For the first time since 1986, an East End representative to the Suffolk County Legislature holds a leadership position among his peers, with Montauk-based legislator Jay Schneiderman being elected deputy presiding officer last Thursday, January 2.
As the current longest-standing member of the legislature in his sixth and final term, Mr. Schneiderman was elected unanimously to the position by the body’s majority caucus, which holds 12 of the 18 seats. The majority caucus has 10 Democratic members, one Working Families Party representative, and one Independence Party member—Mr. Schneiderman—so the choice wasn’t without some surprise.
“To be picked by my colleagues is a great feeling. It’s tough when you’re from the East End,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “I represent three whole towns and a little piece of Brookhaven, and a lot of these other guys just represent a part of Brookhaven.”
Mr. Schneiderman is the first Independence Party member to hold a leadership position at the county level, and the East End has not seen a leadership role since the days of Jamesport’s Gregory Blass being elected presiding officer in 1986.
Noting the significance of this shift, Mr. Schneiderman called the County Legislature’s choice interesting, saying, “The power is definitely slanted to the west. It’s 16 western legislators to two …”
Some duties of the presiding officers include chairing all meetings of the legislature, preserving order during discussions and votes, and determining when to recess meetings. In addition, they establish various legislative committees to address key areas of concern.
With his newly minted leadership title, Mr. Schneiderman said he plans to work on islandwide issues such as mental health, poverty, public transportation and would like to remedy current fiscal issues facing the county through the budget.
Mr. Schneiderman also said he plans to move forward with projects of local import, such as improving water quality and reducing the increasing incidences of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses.
“I would like to thank my colleagues for this great opportunity,” said Mr. Schneiderman. “I look forward to working with Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory and the county executive toward a proactive agenda and to be a strong voice for Suffolk County.”