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Person of Interest: Wayne Wink

By Cody Heintz, Business Manager

Wayne Wink has been a public servant for over a decade. He served on the Town of North Hempstead Town Council and is currently serving in the Nassau County Legislature. Wink is also a Hofstra Graduate and a former adjunct professor of political science at Hofstra for five years.  

Wink has been a member of the Nassau County legislature since winning a special election in March of 2007 and had previously served on the Town of North Hempstead Town Council for five years.  Even before his time as an elected official he had been active in politics by being both chief of staff and legislative aide to former Nassau Legislator Barbra Johnson, who once held his 11th district seat in the legislature. 

Nassau County has been Wink's home since his childhood as he attended public schools in Uniondale and graduated from Uniondale High School. While in high school Wink became interested in politics and government, but didn't get active in them until he was underway with education at Hofstra.

"When I got to Hofstra I was working part-time, going to school full time," Wink said. "I had gotten a number of scholarships so I had to keep my grades up so my freshman year was largely spent just learning the college life."

During Wink's sophomore he started to get involved in the political process.  During this time it was the early days of the 1988 presidential campaign and Wink started to meet with different representatives from different campaigns. Also during his sophomore year, Wink started to become involved with the Young Democrats on campus and by the time Wink became a senior he became very involved with the group.

"It was an evolution that Hofstra really facilitated and not in the least of which in that they gave me financial incentive to be able to procure my studies at Hofstra and once I was there I was able to get to know people from walks of life," Wink said.

At Hofstra, Wink took advantage of being able to spend a semester in Washington D.C. In our nation's capital he was able to get an internship with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. While he was interning, he was able to work during the excitement of the 1988 presidential campaign season. 

One unique experience that Wink had at Hofstra that helped to shape his political views was how he could never take for granted when it came to transportation. As Wink not only commuted from home to school, but to a part time job he had to carefully plan out his days. As he stated "Making the sacrifice of getting up extra early to drive my dad to the train station in order to have a car or I had to take my bike or take the bus."

Wink said that the time he was at Hofstra helped him to grow both physically and emotionally. He also mentioned how the political science program at Hofstra was beneficial to his growth.

"It was a great thing to be in a department that was rigorous," Wink said. "It was a very demanding department. It had the third lowest GPA on campus. That's not because they liked giving you a hard time but because they were separating the wheat from the chaff."

After Wink graduated from Hofstra he went for several political campaigns and also ended up working for CBS News in their election survey unit. He worked for CBS for about a year helping to project election night results. After working at CBS he continued to work political campaigns and as Wink put it "I basically just got active in the political process."

Wink went to St. John's University to get his law degree. He took some time off between graduating from Hofstra and going to law school and went to law school because, "It seemed like a natural progression. So many of the elected official that we know are lawyers. It was something that I always planned on doing, but I put off for a time to get some experience. I'm glad that I went back and got my law degree."   

Before he was elected to Town of North Hempstead Town Council he served for many years as a political staffer and aide. His jobs included being Deputy Counsel to the Nassau County Legislature, being a legislative assistant to the Town Board in North Hempstead and being chief of staff to County Legislator Barbra Johnson. Wink explained his jump being an aide to an elected official as being "liberating."

"Every time I said something it not only reflected upon myself it also reflected upon the elected official," Wink said.

Wink also added " When I make statements now, it only reflects badly upon myself, if it will look badly at all."

Wink was originally elected to Town of North Hempstead Town Council in November 2001. Wink would be elected to Nassau County Legislature in March 2007 to succeed Craig Johnson, who had been elected to the NY State Senate.

Wink stated that the issues and scope are bigger when working with the county than with the town. "In the Town of North Hempstead, it is about a $50 million operation and in Nassau County it is a $2.6 billion operation," he said.

"The issues tend to be more universal. It is a step removed from the day-to-day affairs of stop signs and traffic lights and things of that nature."

According to Wink, another difference between being a town councilmember and a county legislator is being able to forge his own identity at the county.  As in the Town of North Hempstead both the town supervisor and the town council were of the same party as Wink so it hard for Wink to have his own separate identity. 

And at the county level, " It was important to be able to push the issues that I thought were important to me," he said. 

County Legislators in Nassau County are only considered to be a part time job so Wink must manage his duties with the county with his responsibilities in the private sector. Currently Wink is a partner in the law firm Gerstman Schwartz & Wink where he specializes in real estate law. Wink stated that he is "60/60" when he has to divide up his time between the two responsibilities. He got into real estate litigation as he could do real estate on off hours.

Hofstra, which Wink referred to as one of the cultural centers in Nassau, provided a jumping off point for his political career. "As I got more confident in myself and more in touch with the Hofstra community," Wink said. "The more I found myself there at night going to different events and different programs. Learning about things that I never would have expected. It was really a great opportunity."

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