The race to oversee Suffolk County’s largest township pits a pair of candidates with long résumés against each other.
Ed Romaine (R) has been Town of Brookhaven supervisor since a special election in 2012, though his career in public service can be measured in decades. He worked for the town in the 1980s as the commissioner of housing and community development and director of economic development, in addition to two separate terms on the Suffolk County Legislature. His Election Day challenger for supervisor is Democrat Jack Harrington, a practicing Stony Brook attorney and officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve who spent time after law school interning in President Barack Obama’s White House counsel’s office. He also studied counter-terrorism and intelligence in Washington, D.C.
“I think [Brookhaven] has a remarkable amount to offer both in terms of the locality and the environment.”
— Jack Harrington
Harrington, a father of a 3-year-old, who is expecting his second child with wife Sarah, is a graduate of Miller Place High School. This is his first time running for public office. He shed light on his decision to challenge Romaine during a debate at TBR News Media’s Setauket office last month.
“I think [Brookhaven] has a remarkable amount to offer both in terms of the locality and the environment — the beaches and the beauty — and also the intellectual assets,” he said, adding he hopes to have the opportunity to make it easier for young people to establish roots in Brookhaven by utilizing the town’s assets, like Brookhaven National Lab and Stony Brook University, to create good-paying, middle-class jobs with upward mobility. He said it is the town’s responsibility to create that environment.
Romaine, who has long preached his goal of creating a better Brookhaven for the future, lauded accomplishments by the town since he took office in creating a sound financial environment for businesses and residents to flourish. The town has a AAA bond rating and is growing its reserves while maintaining a balanced budget and, for the most part, holding the line on taxes.
“We’re not perfect, but we are poised for great economic development,” Romaine said, citing the work of the town’s Industrial Development Agency, which has created or retained 7,000 jobs and $600 million worth of investment over the last three years, according to Romaine.
Harrington commended Romaine for his role in establishing the town’s stable financial footing, but offered a rebuttal.
“Unfortunately, a AAA bond rating does not get a 23-year-old college graduate a job, and that’s really something I think we can be doing better at,” he said.
“I will, as long as I am supervisor, be color blind to party and instead work with individuals.”
— Ed Romaine
Harrington said if elected, a way he would aim to promote economic development would be to simplify the town’s zoning and permit processes in the hopes of increasing efficiency for those looking to start a business in the town.
“All of the municipalities have very lengthy, convoluted processes with respect to getting through those functions,” he said.
Harrington was also critical of the town’s code enforcement practices, which often result in fines for homeowners looking to do renovations. He commended Romaine for his efforts to stop the practices of “slum lords,” or others who try to subvert building codes to increase profits, but said he wanted to see changes in enforcement to protect homeowners with good intentions.
Romaine defended his reputation as one of the most willing local politicians to reach across party lines, as is evident through his environmental protection initiatives and his recurring endorsements from Sierra Club Long Island.
“I will, as long as I am supervisor, be color blind to party and instead work with individuals,” he said.
The candidates agreed on ways to improve water quality and address environmental issues in the town, as well as the town’s responsibility in responding to heroin and opioid addiction. Both preached an approach that included prevention and education for young people.