Cronin, Phillips vie for county comptroller seat


Ryan Cronin and Elaine Phillips are running for county comptroller, as the current comptroller, Jack Schnirman, is not seeking re-election. Cronin is a Democrat from Garden City who has forged a career as business litigator—he ran twice for state senate but lost to Republican incumbent Kemp Hannon. Phillips is a Republican from Manhasset who has a background in finance as well as local and state political experience as Floral Park mayor and state senator.

The Herald asked the candidates questions focused on vital issues and what makes them qualified for the position.

Covid-19 has altered how we do “business as usual” in terms of technology, health care and the economy. How would you navigate the “new normal”?

Cronin: We have to lean into the "new normal" and embrace modernization. The comptroller's office currently functions on innovations from the mid-1900s and is long overdue for a technology upgrade. In doing so, it would allow the office to adapt more effectively not just to our "new normal" but to any hurdles to come.

Phillips: All Nassau County governmental agencies have been forced to adjust to the "new normal" of Covid-19. In many cases, the adjustments have been inadequate, and the delivery of county services is suffering as a result. As Nassau County comptroller, I will have a crucial role to play in objectively identifying those governmental agencies whose performance is lagging and making recommendations to address deficiencies. A specific example of a lack of adequate management and adaption has been seen within the Department of Consumer Affairs. Many business owners have been waiting for months to secure required licenses.  Some are in danger of going out of business. This is totally unacceptable. The county’s administration should follow the Town of Hempstead’s successful practice of issuing permits and licenses off campus through the use of mobile trailers. Strict safeguards have been employed to meet the needs of taxpayers in a safe and efficient manner. As comptroller, I will audit these areas of need and will push for swift corrective action.

Since the George Floyd protests, organizational/institutional diversity, equity and inclusion have been put front and center. How would DEI instruct your practice as an elected official?

Cronin: Nassau County has become a hub of diversity. As comptroller, I would be representing the entire county, and as such I would strive to have voices from every community heard. Most new businesses in Nassau County are minority-owned, and we will use the upcoming disparity study to ensure that the county's contractors represent its population.

Phillips: While in the private sector at Goldman Sachs, I oversaw the diversity efforts, and while in public office as a New York state senator, I sponsored multiple educational and outreach forums on MWBE.  As Nassau comptroller, I would continue this pursuit to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace and continue to educate and promote solutions to ensure equal rights to all. What’s more, I would undertake performance audits of all county departments to ascertain whether they are meeting DEI metrics.  I would do the same for the entities that do business with Nassau County.

What are the most pressing issues in the county, and how do you address these collaboratively with all stakeholders within the next term?

Cronin: The Comptroller is the taxpayers' watchdog responsible for fighting waste and fraud. This role will take on increasing importance given the uncertainty of the post-COVID economy. We are recruiting high-level professionals from the private sector to join our team so that we have the skilled team required to address these unprecedented times. Taxpayers must have confidence that this team is not politicized. Like most taxpayers, I am sick and tired of divisive politics. This is why I have committed to hiring a moderate Republican as my top deputy. Such bipartisanship has become far too rare in today's politics.

Phillips: As Nassau County comptroller, I will serve as the taxpayers’ watchdog. Taxes and spending need to be controlled in Nassau County. I have the background and expertise to implement audits to weed out waste, abuse and fraud, saving taxpayers money. Further, I will audit the recent property tax reassessment to determine the extent to which mistakes made in the Department of Assessment’s recent reassessment have adversely impacted property owners. Mistakes in assigning assessments have directly resulted in the erroneous taxation of homeowners and businesses. I will work as an independent watchdog for Nassau’s taxpayers, and I will protect their tax dollars. That is my job, and it is my commitment to the residents who I will serve.