On a recent Thursday afternoon, County Legislator Debra Mulé was sitting at her desk, working. It had been 100 days since she took office as the 5th District’s representative.
Mulé (pronounced moo-LAY) said she knew she had to continue the work that Laura Curran, the former 5th District legislator, now the county executive, started during her tenure. It was a political journey that she said she had prepared for all her life.
“Right from the get-go, I was very excited,” Mulé said. “You always wonder how things are going to go. It was a new set of circumstances and a new group of people to meet and learn about.”
Mulé was part of a Democratic slate of candidates that made history on Election Day last November. Curran, a Democrat from Baldwin, was elected Nassau’s first female county executive. Laura Gillen, who grew up in Baldwin and now lives in Rockville Centre, became the first Democratic Town of Hempstead supervisor in more than a century, unseating an incombent Republican, Anthony Santino, of East Rockaway.
In the days leading to the swearing-in of the newly elected county legislators on Jan. 6, Mulé spent hours meeting with a number of community leaders and organizations. One of her main goals, she said, was to make sure that she was connecting with people from throughout the district.
“This type of work is something I’m familiar with,” Mulé, who is a social worker, said. “It’s just a question of learning what the departments are, who’s in them, who’s staffing them.”
To stay connected, she takes “field trips,” as she calls them, throughout the district to meet with people in the community and quickly address their needs.
“It’s really amazing what is [here], and Nassau County is bigger than 10 states,” she said. “There is an incredible amount of things that are happening here.”
Since the spring of 2010, the Baldwin business district has come to resemble a walkable downtown, with places to live, shop and dine. Since then, the community has received more than $1 million in state grants to continue the revitalization effort.
“There is a lot going on in Baldwin,” Mulé said, “with a tremendous amount of money and energy being put into Baldwin, which is very exciting.”
Mulé has been working with the Town of Hempstead to coordinate the project. She is also working on the town’s Complete Streets project to alleviate the traffic congestion on Grand Avenue.
“I’ve been focusing on Baldwin because that is the largest part of my district, with Freeport after that,” she said. “But Freeport is a village with a large part of its infrastructure projects handled through the village.”
Though much of her work has kept her in Baldwin, she plans in the next 100 days to address the needs of the other communities in her district. Right now, she said, she is seeking funding to improve Oceanside Park, a waterfront recreational area with fields and courts. She and the county are also working with the Village of Freeport on a Main Street redevelopment project.
One of the first issues that Mulé encountered as a legislator was an incorrect surcharge in residents’ 2018 general tax bills. She said she received a call from Rockville Centre Mayor Francis Murray about it, and then reviewed her own tax bill and immediately called Curran about it. Five villages — Freeport, Garden City, Hempstead, Mineola and Rockville Centre — were improperly taxed for their sewage disposal, with sewer usage taxes rising by as much as 75 percent. Working with Curran, Mulé managed to quickly resolve the issue and make sure that residents were correctly charged.
“It felt so good to take care of something so important to so many people,” she said.
A thorough accounting review determined that a $10 million error, found in the county’s 2017 budget, before Mulé took office, resulted in the overcharges. Residents who paid their taxes in full can now expect refunds for the overcharges, and corrected bills will be issued for people who are expected to pay the second half of their taxes in July.
Mulé said she loves her new post, but she doesn’t appreciate the partisanship that she has seen in the Legislature. “In Freeport, that doesn’t exist,” she said. “We worked together to have the best results possible. We didn’t care if you were a Democrat or Republican. Here it’s very partisan, but I’m going to show them how we do things in Freeport so we can create a good, bipartisan government.”