The Town of Hempstead Board appointed Dennis Dunne, who has served northern parts of Wantagh and Seaford as a county legislator for two decades, to fill longtime Councilman Gary Hudes’s seat on June 6.
Hudes, a Levittown Republican who owns a business in Bellmore and sat on the board for more than 15 years, announced his plans to resign in March. Dunne, a 67-year-old Levittown native, stepped down as a Nassau lawmaker on June 5 to take Hudes’s seat.
Dunne said he wanted to join the town board because Santino and the board — which he described as a fiscally responsible, wonderful team — impressed him. He said that he is looking forward to serving the communities that he is familiar with through his work on the County Legislature — Levittown, Wantagh, Seaford and East Meadow — in a different way, while meeting the needs of his new constituents in north Merrick and Bellmore.
“Places like Wantagh and Seaford are terrific,” Dunne said. “I’m not new in the area, so I know their problems, their concerns about parks and potholes and so many things. The level of government that is closest to the people is the town, and I’m excited to be responsible for quality-of-life matters for my neighbors and friends.”
With an election for the seat in November, however, Dunne’s Democratic opponent spoke out against the appointment. Sue Moller protested outside of town hall with other Democrats before the town board meeting, calling the move a “back room deal” that will allow Dunne, a Republican, to run as an incumbent.
“[Republicans] aren’t giving their constituents a fair shot at electing people,” Moller said on Tuesday. “It’s just … the top trying to push their agenda, shuffling people around … Now he can run as an incumbent against me while Gary just retires and moves on his way. It’s definitely not fair.”
Mike Deery, the town’s director of communications, said that state law allows the town board to appoint a councilmember to fill the vacant town council seat for the unexpired term. He said it does not provide the town board the option of calling a special election. “It would be irresponsible to leave the residents of the 6th Councilmanic District without representation for six months,” Deery said.
Councilman Bruce Blakeman nominated Dunne for Hudes’s former seat. Erin King Sweeney, who serves central and south Wantagh and Seaford, seconded his motion.
King Sweeney said that she has known Dunne for years, describing him as a fixture of the local area. She said that Dunne’s knowledge of the county’s inner workings would be an asset to the board, which works with Nassau lawmakers on various projects.
“I am such a big fan of Dennis Dunne,” King Sweeney said. “He is a well-known person who all of the community can call upon. It’s always great to bring new blood on the board and take a fresh look at things.”
Supervisor Anthony Santino agreed that Dunne brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the board. He also said that Dunne shares his dedication to cutting governmental costs and “doing more with less.”
“He is accountable and responsive to the constituents he has served during his tenure in the County Legislature,” Santino said, “and he will bring the same strong work ethic to his new position on the Hempstead Town board.”
Dunne has sat on the County Legislature since its inception in 1996. He served as chairman of the Public Safety Committee, vice chair of the Veterans & Senior Affairs, and the Planning, Development and the Environment Committees, and a member on the Minority Affairs and Rules Committees.
Dunne, a Division Avenue High School alumnus, is also the former director of the Nassau County Veterans Agency and served with the U.S. Marines in the Vietnam War. He said that he is a member of every veteran or civic organization in Levittown, noting that attending community events and sports games has allowed him to understand the area.
“It’s just because I love people,” Dunne said of his community involvement. “People would wave to me while I was in my driveway when going to work, and they’d ask me about town issues like sanitation and street lights — things that I would get calls about at my other office, which I can respond to directly now and get it fixed. I love taking care of things.”