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Race For Brookhaven Town Clerk Heats Up

Brookhaven Town Clerk Donna Lent

Brookhaven Town Clerk Donna Lent

By Barbara LaMonica

    When residents in the Town of Brookhaven go to the polls on November 7th, they will be asked to choose between two individuals running for Town Clerk.

Incumbent Town Clerk Donna Lent is seeking her second four-year term and is being challenged by Cindy Morris. Lent, age 64, is a member of the Independence Party and is cross-endorsed by the Republican and Conservative parties. She reported being notified that she received the endorsement of the Women’s Equality Party. Prior to election four years ago as Town Clerk, Lent served as Chief Deputy Town Clerk which she began in 2010 under former Town Clerk Patricia Eddington.

Cindy Morris, age 39, will appear on the Democratic and Working Family Party lines of the ballot. Morris owns a consulting business working with non-profits and is a mother of two children, ages 11 and 8.

Since taking office, Lent has spearheaded numerous initiatives including, but not limited to implementation of an Electronic Management System for the digitalization of nearly 18,000,000 in paper records; worked on the town’s Information Technology Department bringing the offices of the Clerk, Building, Finance, Highway Engineering, Assessor and Personnel into the Laser fiche production environment so the finalized records are digitalized in real time; established a Central Scanning Repository; implemented use of Laser fiche Forms Module to expand the town’s Electronic Content Management System; worked closely with the Information Technology Department to create the online death order form for funeral directors; restructured the Archived Records Center streamlined procedures of the Town Clerk’s office to increase efficiency and decrease waste; reduced personnel and overtime expenses; conducted seven special elections for ambulance districts; conducted the Mastic Beach Village Election pursuant to the New York State Law Mandatory Referendum; implemented the Vacant Building Registry; and commenced recodification of the Brookhaven Town Code.

Morris, who has never held elected office, said she is running for the office of Town Clerk to make change. “What drove me to this is that I became active (in politics) since the last presidential election and realize there needs to be a change of attitude at all levels of government.” Morris continued, “In Brookhaven, we have one side represented, and what we need is new people with new ideas, because it frustrates me that they’re not constituent-focused, and there are back room hand-shake deals made.”

Morris said there needs to be greater levels of accountability in town government: “I want to focus in on accountability of the office of the clerk and transparency of the town. Right now,” Morris continued, “to do anything in Brookhaven Town, people have to take half a day off at work and that’s not fair. Morris said she would like to negotiate with the unions to collaborate to extend the hours of the clerk’s office. “For example, I would like to have evening hours on Thursdays for constituents when the town council meetings are held. The clerk’s office offers incredible services and I would like to have a mobile town office for the elderly and those who are not able to get around.” Morris said she would like to institute a “curbside service” wherein if a resident needs to obtain a handicap sticker, they would call ahead and make the appointment and a staff member of the clerk’s office would be standing at the curb to give that service, “Handicapped people should not have to be trekking in from that huge parking lot,” Morris said, “and I would like to create this additional constituent service. There has to be more humanity in government.”

But Lent said members of her office’s staff do, in fact, meet constituents in the town parking lot to provide certain town services. “We go outside all the time,” Lent said, adding, “I, myself, have gone outside and, we do accommodate our residents, so this already does happen occasionally.” Specific to handicap stickers, Lent stated, “The clerk’s office issues 30 different types of permits and handicap parking applications are all done by mail, and they’re accomplished in a 24 hour turnaround.” Lent noted her office is working on implementing an on-line system to obtain handicap parking stickers.

From a fiscal standpoint, Lent has trimmed overtime costs and personnel, saving taxpayer dollars. “I’ve reduced overtime the Clerk’s Office by 90% and I believe my fiscal responsibility is one of the reasons the Conservatives have crossed-endorsed me,” Lent said.

Asked why she is running for re-election, Lent said, “I love the job, and I’m very good at it. I feel Brookhaven Town is going in the right direction with so much success under this town supervisor. We have a Triple A bond rating, we pay our pension debt without borrowing, we’ve reduced pipeline debt, increased IDA jobs, and I want to continue to be part of the success we’ve enjoyed,” Lent said. “We’ve got a solid team in place.”

Lent says her experience makes her the better-suited candidate to serve the next four years. “Being at the town since 2010, I availed myself as Chief Deputy Clerk to attend various conferences and I bring a wealth of experience to the job,” said Lent, who was issued a special certificate of Records Management Officers by the New York State Town Clerk’s Association. “I have changed many things in the Town Clerk’s Office including revamping the entire Records Center which I started while Chief Deputy Clerk and now my title as Town Clerk allows me to do more for the taxpayers and the town.”

Morris said she makes the better candidate over the incumbent: “This is my first run for elective office,” Morris said. “It’s time people start focusing on people – not politicians. I think Brookhaven Town needs to serve the people who live here with compassion and progressive ideas.” Not so, says Lent. “I don’t know of any progressive way to issue death or birth certificates – there are strict guidelines and mandates that this office must follow, so there is only one way, and that is the legal way where we must follow those guidelines on providing services.”

In her bid for election, Morris says she is confident she will win the seat of Town Clerk. “I’m running to win this election,” Morris said, pointing out, “I would not be feeding my kids macaroni and cheese if I were not going to win. I have amazing support, and I have rescheduled my responsibilities to look at many of the ideas of New York and the rest of the county and there are so many potential opportunities to be introduced into Brookhaven Town.”

Lent, meanwhile, is looking forward to serving another four years: “I’ve been blessed to have a great staff and the opportunity to hire carefully from the Civil Service list. We work well with each other to provide the best services possible to all of our residents.”

 

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