Men’s Journal years ago ranked ‘The 25 Toughest Guys in America.’ The list included one woman, Hillary Rodham Clinton, as well as 50 Cent, the rap singer who was supposedly shot nine times and lived to tell the tale.
That magazine article came to my mind last week after speaking with Flower Hill Mayor Elaine Phillips, the Republican-Conservative nominee on Tuesday, Nov. 8, to succeed state Senator Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury) in the 7th Senatorial District (SD).
A married mother of three grown daughters, Phillips found success on Wall Street, earned a fourth degree black belt in karate, and was elected Flower Hill’s mayor in 2012 after a clandestine write-in campaign by her immediate predecessor. The previous mayor was unhappy with then-Village Trustee Phillips’ vocal opposition to taxpayer-funded insurance benefits for Flower Hill’s elected officials.
Having been re-elected in March 2016 to her current post with neither visible nor invisible opposition, Phillips is about to take on her toughest electoral challenge, attempting to expand her base beyond a village of nearly 5,000 residents and to a SD that is home to more than a quarter-million in northern Nassau County.
“I was ready for something next in life,” Phillips stated, when I asked her why she wanted to make a state Senate bid. “I have the energy. I have the time and, most importantly, I’m doing it for the right reason.”
The right reason, in her view, is to maintain Long Island’s voice in Albany, which is hanging by a thread after the Democrats regained a numerical (32-31) majority this spring in the state senate following a special election in New York’s 9th SD. Republicans control the state senate today because a group of breakaway Democratic state senators have aligned themselves with the GOP.
“We must continue to work hard for school aid,” the mayor continued. “Our public schools are what makes Long Island, Long Island. In 2009 and 2010, when the Democrats had both the Assembly and the Senate, that’s when our school aid dropped significantly.”
“I’m a project person. I get things done,” Phillips added, pointing to her administration’s ability to lower the Village of Flower Hill’s property tax levy in four of the past five years while at the same time creating a public walkway and public basketball court along Stonytown Road.
Phillips also cited Flower Hill’s recent ranking as the third most-desirable community in New York State to raise a family, according to Niche.com, and its national Tree City USA designation, an honor Flower Hill won after planting 265 trees following Superstorm Sandy.
Phillips’ preparation for the rough and tumble of politics came after successful stints at J.P. Morgan Securities and Goldman Sachs and her steady ascent through the ranks of Korean martial arts. She earned her undergraduate and MBA degrees from Penn State University and moved to Manhasset with her husband, Andy, in 1995. A Cornell alumnus who played lacrosse there, he retired last year as a managing director at BlackRock.
Their three daughters are Kate, a Cornell graduate who works at Emory University in Atlanta; Hannah, who will enter her senior year this fall at Duke University; and Sarah, a rising college sophomore who is also playing lacrosse at Cornell.
“I’m a firm believer in term limits, ethics and transparency,” the mayor stated, near the end of our conversation. Phillips said she thought four, 2-year state senate terms, for a total of eight years, were sufficient.
“I definitely understand the benefits of institutional memory but, at some point, you’ve got to move on,” she said.
Mike Barry, vice president of media relations for an insurance industry trade group, has worked in government and journalism. He can be reached at email@example.com. The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the publisher or Anton Media Group.