Written by Linda Portney Goldstein Friday, 02 March 2012 00:00
Elected politics was never part of Councilwoman Dina DeGiorgio’s plan. Born in the Bronx and raised in a middleclass family where education, hard work and achieving goals were valued, she and her brother embodied the American dream. They were the first generation in their family to attend college. After DeGiorgio graduated from Fordham Law School, she married Joe D’Alonzo and they settled into life in Joe’s hometown, Port Washington.
“When I was approached by the Nassau County Republican Party, I was somewhat of a reluctant politician.” Although she and her husband had long been active in local organizations like the PYA, Saint Peter’s Church and school groups, DeGiorgio had the proverbial “full plate” – two children, a busy law practice and lots of volunteer activities. However, she had been growing restless in her law practice and was intrigued by the idea of a new challenge. “We all complain about government and our local elected officials. I was being given the opportunity to make changes in our community. To really be involved in local government. I could be the person making decisions instead of complaining from the sidelines,” she said. In the end she could not resist the opportunity of this new challenge and she threw herself into a hotly contested campaign.
When asked if there was a learning curve about campaigning she said, absolutely. Fortunately, she had a huge support system made up of family and close friends who worked tirelessly in support of her candidacy. In fact, it was her friends some of whom were Democrats and others Republicans that gave rise to the campaign’s message: “I couldn’t run as a Democrat but I share your values.” When asked about this, DeGiorgio explained, “First and foremost, it was the Republicans who approached me to consider becoming a candidate. As I thought about it, I realized that I never voted a party line. My focus was always to look at the individuals and their positions and then cast my vote regardless of their party affiliation. Therefore it wasn’t traumatic for me to register Republican after having identified with the Democrat party for most of my adult life. Party labels are much less relevant at the local level than at the national level.”
DeGiorgio’s campaign was a true grassroots effort. Lots of volunteers doing lots of little things. She rang doorbells, stood at the train station and attended local events. She only raised about $20,000. “I had no idea how expensive it is to run for office and how difficult it is to raise money,” she said. She tried to reach people by telling them that she was just like them. The message resonated with the public.
Now that she has assumed her duties as Councilperson she is a champion of open and transparent government. In order to have good government, citizens have to be informed and participate, says DeGiorgio. She believes it is government’s job to provide the information and facilitate the interaction between government and constituents. To this end Councilwoman DeGiorgio supported the Open Meeting Law which was passed by the North Hempstead Town Council on January 3. Using state of the art software, meeting agendas and back up for the agenda items will now be available online prior to all Town Council meetings. Eventually, constituents will be able to enter a topic and follow the thread on the topic through various meetings and committee actions.
DeGiorgio is also in favor of televising and streaming town council meetings. Although a resolution she submitted for a vote at the Feb. 15 meeting did not pass she remains committed to the idea. “I was deeply disappointed by the outcome, and didn’t really see any legitimate reason why we can’t do it,” she expressed.
Among her other concerns is re-storing the Alvin Petrus Park to the community. “To me the people involved with the Hands of Change Civic Association are what civic duty is all about. They are a group of people who came together to support a specific project. I believe it was because of their outcry against the senior housing on that particular site that the town pulled back and we now have the prospect of restoring a park to the community,” she said.
Constituents who have met with the Councilwoman during her first months in office often use words like smart, tough, committed, direct and practical to describe her. Asked if this is a fair description, she considered, smiled and then said yes.