Although Michaelle Solages began her first term in the New York State Assembly a month ago, she wanted to do something special for the community that put her there. On Feb. 1, she was sworn in at Elmont’s Dutch Broadway School, where she began her education more than two decades ago.
Solages, 27, was elected to serve the new 22nd Assembly District, which stretches from Bellerose to North Woodmere and includes all of Valley Stream. The Elmont Democrat received two-thirds of the vote as she was chosen to represent an Assembly district that was created from pieces of three other districts.
Last Friday afternoon’s ceremony featured much more fanfare than Solages’s inauguration in Albany at the beginning of January with the other 149 members of the Assembly. This time it was just for her and the community that entrusted her to be its representative.
Among those in attendance were fellow Long Island Assembly members of both parties, area school superintendents, town and village officials and former County Executive Tom Suozzi. All of Dutch Broadway’s fifth- and sixth-grade students, as well as fourth-grade Student Council members, were invited. Filling out the audience were family members, friends and community leaders.
Cheers erupted from the group when Solages finished reciting the oath of office, administered by Judge Michele Woodard of Nassau County Supreme Court.
Solages described the moment as an “amazing time in her life” and thanked the district’s voters. “As an Assembly member, I will continue my hard work representing the people of the 22nd Assembly District,” she said. “I will use the full power of my office and the power of the Assembly to establish equality for all and turn our problems into meaningful policies.”
Solages said that her top priorities would be keeping communities safe and preserving the quality of public education. She explained that if not for her own education — first at Dutch Broadway and later at H. Frank Carey High School — she would not have been standing there as a newly elected official. She vowed to work with her fellow Assembly members to achieve those goals.
Her district includes areas that were formerly represented by Republican Assemblymen Brian Curran and Edward Ra, who two years ago were new to Albany themselves. Both were in attendance last Friday afternoon, and both wished their new colleague good luck.
Curran said he wanted to work with Solages to ensure that Long Island gets its fair share of state aid for school districts. He said that regional interests always trump party politics.
His advice for Solages was to never forget the people who elected her. “Remember that everything starts and ends with the district you represent,” Curran said.
Ra said he had met with Solages a few times since her election to talk about the portions of the 22nd Assembly District that he has ceded to her, including Elmont, North Valley Stream and part of Franklin Square. He said that as an Assembly member, it is important to get to know the communities well and learn about what is important to constituents. “This job gives you a great opportunity to work on the everyday issues,” he said.
Solages isn’t the first member of her family to be elected to public office. In 2011, her older brother, Carrié, won his first term in the Nassau County Legislature. He spoke at the ceremony, congratulating his sister and encouraging the students in the audience. “With an education, you can accomplish anything,” he said. “The sky is the limit.”
Carrié Solages spoke of how important it was for his sister to host this ceremony at her former elementary school, joined by some of the teachers who helped her accomplish so much. “We are here to recognize the fact that, finally, we have one of our own,” he said. “Someone from our own community representing us in Albany, a person who grew up here in this community and knows our needs, a person who can let the Legislature know, in Albany, what is important to us.”
Principal Walter Aksionoff, who has shepherded Dutch Broadway since Solages’s elementary days, said she contacted the school about hosting the ceremony there, and his answer was an enthusiastic yes. “I always believe that our children should see their own,” Aksionoff said, adding that Michaelle and Carrié are “living proof” that students can accomplish their dreams.
Michaelle, a 1997 graduate of the school, will soon head back to Albany, where she might find her next task a little more challenging than multiplication tables or even long division — working to develop her first multi-billion-dollar state budget.