After graduating with a B.A. in political science from SUNY Albany, Josh Slaughter did what most millennial college grads do: moved home. Unlike most new college grads, he was able to find a job in his field soon after. “[County Legis. Kate Browning] had just been elected,” Slaughter explained in an interview earlier this month. “I always envisioned pursuing law school, but I couldn’t pass up this opportunity.”
He became a legislative aide and was soon promoted to chief of staff. Slaughter, a 2001 graduate of Patchogue-Medford High School, said he was always interested in law and government, but never imagined staying in this job for so long.
Effecting meaningful community changes has become a passion of his.
With Browning being forced out due to term limits, Slaughter wants to be your legislator.
He may be a first-time candidate, but he has over a decade of experience in local government. “Today is actually my 11-year anniversary,” he said, smiling. “I love the job, I love being able to improve the community — a blue-collar, working-class district that had been long neglected prior to Kate being elected,” he said. “That’s why I stuck around.”
Slaughter, 34, has lived in Shirley for 10 years and is the son of a teacher and union truck driver. He hopes to continue work done as Browning’s chief of staff while bringing a younger perspective to the Legislature.
He’s been busy knocking on doors and holding campaign events, and met with the Advance last week to discuss some of his top issues.
Quality of life
Slaughter said this is a multifaceted issue that includes unregulated sober homes, zombie homes and slumlord properties.
Unregulated sober homes have been approached on two fronts. As a legislative aide, Slaughter has helped lobby for state regulation. “We need to tie it to treatment so people can get the services they need to be successful in their recovery but the homes [should not have] a negative impact on the surrounding community.”
Slaughter said the state has been slow to act, so a pilot program has been established to better regulate these sober homes. “But that’s a voluntary program. We can’t force those regulations on sober homes,” he said. He declined to say how many of these homes were located in the third district, but said dozens of unregulated homes have been shut down. “We’ve addressed over 200 problem homes in the district,” he said. “It’s something we’ve been aggressive about.”
To remedy these issues, Slaughter said he will continue to advocate for more police officers in the neighborhood and use the newly created Suffolk County land bank to purchase abandoned foreclosures, rehab them and get them in the hands of first-time homebuyers, towns and villages, rather than auction them to speculators.
Slaughter has assisted in preserving over 1,000 acres and worked to create two new sewer districts in Mastic and Shirley. “It took over 10 years to bring to fruition,” he said, noting that $200 million in federal and state aid has been secured to help make those sewers affordable.
If elected, Slaughter said he will continue the initiative to expand sewers into the Bellport area. “We secured funding to expand [the Farber plant], which is currently underway,” he said. He hopes to see that project completed in 2018.
Additionally, Slaughter also supports the fight against climate change. “Having lived on the south shore of Long Island my whole life, I have witnessed the impacts of sea level rise on coastal communities, and it is only going to get worse,” he said. But that support must be tactful. Slaughter helped prevent the clearing of over 40 acres for a solar array. “I am opposed to trading green for green and believe we can achieve our renewable energy goals without destroying our precious natural resources.”
Slaughter sees that his generation is leaving Long Island rapidly. “We can’t afford to stay,” he said.
He also acknowledged that for retirees, such as his mother, who are living on a fixed income, the cost of living on Long Island has become impractical. “The current Legislature has taken great strides to construct new affordable housing to attract and keep a younger population here, but I want to see us focus more heavily on redevelopment of areas that are now very blighted.”
To do that, Slaughter will utilize the land bank to purchase boarded-up foreclosures and sell them to first-time homebuyers at attractive rates. And with new sewers to foster downtown development, he sees a bright future for entrepreneurs and businesses that can offer high-paying jobs.
“No family is untouched, including mine,” Slaughter said of the national epidemic. “It affects all Long Island communities without discrimination.”
Though he praised the widespread use of Narcan to prevent fatal overdoses, he says that isn’t the answer to fixing the problem. “We need to focus more on the prevention part,” he said, calling for increased prevention and education programs with the Suffolk County Police Department and health departments inside of schools.
He also said the community must be proactive. By implementing 631-852-NARC, Slaughter said the county has seen a 130 percent increase in drug warrants to remove drugs and illegal weapons, thanks to thousands of tips from residents.
“But we have to address recovery,” he said. “If recovery falls apart, it’s a waste of taxpayer money.”
3rd Legislative District Republican candidate:
BY NICOLE ALLEGREZZA
Lifelong Mastic resident Rudy Sunderman has always revolved his life around family and community. He graduated from William Floyd High School in 1987, married his wife Laura, who is also a William Floyd graduate, and went on to have four children, Jen, 24, Megan, 21, Rudy, 18, and Katie 12.
He began his 30-year volunteering career early on as a member of the Mastic Fire Department in 1987 and served as chief of the department twice, from 1999-2003 and 2015 to present. He has also been a member of the Mastic Volunteer Ambulance since 1988 until 1995, when he became an honorary member. There, he served as chief of the department in 1994.
“I love the involvement in the community and I love giving back — that’s what it’s all about, volunteering,” he said.
He has also served as a girls softball coach in the community and has been awarded over a half-dozen awards for his service over the years, including: Volunteer of the Year in 2001; Man of the Year by the Rotary Club of Shirley and the Mastics in 2014; Instructor of the Year for the Suffolk County Fire Academy in 2012; was recognized by the county for his bravery and heroism in 2001; received the Suffolk County Medal of Valor, a lifesaving award, in both 2000 and 2002; was recognized for pulling a victim from a burning house in 2016, and was named grand marshal by the Chamber of Commerce of the Mastics and Shirley in 2013.
He began a career as a CVS Stores district manager, responsible for 12 stores with approximately 500 associates and 48 managers, in 2003 before going on to follow his dream career in community service. In 2003 he was hired as a deputy chief instructor for the Suffolk County Fire Academy and is still there. In 2004 he became the assistant chief fire coordinator of the Suffolk County Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services. In 2010 he became the district manager/deputy treasurer for the Centereach Fire Department, where he currently works. There, he is responsible for the daily operations of more than 70 employees and a $4.5 million budget.
He is also no stranger to elected office. He served as the Mastic Fire District commissioner from 2004 to 2013 for two five-year terms. There, he said, he cut fire district property taxes by 23 percent, entered into intermunicipal agreements with neighboring fire districts to consolidate and reduce spending, and utilized in-house workforce more efficiently.
However, this will be his first time running for a political office.
“I want to continue to serve and better my community in another capacity,” he said of his decision to run for legislator.
Sunderman said the opioid epidemic is not getting better. Suffolk County is the No. 1 county in New York for opioid overdoses with over 1800 in 2016.
“As a first responder, I see firsthand what opioids are doing to our community,” he said.
In an effort to decrease the rising death toll due to opioids, he said he wants to continue Narcan administration training and continue the dual response of the Mastic Fire Department and the Mastic Volunteer Ambulance to all cardiac arrest calls.
Though the Suffolk County Department of Health Services has been instrumental in ensuring that opioid awareness classes are being offered throughout Suffolk County to arm families of addicts with Narcan, he said the reactive approach is not enough.
“We need to be proactive with this epidemic. We need to increase addiction treatment areas in our county and make sure this treatment is affordable for those struggling with addition,” he explained.
His solution: Properties containing zombie homes should first be offered to the adjacent owners and then if there is no interest, it should be offered to the Town of Brookhaven to knock down the structure, foundation, driveway and sanitary system and keep it as an open space. Property large enough could also be made into parks for our children to enjoy, he added. He hopes to partner with the Town of Brookhaven to ensure all zombie homes are removed in a timely fashion.
He said the Suffolk County budget has not been balanced in almost 10 years and their bond rating continues to be put at risk.
“As your legislator, I will bring meaningful review of the budget and cost-saving measures just as I did when I served as fire commissioner in Mastic,” he added.
He said he feels the sewer district is important and necessary, however, not on the backs of the residents. “The sewer district needs to happen to help the growth of our community and the environment, but we need to keep an eye on how the money is spent,” he said, stating that residents need to be made aware of the exact costs they will be responsible for.
“I will explore funding and loan programs [like those that] have been developed in other municipalities that allow the homeowner to finance the hookup through property taxes,” he explained. “I will seek grants and funding to create the sewer district to bring sustainable business and seek grant funding and financing to alleviate the cost to the residents.”
In the meantime, you can find Sunderman taking on his campaign the grassroots way, by walking door to door. If elected, he said he will be there to make the community better.
“I will be there to do my job and do the best I can,” he said. “People before politics.”