By Connor Adams Sheets
Five weeks before the special election to replace Nettie Mayersohn, his newly retired boss of 15 years, Democratic state Assembly candidate Michael Simanowitz is confident he is the best person to represent the people of District 27.
Simanowitz, who served as Mayersohn’s chief of staff from 1996 to April, when she stepped down after 28 years in the Flushing seat, said his time working for the legislator taught him the skills needed to succeed in Albany and help address constituents’ concerns.
“For the last 15 years, I’ve been working for Nettie and the 27th got in my blood. Working for Nettie was a life lesson,” he said during an interview at his campaign’s Electchester headquarters Monday morning. “Working for Nettie for 15 years I think prepares you immensely for the job of a legislator. I had the opportunity to deal with all levels of government. One of the nice things I’ll be able to do is hit the ground running.”
The 40-year-old Electchester father of four, Queens College graduate and former city Department of Housing planner and community liaison refused to speak ill of his opponent in the race, Republican Marco DeSena. And he said he plans to further Mayersohn’s emphasis on taking care of the needs of local residents and neighbors if he is elected to replace her.
“She spent a lot of time and effort on constituent services and instilled that in all of us. No issue was too trivial. A big part of my focus is going to be delivering for my constituents in the district. Constituent services is a big part of the job,” he said. “People look at elected officials as legislators, and that’s a part of the job, but overall you’re there to serve your constituents. Maybe that’s a little too idealistic, but that’s how I feel.”
But Simanowitz did not get all his ideas from Mayersohn. After growing up in Forest Hills and spending his working life in government, he says he has a good feel for the people of the “middle-class” 27th District — which includes parts Flushing, College Point, Pomonok, Fresh Meadows, Electchester, Kew Gardens and Richmond Hill — and what they care about.
“The issues are largely universal. People want good schools for their kids, they want to feel safe when they walk home at night and they want good jobs,” he said. “It’s primarily a middle-class, working-class community, and people want to know they’ll be able to stay in their community.”
He also said area residents are concerned about gas prices and their ability to pay for retirement and health care. Simanowitz says crime and criminal justice are important to him because he has been a member of the 107th Precinct’s police auxiliary unit for 16 years, during which time he has had the opportunity to help officers maintain order during the 2003 blackout and patrol the precinct’s streets just after 9/11. He is currently the unit’s commanding officer.
As he enters the final stretch before the special election Sept. 13, which is also Primary Day, Simanowitz has a simple campaign strategy.
“Meet as many constituents as I can,” he said. “Nettie taught me early on that constituents are the most important part of the job, and getting out to meet people and knocking on doors is the best way to find out what people care about in the community, and it gives people the ability to put a face with the name.”
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.