HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. – A new presiding officer is at the helm of the Suffolk County Legislature. Rob Calarco, legislator for the 7th District, was elected to lead the body in a bipartisan vote of 16-2 at the Legislature’s 51st organizational meeting, held Jan. 2 at the William H. Rogers Legislature Building in Hauppauge.
“It is truly an honor to serve as a legislator, and I am deeply humbled and grateful to my colleagues to be elected by them to serve as Presiding Officer. I am especially thankful for the support of DuWayne Gregory, who has deftly led this body for six years and has been a great partner to me throughout,” said Calarco, who had served as Deputy Presiding Officer since 2016. “I have always touted this body’s ability to work in a bi-partisan fashion to do the people’s business. I am thankful to my Republican colleagues for their support today, as it shows that I am committed to working across the aisle with all of my colleagues to ensure we best serve all of the residents of Suffolk County.”
Calarco, who was also sworn in to serve his fifth two-year term as a legislator, was nominated to serve in the leadership role by former Presiding Officer Gregory, who is leaving the legislature to accept an appointment as a councilman on the Babylon Town Board.
“In my years as Presiding Officer, Rob has been a committed partner in ensuring the interests of all Suffolk County residents are represented fairly and equally, that the rights of all residents are protected, and that the quality of life enjoyed here is preserved,” Gregory said. “I am certain that Suffolk County residents will be in good hands with Rob as Presiding Officer, that his years as Deputy Presiding Officer have laid the foundation for his new role, and that he is the right choice for the job.”
Calarco’s nomination was seconded by Legislator Bridget Fleming, who added, “Legislator Calarco’s leadership as Deputy Presiding Officer and as chair of the Budget and Finance Committee bring the qualities, skills, and understanding we need for Suffolk County to move into the next decade. Also, as chair of the Government Operations Committee, he recognizes the importance of open government and its role in providing for all stakeholders.”
Legislator Kara Hahn, who represents the 5th Legislative District, was elected Deputy Presiding Officer and was also sworn in to serve her fifth two-year term as a legislator. Hahn has been a driving force in the county as the Democratic Caucus’s Majority Leader and chair of the Legislature’s Environment, Planning and Agriculture Committee and the Parks and Recreation Committee. In nominating Hahn, Legislator Susan A. Berland described her as a champion for the environment and a “committed and laudable public servant whose knowledge of her constituency, public policy, and our county is unparalleled.” Legislator Al Krupski seconded the nomination.
“I genuinely love my job as county legislator. We make a difference every day in people’s lives, and I am sincerely honored to work alongside each and every one of you to improve Suffolk County not only in its government services but its environment, its communities, and the daily lives of our constituents,” Hahn said, addressing her colleagues. “Thank you all for your support in my leadership. I look forward to working with all of you in 2020.”
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer gave opening remarks praising the Legislature for its history of innovative thinking and trailblazing legislation. County Executive Steve Bellone, who was recently sworn in for his third term, offered reflections on the past year and visions for the future. Oaths of Office were administered to all legislators for two-year terms.
Legislators also adopted the rules of the legislature and approved the reappointments of Jason Richberg as Clerk to the Legislature, Amy Ellis as Chief Deputy Clerk to the Legislature, and Sarah Simpson as Counsel to the Legislature.
Additionally, Lance Reinheimer returns to the Legislature’s Budget Review Office as its newly appointed director. Prior to his nearly 10 years as executive director of the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, Reinheimer served as assistant director of the Budget Review Office, where he worked for more than 20 years. He replaces longtime director Robert Lipp, who retired last year.
Presiding Officer Calarco plans an ambitious agenda in his new term, for both his district and for the body he will now lead. He plans to take a special focus on the county budget and hopes to get Suffolk County on strong financial footing to prepare for a slowing economy. He said he will continue his efforts to promote openness and transparency in county government. Recognizing the need to increase diversity in county hiring and promote inclusion in Suffolk neighborhoods, the new Presiding Officer plans to raise diversity to a committee level to ensure that everyone has equal access to county employment and fair housing.
“The Suffolk Legislature has a long history as being an innovative and progressive body that has been on the forefront of public policy, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to continue that tradition,” said Presiding Officer Calarco. “During my tenure in office I have promoted an open and transparent government with initiatives like our Open Data Portal and increased oversight of the county’s asset forfeiture fund. That will be my model as Presiding Officer. We have a lot of great opportunities ahead of us that will make Suffolk County more open and accessible to the citizens that we serve.”
Captions for above photos:
Top: Rob Calarco takes the Oath of Office as Presiding Officer, administered by Suffolk County Clerk Judy Pascale. Calarco is joined by his wife, Laura, and three children, Alma Rosa, Patrick, and Bodhi. Bottom: Kara Hahn takes the Oath of Office as Deputy Presiding Officer, administered by Suffolk County Clerk Judy Pascale. She is joined by her husband, Christopher, and two daughters, Karina and Hope.