By Kevin Redding
Huntington Town Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) is determined to serve her community no matter what. After the lifelong Huntington resident was diagnosed with breast cancer in Jan. 2016 — the beginning of her second year on the board — she spent the better part of nine months in and out of the doctor’s office, undergoing chemotherapy, radiation and surgeries. Yet she didn’t miss a single board meeting.
“I came in with my hat, I was bald, but I was there because the residents elected me to do a job — I’m efficient,” Edwards, who is now cancer-free, said with a smile.
That efficiency, along with a list of initiatives to better her community, has put the restless 55-year-old on track for town supervisor.
On Monday, May 1, Edwards sat down for an interview, at Panera Bread on Main Street in Huntington, to discuss her achievements so far on the town board, her upbringing, and campaign for supervisor. Born in Huntington Hospital and raised by a narcotics detective, her father, and a civil activist, her mother, Edwards married her high school sweetheart at 17. She and her husband live in Dix Hills and have three children, and two grandchildren.
Edwards was elected to the town board in 2014, after serving 10 years on the Elwood board of education. She previously served on the board of directors of the Long Island Association and worked for 37 years at Verizon, starting as an operator and climbing the ladder to regional president of network operations.
As councilwoman, Edwards worked alongside fellow councilwoman Susan Berland (D) to expand affordable housing legislation for millennials and first-time home buyers to more easily live downtown and has been a strong advocate for youth-oriented programs that tackle drug awareness, encouraging the town’s partnerships with its school districts and churches to confront Long Island’s heroin and opioid epidemic.
She led the rewriting of the town’s ethics code to make it more transparent for residents. “The residents are our customers and the more I can do to bring government to the people the better it is for a more open government,” she said. She and the board are currently working on a resolution to modify registrations for bow hunting, which has long been a safety concern among residents in Asharoken and Eaton’s Neck.
She also spearheaded the creation of the Huntington Opportunity Resource Center, a program that offers assistance with resume preparation, job searches, exploration of career options and access to job training for unemployed and underemployed residents, many of whom are veterans.
“Tracey has always made the veterans feel like we’re an important part of the community and she’s been a great supporter of us,” Bob Santo, commander of Greenlawn American Legion Post 1244, said in a phone interview. “She’s very honest and straightforward and immediately welcoming. Most recently, HORC organized a special veterans service day where dozens gather to welcome veterans and provide information and social services to them…it’s all due to her leadership.”
If elected supervisor, Edwards said she wants to complete revitalization efforts started in Huntington Station, which includes the construction of veteran’s housing, art space, stores, sidewalks and a parking garage, while working with law enforcement to stamp out crime.
“Huntington Station is the entrance into the village and we need to make sure there is a look and feel all the way down on New York Avenue,” she said. “I saw what Huntington Station used to be with businesses along New York Avenue that were thriving. Unfortunately, that turned into parking lots. Paved parking lots for commuter parking is not what our community is all about.”
She said she also wants to continue to hold the line on taxes under the town’s cap, building on the foundation of financial stability laid by current Supervisor Frank Petrone (D).
Moving forward, she hopes to expand the town’s environmental initiatives, focusing specifically on solar and sustainability. She’s a lead sponsor on the county’s Focused Clean Water resolution that bans formaldehyde in marine water tanks.
Alissa Taff, a civic leader in Melville, said although her group can’t endorse candidates, she appreciates Edwards’ support in voting against a recent proposal to build a HomeGoods on a vacant special groundwater protection area on Route 110. The vote wound up 3-2 in favor of the application, with Petrone and other board members giving the go-ahead.
“She voted not in line with her party but in line with what’s right for the community and the wishes of our civic association,” Taff said. “[In doing so], she showed great concern for the environment and what will become a very high traffic area, and protection of park land. We admire her for that.”
Edwards graduated from Elwood-John Glenn High School in 1978 at just 16, doubling up on the essential courses and eliminating the rest so she could more quickly begin her career — she initially had her heart set on joining the police force but her father steered her away from that idea. She quickly got a job at New York Telephone, which later became Verizon, and felt at home.
But she said she feels most at home helping the people of Huntington.
“When people call me and say ‘I hate to bother you with this…’ I’m very quick to tell them, ‘listen, I work for you…when you’re calling me, don’t apologize. That’s what I’m supposed to be doing, working on your behalf,’” she said. “This town is important to me and I want to make sure I do everything I can for it.”