A former school district superintendent is ready to take a seat at Huntington’s Town Board table.
Former South Huntington school district superintendent David Bennardo was elected as councilman in November. Bennardo, who ran on the Republican ticket, and running mate Sal Ferro, will take the places of current councilmen Ed Smyth (R), who won his bid for town supervisor, and Mark Cuthbertson (D), who ran for Suffolk County legislator and lost. The newly elected councilmen and supervisor will be sworn into office in January.
Bennardo said during campaigning, people would tell him he had a good chance of winning but he didn’t believe it himself.
“I was raised to kind of always believe that you’re an underdog and you hope for the best, so it was a beautiful surprise, and I just am humbled by it,” he said.
The councilman-elect said he and Ferro have been in touch with their Democratic opponents Jennifer Hebert and Joseph Schramm. One of the goals of Bennardo and Ferro during campaigning, as well as Hebert and Schramm, was for a less divisive race, government and town. Bennardo said they have received some good ideas from the two Democrats, and are “trying to keep the relationship alive so we can benefit from each other’s point of view.” Conversations across party lines are something that he believes sharpens and morphs views.
Bennardo said he is looking forward to attending town events and getting out in the community to meet more residents and familiarize himself with their concerns.
“I want to immerse myself in the community — between events and meetings at town halls and anytime I can to meet the constituents — and find out more of the things that are important to them,” Bennardo said.
He added while campaigning he found many wanted “to return to civil conversations and mature government.”
“The first step is to build those relationships across the aisle,” Bennardo said.
He said Ferro agrees with him, and they believe in compromising and listening. Bennardo said he is looking forward to serving Huntington residents along with Ferro. Their goal, he said, is to create a bipartisan team in town government that endures.
Bennardo said he would also like to see a personal touch brought back to Town Hall for the community and that will involve getting to know the staff members.
He said he believes his skill set as a former school superintendent will transfer to town councilman as he always made it a point to get to know those in his school district.
“Your responsibility is to get out there and get to know the people you serve,” he said.
Bennardo added while serving as superintendent of the South Huntington school district and principal at Harborfields High School for nine years, he knew responsiveness was essential, especially in the days of social media where it’s easier for people to communicate with each other.
“There is no place more responsive than school district leadership, because you have to be,” he said. “Your constituents are on your doorstep 45 seconds later, and they always know where to find you. I want to take that same mentality to the town.”