a successful organization.
“If you are not engaging with the community, and understanding what their concerns are, what their input is, or what their ideas are, then you’re operating in a silo and you’re going to have problems,” Hsiao said.
Mullins said the district is “ready and willing to change to communicate better” and is already in the process of talking to a public relations firm that can jump-start its online presence and find better ways to engage with the community.
“There’s always room for improvement,” she said. “Whether it be Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or robocalls in case of a serious emergency. So we’re in the process of reviewing that.”
Both candidates expressed a need to update the district’s headquarters, which have not seen improvements for roughly 60 years, according to Mullins. The district, Mullins said, is currently awaiting the estimated costs for a property to potentially be the new department headquarters and noted the public will have a chance to be heard once estimated costs come in from the appraiser.
Hsiao said she and other officials need to see what the long-term strategy of the district is and the expected growth in officers and general population before making concrete decisions.
“The facility as it stands today is is completely unacceptable for our police force and for our community,” Hsiao said. “We need to really have an understanding of the long-term strategy of the police, district and community and that would include the anticipated growth.”
Mullins said her passion to serve the residents of Port Washington and oversee functions for the police district are two of the main reasons she wants to run for a fifth three-year term. Continuous police reform and enhanced safety measures, she said, are some of the aspects she wants to improve on going forward.
“I feel my job as commissioner is not done,” Mullins said in a phone interview. “I love the community, I have a passion for the job. I’m also committed to police reform and I take community and school safety extremely seriously.”
Mullins said she helped establish a community liaison officer, whose role will be to serve all of the Port Washington residents and gather input on how they feel policing has been handled throughout the district. Holding active shooter drills in classrooms when school is not in session, she said, is another way that the district prides itself on keeping officers alert and familiar with the areas they may be called to if an incident were to ever occur.
Hsiao said she has spoken with people in both parties, from different walks of life and with different views on how the district should be run. Having those conversations and gaining greater insight into what some of the main issues are for residents, she said, has her excited to be in a position to serve the community effectively, if elected.
Residents who cast their vote for her, Hsiao said, can expect creative solutions to problems and having a transparent relationship between police and the people they serve on a daily basis.
“Community members focused on opportunities for thinking outside the box, having a transparent conversation and relationship between the community and the commissioners, and want someone with a real stake in the game, should vote for me,” Hsiao said.
The district election will take place on Tuesday from noon to 9 p.m. at the Polish American Citizens Association, 5 Pulaski Place.