With election season right around the corner, there are currently two candidates for the office of Town of Oyster Bay supervisor — challenger Jared Behr, a Democrat, and Republican incumbent Joseph Saladino.
While this is Behr’s first political campaign, he says he is confident he can bring essential improvements and changes to Oyster Bay.
The 38-year-old candidate has some prior political experience, having served as an intern for Steve Israel in Congress while he was attending high school. Additionally, Behr also worked in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office for two years.
A resident of Plainview, where he lives with his wife Dr. Lauren Shikowitz and their two children, Behr is an associate at Salenger, Sack, Kimmel & Bavaro, LLP, located in Woodbury. The firm specializes in personal injury and medical malpractice cases.
While he had always been interested in politics, Behr said it was his mother, Ann, who died in February, who inspired him to make his run. His mother taught him the importance of public service and respect for others from a young age. Behr said his candidacy “is kind of a tribute to her.”
“My mom raised me to share the democratic values of this country, to care about all people regardless of ethnicity, race, religion or sexual orientation,” Behr said, “and that all people deserve equal respect under the law and that a fair shot to do well in this country should be protected under the law.”
Behr said another driving force in his decision to run has been seeing the numerous ethical issues that have plagued Oyster Bay, the county and Long Island over the last several years. Citing George Santos’ election and the accusations against Brian Noone, former Oyster Bay inspector general, Behr asserted that the town “has been under one party rule for several years at this point,” and that new leadership is needed to restore public faith in local politics.
Behr added that the town is currently facing several short and long-term issues, from cost of living to the quality of town services.
He said that as a lawyer, former business owner (having run his family’s company Behr’s Furniture after his father’s death in 2011), homeowner and father of a young family, he is uniquely experienced to help lead the town through these and other challenges.
“Unfortunately, I haven’t seen a vision for the town moving forward,” Behr said. “We need somebody with new experiences, and I think I’ll be qualified to take over on day one.”
Behr has several priorities, the first one being ethics reform. He added that the issues with Noone were left to fester under the current Town of Oyster Bay Ethics Committee, “that rubber-stamped what Brian Noone did,” and that he would disband the current board while updating and strengthening the ethics code and setting term limits for elected officials.
Another focus for Behr is infrastructure, which he claims is in dire need of revitalization to address the housing crisis. He says he would create the role of “development leader,” to work with labor and community leaders as well as housing advocates to address housing in the town.
Finally, he would support a referendum to create individual council districts in the town. The current political system, he said, doesn’t provide good representation for town residents, with each council member representing roughly 300,000 people each.
“The short version is Oyster Bay is the only town in Nassau County that does not have individual council districts,” Behr said. “I think with the one party rule that has existed in Oyster Bay, there are certain areas of the town that have been underserved by our current government and individual council districts will solve that problem.”
Behr reiterated that he believes his lack of political experience will serve as an asset. Career politics and politicians have been a huge problem in Oyster Bay over the years, he said, and having worn the hats of a lawyer, small business owner, father and taxpayer in the district, he has firsthand experience of what the needs of town residents are.
“I think my greatest strength is that I haven’t been a politician for the last 35 years,” Behr concluded. “I think my story is not uncommon with everyday people that live and are trying to raise their families and just do well and enjoy their lives in Oyster Bay.”