HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. – The Suffolk County Legislature welcomed a new lawmaker, Nicholas Caracappa, to its ranks and Rob Calarco and Kara Hahn were reelected to their leadership posts at the legislative body’s 52nd organizational meeting on on January 4, 2021.
Calarco, the legislator for the 7th District, was reelected to lead the body for a second year as Presiding Officer in a bipartisan vote.
“I wish to thank my colleagues for continuing to put their confidence in me to lead this body,” said Calarco. “This past year has certainly been a challenging one from many perspectives, but I am very proud of the work we have done to come together and help lead the county through this crisis. It is that ability to put everything aside and act as one that, to me, is the hallmark of Suffolk County government. It is about putting residents first and is a reason I am so proud to be a part of this body. Important projects await us in the coming year, and we will confront the challenges of 2021 the same way we did in 2020 – in a bipartisan fashion with a shared commitment to cooperation and finding common ground.”
Calarco, who is in the middle of his fifth two-year term as a legislator, was nominated to serve in the leadership role by Legislator Al Krupski with a second from Legislator Samuel Gonzalez.
“2020 was not what anyone expected. Everything changed, including how we conducted government, and the challenges the Presiding Officer faced were unforeseen,” Legislator Krupski said. “Rob Calarco showed an ability to work with everyone and serve the residents, and he provided us with the leadership necessary to keep Suffolk County government working. We all benefitted from his leadership in 2020, and Suffolk County will be well served by having him in that capacity again in 2021.”
Legislator Kara Hahn, who represents the 5th Legislative District, was reelected Deputy Presiding Officer in a bipartisan vote. She is also in her fifth two-year term as a legislator. In nominating Hahn, Legislator Sarah Anker described her as an effective lawmaker and leader, an advocate for women and children, and a protector of Suffolk County’s environment and drinking water.
“I am extremely humbled to be reelected by my colleagues as Deputy Presiding Officer of the Legislature,” Hahn said. “I have been honored to serve in this role, and I look forward to working together to continue the good work we are doing here in Suffolk County government. I am proud to be a part of the leadership team of this very active legislative body. We work across the aisle to get things done to protect the vulnerable, protect our environment and improve people’s lives. Looking ahead, 2021 will once again be a tough year, but with a vaccine there is now a light at the end of the tunnel. We will focus our efforts on halting the spread of COVID-19, helping those in need, conquering our financial challenges, and getting through this pandemic with as little heartache and pain as possible. There is hope on the horizon, and I know we will come back stronger than ever.”
The new legislator for the Fourth Legislative District, Nicholas Caracappa, was administered a ceremonial oath of office after winning a special election in November to complete the term of the late Tom Muratore.
Legislator Caracappa, a lifelong resident of Selden, was a 34-year employee of the Suffolk County Water Authority. He was president of the Utility Workers’ Union of America, AFL-CIO Local-393 for 14 years and previously served as a member of the union’s national executive board. He also served as a Middle Country Central School District board of education trustee for seven years and volunteered at Ground Zero. Caracappa said he is honored to continue the work of his legislative predecessors, which include his mother, the late Rose Caracappa, after whom the legislature’s Hauppauge auditorium is named.
Legislators also approved the reappointments of Amy Ellis as Clerk to the Legislature, Dan DuBois as Chief Deputy Clerk to the Legislature and Sarah Simpson as Counsel to the Legislature. Legislators adopted the rules of the legislature and a schedule for meetings, designated depositories and official county newspapers, and laid bills on the table.
In his remarks, Presiding Officer Calarco reflected on the challenges of 2020 and pointed to legislative progress on diversity and inclusion, open space and farmland preservation, and updates to the county’s wastewater code. He recognized the work of the legislature to tackle the county’s pandemic-induced fiscal challenges by dramatically reducing the county’s bonding and taking the responsible approach of allowing for a 2021 budget that acknowledges the changed economic landscape. He also thanked the County Executive for his leadership in steering Suffolk County through the pandemic’s first wave and now, the second.
In 2021, Presiding Officer Calarco said, local leaders will work with federal and state partners to avert some of the cuts made to the Suffolk County budget. He looks forward to building out sewers in Patchogue, the Mastic Peninsula, Deer Park, Smithtown and Kings Park, which will help protect Suffolk County’s water and provide an economic boost to downtowns. Looking forward, the legislature’s special committee investigating the death of young Thomas Valva will continue its inquiry and offer recommendations to address any systemic issues that are identified, and the legislature’s Fair Housing Task Force will present its report with suggestions for preventing housing discrimination. Additionally, the legislature will soon be presented with a plan to reinvent policing in Suffolk County, as required by an Executive Order from Governor Cuomo.
“The men and women of our law enforcement agencies work hard every day to do their jobs professionally and with a commitment to protecting all the residents of Suffolk County; yet, we also know whole portions of our population fear the presence of police in their community, making officers’ jobs far more difficult,” Presiding Officer Calarco said. “We must put politics aside to ensure the plan addresses the root of those fears and builds on the initiatives already underway to establish trust and confidence between our police and the communities they protect.”
The Presiding Officer emphasized his dedication to fostering shared and collaborative governance with open lines of communication across the aisle.
“In a time of hyper-partisanship at other levels of government, most of the measures passed by the Suffolk County Legislature in 2020 did so on bipartisan and often unanimous votes,” Presiding Officer Calarco said. “This cooperation and commitment to common ground, both within this body as well as with the administration, is how we will meet the challenges of 2021. And I, for one, look forward to the day we can all return to the horseshoe.”