Sitting in an English class at St. John’s University in 2007, John Mikulin, of Levittown, faced something of a watershed moment when he received a text alert from the college’s office of public safety that there was a gunman on campus.
After urging people outside the classroom to come in, Mikulin helped his teacher and another student barricade the door. The gunman was eventually caught and no one was hurt, but the experience stuck with Mikulin as the dialogue about school safety churned nationwide.
In a special election on April 24, Mikulin, 30, became the state assemblyman for District 17, which covers East Meadow as well as Bethpage, Farmingdale, Levittown, Massapequa, Seaford, Uniondale and Wantagh.
Mikulin recently spoke with the Herald about prioritizing school safety, and his other goals in Albany, and what led him there. “From a young age, I was very civic-minded,” he said, explaining that his political career began when he was 16, and he worked with former Hempstead Town Councilman Gary Hudes on a parking issue in his community. Four years later, he interned for the councilman.
In the meantime, Mikulin met Thomas McKevitt, a Republican who held the District 17 Assembly seat for 12 years before leaving Albany to represent District 13 in the Nassau County Legislature.
Mikulin attended Holy Trinity High School in Hicksville, and was active in the Mock Trial Club, for which McKevitt was the adviser. When McKevitt announced that he was running for the Assembly, Mikulin worked on his campaign.
“Tom did a very great job going into the community,” Mikulin said, taking part in community events and local blood drives. “That’s the type of guy I want to be.”
McKevitt said he hoped Mikulin would follow in his footsteps. “I think he brings perspective to Albany as a Long Island homeowner and as a man just starting a family,” McKevitt said, adding that Mikulin already has a leg up because of his experience in balancing a municipal budget.
Mikulin, who is married to 30-year-old Corrine Taylor, was the president of the Island Trees Public Library’s board of trustees and a deputy Town of Hempstead attorney. Both endeavors, he said, have helped him better his community, “but now I get the chance to help people on a higher level.”
When he arrived in Albany, Mikulin’s first legislative decision involved an amendment to state education law that would ensure that teacher evaluations are not based on their students’ scores on standardized state tests. The bill passed, and, Mikulin said, “I was very proud and honored to cast my ‘yes’ vote.”
One of his goals in Albany, he said, is to localize the education process to ensure that state testing and the Common Core standards do not affect a child’s education.
When it comes to school safety, Mikulin said that schools should be able to afford to tighten security and prioritize mental health counseling for students who display unstable behavior.
Asked about his thoughts on gun legislation, he said that it should be mutually exclusive from school safety. “They’re two separate issues,” he said. “There will always be guns, and that’s another issue for us to worry about. But I will focus first on keeping children safe. Because if we don’t talk about child safety, then what’s the point?”