Winning a school board seat, writing a book and giving a TED talk are no longer accomplishments reserved for a cohort of elders. At 18, Oyster Bay resident Joshua Lafazan became the youngest elected official in New York state when he was voted onto the Syosset Board of Education with 82 percent of the vote in May 2012. He was re-elected in 2015.
Now, at age 23, Lafazan has announced his campaign for the Nassau County Legislative District 18 seat. His announcement took place on June 8 in front of a bronze statue of Theodore Roosevelt in Triangle Park in Oyster Bay. Lafazan said that he and TR have a lot in common. Both of them lived in Oyster Bay, were Harvard graduates and campaigned for public office at age 23.
Before his involvement in the school board, Lafazan founded Safe Ride Syosset, a community outreach program that aimed to prevent drunken driving in the area. In 2012, he and more than 40 program volunteers gave rides to more than 350 students. “It gave me the confidence to know that as young people, we do have an ability to make an impact in the community,” he said.
His passion for millennial involvement and protection is evident in his campaign pledges. “The youngest legislator is 38,” he said. “My entire generation lacks a voice.”
Lafazan is a member of the board of directors of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence; a member of the Nassau County Heroin Prevention Task Force, the Long Island Youth Safety Coalition and the Nassau County Youth Board; and the state co-director of the Young Elected Officials Network.
“I’m tired of seeing my generation leave in droves,” Lafazan said of the decline in the population of young adults on Long Island. “It’s imperative that we build affordable housing, dedicated specifically for recent college graduates.” He added that discounted Long Island Rail Road passes and building appealing downtowns are also essential to attract young professionals.
Lafazan is also campaigning on a plan to take on the heroin epidemic. “Many of my friends from high school and college now find themselves becoming addicted to heroin and opioids,” he said. “I’ve dedicated a significant portion of my adult life to bringing the millennial voice into the talk about addiction, and I won’t stop until we win this fight.”
The candidate has the support of some current legislators. “Josh is a unique legislative candidate,” said District 1 Legislator Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead). “He offers both the government experience to the job as well as a fresh perspective that can offer new ideas that will protect taxpayers and inspire residents.”
“Our campaign is about tackling corruption,” Lafazan said. “We need to work with Nassau Interim Finance Authority, as opposed to blaming NIFA for all our shortcomings.” He also said he plans to put pressure on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to repeal the county guaranty.
After receiving an associate’s degree at Nassau Community College, Lafazan earned a degree in industrial and labor relations from the Cornell University ILR School in 2016, and just finished his master’s degree in education policy and management at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
He said he is most looking forward to getting out and meeting his potential constituents. “My favorite part of campaigning is meeting voters and hearing their stories,” he said. “There is nothing more important than knocking on their doors and hearing their solutions to change.”
Lafazan will challenge incumbent Republican Donald MacKenzie for the 18th District seat. Asked how he felt about running against so young an opponent, Mackenzie said, “I look forward to a campaign on my record of holding the line on taxes, improving county ethics and reducing crime.”