Jared Behr envisions a much different Oyster Bay if he’s elected town supervisor next month — at least as far as the government is concerned.
The Democrat says he has a number of new reforms in mind, all focusing on restoring trust in the political process. While Behr doesn’t have any political experience — this being his first campaign — he says this is a strength, not a weakness.
“I am confident that I can bring real-world life experiences and have more in common with everyday residents in Oyster Bay than someone who’s only been in government for 30 years can,” Behr told reporters as part of a recent Herald Roundtable session. “That’s what prompted me to run. I don’t think the current administrative government is representative of everyone in Oyster Bay, which is a huge town.”
The 38-year old says his professional history as a lawyer and as the former chief executive of his family company, Behr’s Furniture, he has the experience that comes with running a small business in the town and providing for a young family. He, his wife Dr. Lauren Shikowitz, and their two children, live in Plainview, where he is an associate with the legal firm Salenger Sack Kimmel & Bavaro.
What the town needs most now, Behr says, isn’t leadership that’s deeply entrenched in the political world, but real Oyster Bay residents who can solve underlying issues. Among them — and maybe one of the most pressing — is the lack of equitable representation.
“What I would support as supervisor is a referendum to have individual election districts in Oyster Bay,” Behr said.
Oyster Bay, he added. is the only town in Nassau County without election districts, meaning that the six council members collectively represent roughly 300,000 people, or 50,000 per council member.
“That’s more than some U.S. senators,” he said. “It totally defeats the purpose of local government.”
By creating election districts, voters would know who to reach out to, Behr said, and that the process would be more streamlined. Through this process, the council members would also have a closer connection to the specific issues and concerns in the different municipalities as well.
Behr also believes he can improve communication between town residents and government. Many constituents have told him they struggle to get in contact with local electeds for issues like potholes, for example. He believes he knows how the town could streamline that process.
“I think that that is a universal concern around the town,” Behr said. “They hold a lot of meetings on Tuesdays at 10 a.m., and it’s very difficult for working parents in Oyster Bay to attend those meetings.”
Behr’s solution would be to hold more evening meetings, which he says will allow more working residents to attend and let their voices and concerns be heard. He also would modernize the town’s website, adding that the current methods of communication between government officials and its constituents are woefully lacking.
Part of the problem, Behr says, has to do with the fact that the town board has been entirely Republican for the last several years. He believes this has caused a stagnation of ideas, and that he could bring a new perspective as well thanks to his personal and professional experience.
“I’m sitting here today and there is an open criminal investigation into the town because the … inspector general got caught trying to give a $2 million town contract to his business associate,” Behr said. “Nothing has changed.”