Encouraging more firsts

Encouraging more firsts

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Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) made history by nominating a woman to serve as police commissioner, and we’re hoping a path is being paved for others.

Bellone nominated Northport native Geraldine Hart, who if approved by the Suffolk County Legislature, would be the first female police commissioner in the county’s history.

At a Feb. 22 press conference, the county executive said that gender didn’t play a factor in his selection, but he did go on to tell a story about how he told his two young daughters what he was going to do, embracing the significance of the moment. He said the pair had huge smiles on their faces, as did our editorial staff, a majority of whom are women.

“We were making calls … it was late … and Molly called me, who is 8 years old, asked me where I was, and she was able to get on the phone with Gerry, and it was really a great moment,” Bellone said. “I could tell how happy she was, even through the phone, as she was congratulating her on being nominated for this position.”

Hart has impressive experience for any law enforcement agent. She has spent 21 years of her career with the FBI, and most recently served as senior supervisory resident agent in charge of the FBI’s Long Island office. She has done it all, from investigating white-collar and cyber crimes to gang violence and terrorism. One of her investigations led to the indictment of two former NYPD detectives who were eventually convicted of committing murder and disclosing sensitive law enforcement information to mob bosses. She was also involved in investigations that resulted in the takedown of five members from the Genovese, Colombo and Bonanno organized crime families who were charged with murder.

Women in a position of authority in Suffolk County is a trend we would like to see continue. We can’t help but be optimistic when we hear stories like Laura Curran (D) being voted Nassau’s and Long
Island’s first female county executive, and Laura Jens-Smith (D) being voted in as Riverhead’s first female town supervisor this past election. We hope to see a day in Suffolk when journalists will be covering its first female leader.

Today’s women have confidence in their knowledge and ability to take on these roles and be models for future generations, which was the case with Danielle Turner, who took over as Port Jefferson School District’s athletic director in 2016. In an interview with TBR News Media, Turner credited Lisa Lally and Deb Ferry, Miller Place and Port Jefferson’s former longtime athletic directors, for paving the way for females in the position. She also said the two were supporters of her ambitions.

Hart’s nomination is also a second first for the county in recent months. Earlier this year, Suffolk Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. (D) became Long Island’s first African-American elected official in a nonjudicial countywide position. In recent years, the county saw the first person of color be elected as presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature when, in 2014, Legislator DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) was named to the position.

Sometimes being the first can be intimidating, but when a person has the experience and talent as backup, anything is possible. We hope to see more firsts in the near future, especially for people in power, because in 2018 there are still plenty of glass ceilings waiting to be broken.