The race for Town of Hempstead Clerk is shaping up to one of old school versus new school. In one corner is challenger Kate Murray, a Levittown native who is the former town supervisor, the first woman to hold that high-ranking position and also previously served as town clerk from 2001 to 2003. Facing off against her is Garden City’s Sylvia Cabana, a Democrat who became the first Latin-American woman to hold the town clerk position when she was elected in 2017.
For Murray, who was asked to run for the position by Donald X. Clavin, who is running against current Town Supervisor Laura Gillen, the desire to get back into public service was a feeling that never went away. It had stayed with Murray despite the fact that she landed on her feet at Nassau Community College as a Vice President for Institutional Advancement for almost four years. If reelected, her goals rest on work she’d done while working for the Town of Hempstead.
“In the town clerk’s office, I started three new programs that remain to this day, some of the most successful ones in the office. I started the one-stop passport program. I started the child safety ID program to help create safety and personal profiles with children and their parents. I didn’t create the commuter parking sticker program, but what I did create was the overarching desire to make the town clerk’s office more accessible and convenient for our residents. I’d like to convert that program from a traditional parking sticker and make it an automated plate reader, which means people wouldn’t deal with stickers anymore. It would make it far simpler for our public safety officers, who go around the Long Island Rail Road lots and make sure only town residents are using the spaces,” Murray said. “Another thing I want to do is make the town board go paperless. The calendar, depending on how many contracts are being considered, could be 100 pages with about 50 copies. To reduce our carbon footprint and make it more efficient, I want to go paperless, sending the calendars to media and officials via tablets and phones. It would be more convenient for residents to click on an item of interest on our calendar. Right now, it’s an archaic PDF scenario. I want to have a real-time tracker to monitor FOIL requests, so people can see the status of their request for whatever documents they’re looking for. Also, I’d like for all forms to be available online.”
While Cabana is a relative newcomer to politics, she’s taken quickly to her responsibilities since winning in the heavily GOP district. She feels particularly strongly about making her fellow Garden City residents aware of the services available to them from the Town of Hempstead.
“Garden City is an incorporated village and we didn’t really deal with the Town of Hempstead. But there are a lot of good services that the town provides. Since I’m from Garden City, I want to bring as many things to the village and its residents [as I can]. One of the best things that I’ve done is that the Garden City Public Library is now certified by the U.S. State Department as a passport acceptance facility,” she explained. “The first time we did it, we used this mobile RV unit the town has and that didn’t work well. It was raining and only one family at a time could get processed. We needed to do it inside, so I looked into it and was able to get the Garden City Public Library certified. We did have one passport day there and it was great. It was really well attended and people thanked me a lot for doing it. We’re going to be bringing it back there again.”
Other ways Cabana has used her office to help benefit her neighbors was by setting up a Senior ID program at the Senior Center, where retirees can apply for a free identification card that contains medical information including blood type. Not unlike Murray, Cabana is also looking to continue modernizing local town government services.
“My goals have been transparency, accessibility and modernization. If you walk around this office, there are a lot of typewriters—things need to be more computerized. We got credit card readers installed, because people like to be able to pay certain fees with their cards. Because we have a credit card reader, we created a program where people can apply online and they can pay for parking permits, licenses and all other clerk services by credit card,” she said. “As town clerk I have made significant improvements for the convenience and efficiency of the town clerk’s office. FOILS can now be requested online instead of requiring residents to wait in person at town hall. I have instituted Fast Forward Fridays allowing veterans and seniors to access clerk’s services with no wait time. We’re trying to digitize and scan more of our files. There’s a program called Novus Agenda, which a lot of municipalities use. Our getting it would be a huge step towards modernizing things.”
Voters will get to decide on the Town of Hempstead’s next town clerk on Tuesday, Nov. 5.
—Joseph Wolkin contributed to this story