Suffolk County lawmakers have named a new leader of their legislative body for the first time in six years.
The county legislature voted Thursday to make Legislator Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) the Democrat-led chamber’s new presiding officer after his predecessor, Legislator DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville), stepped down to take a role on the Babylon Town Board.
“Being the presiding officer is not an easy task,” Calarco said after the vote confirming his appointment. “I have a lot of respect for how hard it is to manage this position.”
With six years at the helm of the 18-member body, Gregory is the second-longest serving presiding officer in the county’s history. The late former Presiding Officer William Lindsay served longest with eight years.
“Leaving the Suffolk County Legislature will be bittersweet,” Gregory said upon handing over the reins to Calarco.
Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) took over Calarco’s title as deputy presiding officer when Calarco was promoted.
In a show of bipartisanship, Legislator Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore), who leads the legislature’s Republican minority, voted to support Calarco.
But Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) warned that the legislature needs to focus on correcting its financial troubles after it was ranked the most fiscally stressed county in New York State.
“We should take a hard look at the reality of whats going on in this county,” Trotta said. “We’re not doing the right thing.”
Calarco said that fixing the fiscal mess is among his priorities, which include working to mitigate sea-level rise, drinking water contamination, economic development, diversity, and keeping young people from moving away.
To those who think he doesn’t push back enough, Calarco said while he prefers to find solutions to problems before they blow up, he won’t back down, if tested.
“I will push back against unnecessary partisanship, which I don’t expect to have,” he said.