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Lisa Di Santo

Kevin LaValle, above. File photo by Raymond Janis

In a special election held Tuesday, Jan. 17, Town of Brookhaven Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) was elected as Brookhaven town clerk.

Former Town Clerk Donna Lent (I) retired in November, prompting a special election to complete her unexpired term ending in 2025. An unofficial tally from the Suffolk County Board of Elections indicates LaValle secured victory handily, defeating the Democratic candidate, Lisa Di Santo of East Patchogue. So far, he has received 6,396 votes to Di Santo’s 4,940.

In an exclusive phone interview, LaValle reacted to the election outcome. 

“I’m really excited that the residents of the Town of Brookhaven put their faith in me to run a very critical department,” he said. “I’m excited about the opportunity ahead of me. Once I get sworn in, I look forward to taking on that challenge.” To his opponent, he added, “It was a great race. I wish her the best.”

Upon assuming this townwide position, LaValle will oversee a more than 25-person staff. In the meantime, he said he intends to speak with staff members, get an idea of the day-to-day operations and “start to see the office as a whole and see what we can improve.”

“I think that that’s going to be a little bit of a process to get that all together, but I’m excited to sit down with everybody,” the town clerk-elect said, adding, “It’s going to be a bit of a challenge, but I’m excited for it.”

New state election laws require at least a week for the election results to be certified. LaValle will vacate his seat on the Town Board when he is sworn in as clerk, triggering another special election — this time for his Brookhaven 3rd Council District.

The outgoing councilman pledged to remain active in the eventual transition process. “I think there are some people out there,” he said, referring to prospective candidates. “The leadership of the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, they’re going to have to make the decisions on that.”

He added, “The 3rd District has been my home my whole life. It’s been a great honor to be able to represent it over the last nine years, so I’m certainly going to take a keen interest in who’s going to take over after me and certainly be a helping hand in that transition.”

LaValle could be sworn into office as Brookhaven town clerk as early as Wednesday, Jan. 25. Under town code, the board must set a special election between 60 and 90 days from the opening of the vacancy.

A special election for Brookhaven Town Clerk will take place Tuesday, Jan. 17. Above, Kevin LaValle (left) and Lisa Di Santo, respective nominees for the Republican and Democratic parties. Photos by Raymond Janis

Early voting is underway for the next Brookhaven town clerk, and the two major party candidates are making their pitch to the voters.

Former Town Clerk Donna Lent (I) retired in November, triggering a special election for her unexpired term ending in 2025. Town of Brookhaven Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) and community advocate Lisa Di Santo, the Democratic Party nominee, will square off at the polls Tuesday, Jan. 17.

During a joint meeting of the Selden and Centereach civic associations Thursday, Jan. 5, the two candidates were questioned on a range of topics related to the operations of the Town Clerk’s Office. Civic members generated some of the questions with others fielded from the audience.


Di Santo is a former social studies teacher who taught students about participation in government. She also served as a trustee of the South Country school board in East Patchogue, where she lives. 

“I have always participated in government, and I feel that I can be an independent voice of reason in the Town Clerk’s Office,” she said. “We have many of the same people filling many of the same positions over and over again. … That leads to a bit of stagnation, and I think it’s time for a fresh set of ideas, a fresh set of eyes, on what’s happening in the Town Clerk’s Office.”

Before entering government, LaValle owned a title agency. He then received a loan mortgage originator’s license and has worked in mortgage banking ever since. The councilman worked on the staff of former Suffolk County Legislators Dan Losquadro (R) and Tom Muratore (R). He was elected to serve Brookhaven’s 3rd Council District in 2013 in an area which includes Lake Grove, Centereach, Selden and parts of Lake Ronkonkoma, Farmingville, Port Jeff Station and a piece of Holbrook. 

 “I think I’ve accomplished a great deal as councilman, but I come before you now, again, to say that as town clerk, I am going to bring a new energy,” he said. “I am going to bring a new work ethic to the Town Clerk’s Office that has not been seen before.”

Duties of town clerk

Both candidates were asked about the function of the town clerk. For Di Santo, the clerk must ensure the accurate recording of Town Board meetings and the efficient filing of legal records, among other tasks. She emphasized the significance of the Freedom of Information Law request process.

“One of the most important things has to do with [being] the appeals officer for FOIL requests that come to the town,” she said. “People who live here and pay taxes should be able to access that information.”

The Democratic candidate also said the incoming clerk must assess and modernize the existing technology in the office. “I have spoken with some people who work in the Town Clerk’s Office and told me that their technology is at least 10 years out of date,” she said. “That is something that is certainly personally scary to me.”

LaValle viewed the clerk’s role as threefold, that is to “secure, maintain and distribute vital records of the residents of the Town of Brookhaven.” He referred to the office as a “vital hub,” servicing residents in the best and worst times.

“I believe the efficiency could be improved in the Town Clerk’s Office,” he said. “Cybersecurity, I think that’s something we can take to another level.”

He viewed the clerk as a service provider rather than a policymaker or revenue generator, noting that empowering and providing the staff with the necessary resources will be critical. “As the clerk, the focus will be about making sure the staff has the tools to be able to do their job,” he said.


Addressing the September ransomware attack against the Suffolk County government, LaValle assessed shortcomings within the county’s IT network. He described the need for coordination between departments, recommending the town continues its transition to cloud technologies to avert a similar scenario.

“The cloud is probably the best security that you can have, but we have to stay vigilant and make sure we’re looking at new technologies as we move along to make sure our information stays secure,” the councilman said.

Di Santo concurred that replacing outdated technology will be a priority. She stressed the need to properly oversee the transition to new platforms and work out any technical or logistic challenges that may arise.

“When you have new technology, one of the things that is crucial is to make certain that the staff is comfortable with that technology, that they’re fully trained so that they are able to use that to the best of their ability,” she said.


After conversations with staff members, Di Santo painted a bleak picture of the current situation within the Town Clerk’s Office. “The office is actually understaffed,” she said. “Morale is really not very good in the office. You have a lot of turnover, so it’s very difficult to have the best customer service when you have staff changing and needing to be retrained.”

She reiterated that “a fresh set of eyes” from somebody outside government will help identify areas for improvement and generate potential solutions.

LaValle said he would prefer close collaboration with the Town Board, analyzing any barriers to efficient staff operations. He then stated a desire to fund personnel better.

“I want to be able to go in, take a real good look at what is going on in the office,” he said. “Do we need more employees? Should we pay our employees more?”

He also advanced the need to offer a vision the staff can get behind. “We have to work with the employees and build a team concept,” he said. “I want to make this the best clerk’s office in New York state. Without our employees buying into my leadership and what I want to do, that’s not going to happen.”

Resident access

Both candidates addressed the need to decentralize the office, to move services out of Town Hall and into the various hamlets and villages throughout the township. LaValle introduced a multipronged approach, including attending community meetings and building a more prominent multimedia presence.

“I want to be a town clerk going out to various functions,” he said. “A lot of people here see me in a lot of different events. That’s something I’m going to continue to do because I think the outreach of going out to the public and showing them what the clerk’s office does … is fundamentally important.”

He added, “I want to be able to go out and bring back some transparency — new social media platforms, doing videos on Channel 18 talking about what we can do to help residents.”

Di Santo said she has heard from multiple residents that resident access to public records can be slow. She again centered on requests for public information.

“The town clerk is the final appeals officer for the FOIL law,” she said. “In some cases, those requests get bounced from one department to another and the clock seems to run out.”

She added, “People who are residents, our taxpayers, are asking for information from their town, and in many cases it seems that it is being stonewalled. The town clerk has a responsibility to provide that information.”

Open government

Candidates were asked what the term “open government” means and how they would bring town government closer to the people.

“Open government means giving everyone the opportunity to participate at their fullest,” Di Santo said. “I would, as town clerk, try to appeal to the Town Board members to make many of the meetings much more accessible to the many people in the town who work.”

She also proposed bringing the operations of the Town Clerk’s Office to local libraries and other community forums. “The town clerk [could] go into each and every one of those council districts several times a year, appear at the senior centers and the local libraries to have discussions with people,” she said.

Like Di Santo, LaValle stressed he would maintain an active community presence if elected. “I want to go out, I want to be at senior centers, I want to be at civic meetings, I want to be in chambers of commerce, talking about what the clerk’s office does,” he said. “You have to get out there. You have to be a part of the community.”

Brookhaven residents will decide on these two candidates this Tuesday, Jan. 17. Polls open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., and residents can report to their regular polling place on Election Day.

Special election to be held Tuesday, Jan. 17, following former Town Clerk Donna Lent's retirement

Photo from Di Santo's Facebook page

The following is a press release from the Brookhaven Town Democratic Committee:

The Brookhaven Town Democratic Committee has selected Lisa Di Santo, of East Patchogue, as the party’s candidate for Brookhaven Town Clerk. 

Former Town Clerk Donna Lent (I) vacated her seat earlier this month, triggering a special election to be held Jan. 17. [See story, “Brookhaven’s town clerk retires from public service.“] 

Di Santo was selected unanimously during a telephonic convention of the Suffolk County Democratic Committee on Friday, Nov. 25. 

Di Santo will face off against Town of Brookhaven Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden), the Brookhaven Republican Committee’s nominee.

“To be given the chance to be our next town clerk is nothing short of humbling, and I will give this opportunity nothing less than my very best,” Di Santo said.