Fresh off of hisn the West Hempstead Library Board race, Owen Rumelt has set his sights on Hempstead Town Councilman James Darcy's seat.
Rumelt, 51, is the Democratic candidate for the third council district, which includes all of Malverne and part of West Hempstead. It is also comprised of portions of Elmont, Franklin Square, Hewlett, Lynbrook, North Valley Stream, Valley Stream, and Woodmere, and all of Atlantic Beach, Cedarhurst, East Atlantic Beach, Inwood, Lawrence and North Woodmere.
Rumelt currently resides in West Hempstead, where he has lived with his wife, an attorney like himself, and two teenage daughters for the past 23 years. After graduating from SUNY Stony Brook, Rumelt received his law degree from George Washington University and has been practicing for the past 27 years.
However, it's the two years that he has spent serving on the library board for West Hempstad that he says has most prepared him for a position in Town politics.
"It's given me insight into what it takes to put together a budget and keep within that budget..maintaining our programs while taking into account the economic problems that people are facing," he said.
Speaking to residents during his recent campaign for re-election also made him "more cognizant" of the state of local affairs. What inspired him most to throw his hat in the race was a "perceived need for government to be more responsive to the neighborhoods" they serve.
He pointed to the decade-long battle that residents fought to rid the seedy Courtesy Hotel from West Hempstead.
"The Courtesy is a prime example of a lack of responsiveness to the needs of the community," he said, accusing Town officials of delaying the progress on efforts to close the facility, which was last month.
Rumelt said D-Day could have come much sooner though.
"There were a number of votes for zoning changes that would have allowed the Courtesy to be knocked down a long time ago. It was blocked by the Republican majority - Supervisor [Kate] Murray and members of the board," he said, including Darcy in the list of non-supporters.
In response to Rumelt's remarks, Town spokesman Mike Deery said,"I think the truth of the matter is the Town acted responsibly and as quickly as possible."
Deery said that the town board approved the development zone, which has been cited as "groundbreaking" in 2008, and has since been in discussions with the contractor, who will begin construction any day now.
Deery added, "Apparently, [he] hasn’t been following the Courtesy Hotel too closely and is being intellectually dishonest."
Rumelt's other main concern is money, saying that the current system is marked by wasteful spending and bloated budgets that have resulted from patronage and inefficiencies.
"We need to cut down on the size of government," he said.
To illustrate this, he pointed a finger at the Town of Hempstead's Animal Shelter in Wantagh, which has frequently been for his budget and treatment of cats and dogs brought there.
"Animals deserve to be properly treated and the proper people should be overseeing them," said Rumelt, who owns a dog rescued from the North Shore Animal League.
He criticized the current administration for hiring party workers over qualified individuals. "People are in these positions because of who they are and not what they can do," he said."It's not good for the animals, not good for the people and not good for the taxpayers."
Rumelt said he would run the shelter similar to a business, employing only the most adept professionals and implementing more oversight. As to whether volunteers would be permitted, he stated, "I want to get people in there who really want to be there."
Town spokesman Mike Deery defended the shelter after learning of Rumelt's criticisms.
"The animal shelter really does a very good job and we’re working hard to make the shelter a better place for animal care," Deery said. "We’ve done a nationwide search for a new director and we worked with several advocacy and animal groups to make new policies to make it even better - The Humane Society, ASPCA, Rescue Ink and Last Hope."
He added, "Anyone who is interested and cares about animals should come down to the shelter and consider adopting a cat or dog today."
The Democrats also plan to prove that they are the team that will be able to stimulate the local economy and bring more jobs to the area.
"Most of our towns are failing," said Rumelt, explaining that many are filled with empty store fronts. " We need actions to be taken that will lead to smart growth and development."
His campaign strategy will include speaking with constituents to learn more about their concerns and conveying the need for change to them.
"When you have over 100 years of one-party rule and you have certain complacency and government that doesn't meet the needs of the neighborhood," he said.
If elected, Rumelt said he believes he would need to resign from his current post on the library board and appoint someone to serve out the remainder of his term.
Click on the following links to learn more about the and the that will be on the ballot this November.