A day after resigning as Brookhaven Town supervisor to take the executive director position at Accelerate Long Island, Mark Lesko said he has "no plans for politics in the future."
"I think it's an incredibly important mission at Accelerate. I’m not looking past that," he told Patch on Thursday.
With Lesko stepping down, Deputy Supervisor Kathy Walsh, who ran unopposed for her town council seat in Nov. with backing from Republicans and Democrats, will serve as acting supervisor until a special election this November.
"Kathy is a pro and will handle the town ably," said Lesko, adding that Brookhaven residents won't see any changes in services or day-to-day operations in the town.
While his resignation is effective Sept. 14, Lesko said he will still submit a budget proposal for the town board to consider. "I feel responsible for that," he added.
Jesse Garcia, chairman of the Brookhaven Republican Party, called Lesko's resignation "the ultimate act of cowardice" in a statement on Wednesday. But the outgoing supervisor remained positive, saying that his new position will allow him to become a regional leader.
"I firmly believe in my core that this could change and alter the face of Long Island for the better, and that’s going to benefit everybody," he said. "It’s all just about an opportunity. I can’t pick the timing. It’s not of my choosing."
Lesko dismissed the idea that his departure so quickly after his would be viewed negatively by the electorate, saying "elected officials leave office all the time."
"I’m leaving to join a nonprofit that is focused on creating jobs on Long Island, which is a top priority," he said. "I think people would understand this is a tremendous opportunity to serve the residents of Long Island across the region."
Lesko's predecessor, Brian X. Foley, who was the first Democrat in more than 30 years to be elected as Brookhaven supervisor, also resigned from the job not long after being re-elected to a second term. Foley, who won a second term as supervisor in 2007, was elected to the New York State Senate in November of 2008. Lesko was elected to replace Foley in a special election in March of 2009, then was re-elected in November of 2009 and in 2011.
"When people look back at what we’ve done in almost four years in the town I think they’re going to think we brought integrity back," he said. "I think historically that had not always been the case in the township."
Lesko, who earned a salary of $112,699 as supervisor, declined to disclose his new executive director's paycheck.
He also declined to name a specific candidate he thought should take his place, saying it's an issue best left to the party leaders to debate.
On Wednesday, Suffolk Democratic party chairman Richard Schaffer told Patch that possible candidates could include Brian Beedenbender, Lesko’s current chief of staff and a former county legislator; ; and current Town Clerk Patricia Eddington.
The decision to step down was made quickly, Lesko said, after the board of Accelerate Long Island conducted a six-month nationwide search for an executive director. He said he met with its hiring committee on Tuesday night, then talked it over with his wife, Karen.
He was formally offered the position at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, and by 3 p.m. he had made his decision to step down from Brookhaven's top post.
"I’ve had a great time in Brookhaven," he said. "I’ve really loved the job. It was a really challenging job but I like challenges. It’s really democracy in action in the Town of Brookhaven."