By Harry To
Suffolk County Republicans have endorsed Stephanie Bontempi, a fifth-grade teacher at The Green Vale School in Old Brookville and chairperson of Town of Huntington’s Beautification Advisory Council, in the race against Democrat Mark Cuthbertson for Suffolk County legislator in the 18th district. The election will take place in November.
A first-time candidate, Bontempi said that she has “always been into local politics,” but hasn’t been able to run for office due to her duties as a parent. Now, her kids have grown up and become independent, giving her an opportunity to run for office.
“I’m running on a campaign of quality of life for all of us to have a good quality of life on Long Island,” Bontempi said in a phone interview.
She emphasized the fact that Long Island has become increasingly expensive while wages have remained stagnant, a problem that’s forcing lifelong residents of the county to reconsider where they call home.
This, she said, has forced her son to move to North Carolina for affordable housing. Now she fears her daughters may be forced out next.
“I have two daughters,” she said. “I don’t want them to leave just because they can’t afford to be here.”
Bontempi believes the management of the Suffolk County budget is one of the main culprits of the rise in living expenses.
“Something needs to be done about the mismanagement of finances in Suffolk County,” she said. “That’s really why I’m running. We need to evaluate the process. We need to scrutinize how funds are being allocated. As it stands, we keep borrowing and borrowing.”
However, Bontempi said she couldn’t provide specifics as to what was being overfunded and what could be cut from the budget.
“If you ask me exactly what I’m going to do, I won’t really be able to answer that because I’ve never done this before,” she said. “There’s no transparency. It’s not until I’m there that I can really answer that question.”
In regard to her lack of political experience, compared to Cuthbertson, who is a longtime Huntington Town Board member, Bontempi said that anybody who has done a job for a while will have a history of experience.
“I’ve been teaching for a long time,” she said. “I’ve taught hundreds of children how to do fractions and percentages, and about ancient civilizations because I’ve done it for so long. If you’ve done something for a while, of course you’ll have a lot of achievements.”
In talking about her personal life, Bontempi spoke of her upbringing in Europe and her journey immigrating to the United States.
“I was born in Sweden to a Swedish dad and French-Italian mom, so I spent most of my time between Sweden and France,” she said. “I’m trilingual, and I’ve got a heavy accent that is kind of a mishmash of it all.”
Bontempi originally received her schooling in Europe but ended up coming to the United States before finishing her education.
“I got an opportunity to go to school in America and was very excited. Land of opportunity, right?” she said. “So, I came for my last year at Hartford University in Connecticut and graduated with a bachelor’s in business.”
Bontempi said she was granted American citizenship in 2003.
After a period of being a stay-at-home mother, Bontempi decided to change careers.
“I worked in telecommunications consulting for a little while, then I had kids and stayed home for a few years,” she said. “Then I tried real estate but that wasn’t for me, so I went back to school and got my graduate degree in elementary education.”