The City of Long Beach was founded 100 years ago by William Reynolds, a master builder and politician who developed the boardwalk and major parts of the barrier island.
Today, women run the city.
For the first time in Long Beach history, the City Council is dominated, 3-2, by women.
Karen McInnis, 50, who has been on the council since 2019, was selected by the five-member council as its new president, at its first meeting of the new year on Jan. 4.
Tina Posterli, a former member of the Board of Education, was elected to the council in November. She was seated Jan. 4.
Liz Treston has been on the council since 2019.
The other two members are former President John Bendo and Roy Lester, who was elected in November.
The city manager, Donna Gayden, who oversees all Long Beach operations, was hired in 2020, the city’s first female and first Black manager.
McInnis, a chief financial officer at a nonprofit, the Association of American Publishers, said that at first she did not believe a woman-dominated council “was a big deal.” But, she said in an interview shortly after her selection, that “this shows a lot of progress from where we’ve come.”
“It shows how we have evolved as a society,” McInnis said.
Treston said the female-dominated cabinet was significant for her. “We are celebrating 100 years of being incorporated, and to start out the year with the majority of the leadership team being women is notable. I also think it important for the young girls in our community to see women in leadership positions in the city,” Treston said.
Posterli noted she was the only female candidate to run in the November election.
‘It’s significant that more women in our community are empowered to run and ultimately win,” she said. “The participation of women in government is essential.”
The council has had its share of women over the years. There has been Anissa Moore, who was a council president, Chumi Diamond, and Eileen Goggin, now a Nassau County judge, among others. But women had never dominated the council as they do now.
“I didn’t get this on my own,” McInnis said. “There were a lot of trailblazers before me.”
She said Laura Curran, who in November lost her re-election bid to Republican Bruce Blakeman, was “a good role model” during her four years in office. McInnis, a Democrat, said she looks forward to working with Blakeman.
McInnis said her financial background at the non-profit and New York-based publications, including Time Inc., qualifies her for the top spot on the council, where much of her time will be spent working on the city budget and working through settlement of a $131 million lawsuit against the city by a developer, Sinclair Haberman.
“I’m very serious and mission-focused,” McInnis said.
She said her management style would not differ greatly from that of John Bendo, who served two years as council president and has been a council member for four years. “There is no daylight between John and I,” McInnis said.
Aside from the new city budget and the Haberman suit, McInnis said she sees a major challenge ahead — “communicating to the public the tremendous circumstances we’re in and the decisions that have to be made.”
Settlement of the Haberman suit, if ultimately approved, would come as a relief to city officials. Haberman has proposed that his firm be paid 50 percent of the $131 million, but the city must work out numerous details, including allowing the developer to build two 13-story building near the boardwalk.
Even once the suit is settled, Long Beach will remain in financial trouble. Its bonds are one notch above junk status, making it more expensive to borrow. And it will have to borrow to pay Haberman’s firm the $75 million that he has proposed.
The city is trying to recover from years of fiscal mismanagement under previous administrations, which is why it hired Gayden, a professional financial manager. Gayden last year brought in a budget with a tax rate increase of 1.8 percent. This year’s budget will be another challenge.
McInnis said she would run the council in what she calls “the new normal.” That is, running it under a Covid-19 infection rate that rises and falls and rises again.
But McInnis is a self-made woman. The daughter of a union carpenter, she was born in the Bronx and raised in Valley Stream. Divorced in 2005, she bought a house in Long Beach. In 2014, she remarried Terrance Blackburn, a PSEG field inspector.
She worked her way through the University of Maryland at College Park and St. John’s, majoring in government. She was a waitress and a summer intern for Nassau County government offices. “I always loved government,” McInnis said.