Born and bred in Mineola, East Williston deputy mayor and attorney Bonnie Parente, grew up watching her parents be involved in their community, which inspired her to do the same. Recently, she announced on her Facebook page that she was running for mayor of the Village of East Williston after the village’s current mayor David Tanner announced that he was not seeking reelection.
Attending Mineola public schools, Parente’s father, Lou Santosus, was the fire chief and deputy mayor of Mineola for many years. Parente went to Hofstra undergrad and then went onto Touro Law School and has been an attorney for the past 25 years with her own private practice in Mineola.
“I always wanted to be involved in my village and the community where I live,” said Parente. “I grew up watching my parents be very involved in their community and I always envisioned doing the same thing. Just last night, the fire whistle went off and I heard that it was the Mineola whistle, I could tell. I knew that my father was getting up off the couch and he was going to go serve no matter what, no matter what else he was doing. I grew up that way. I always wanted to serve in some capacity just because it was the way my role models conducted their lives. My role models are my parents.”
In order to do the best job possible, if elected as mayor of East Williston, Parente said she will rely on her past experiences of being on the village’s zoning board for two years, village trustee and deputy mayor for eight years, 25 years as a practicing attorney, a business owner and a mother.
Parente was also involved in local organizations such as the Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Little League, her church parish and her community.
When asked about what she thought her biggest accomplishment on the village board was, Parente said it was the resolution of the water dispute with the Village of Williston Park that started long before she was elected to the position of deputy mayor.
“I don’t want to take full credit for that because the resolution involved many people, including the board of trustees from both Williston Park and East Williston,” explained Parente. “I want to make it clear that it took cooperation from 10 people sitting at a table to resolve those issues.”
If elected to mayor, Parente said she would like to see quicker and more efficient communication.
“[And] by saying this I don’t want to disrespect the prior mayors because everyone does things differently,” said Parente. “I wouldn’t mind saying that every mayor brings their own flavor to a position. I very strongly believe that the people who live in East Williston live there because they like living in a small and local community. And because of that, I think we have the ability for small, direct local responses. I would like to see an increase in direct responses or direct communications between the residents and the elected board members.”
Besides being inspired by her parents, Parente was inspired to run by her daughter Emma, her son Kevin and her husband Kevin.
“I relied on my family,” said Parente. “My daughter Emma is one of our youngest voters and listening to our college students is important. I’ve met with members of our senior community who have been supportive and hopeful for the community they’ve enjoyed for so many years.”
“I was [also] inspired by so many people who take their elected positions or have taken their elected positions very personally in terms of their relationships with their constituents including Maureen O’Connell, who is the county clerk,” said Parente. “I spoke to Maureen last week and I look up to someone like her.”
Parente also spoke to former mayors of the villages of New Hyde Park, Mineola, Williston Park, East Williston and Westbury, which all have inspired Parente to run in some way.
One potential challenge Parente sees as mayor is the ever-evolving social media.
“One of the challenges I see in the future is social media [and] keeping social media from allowing a board to handle issues before they become a different issue,” she said. “I would like for social media to be used as a tool than a method of sometimes spreading discourse. I strongly believe that social media can be used in a way that allows communication and progress as opposed to spreading misinformation.”
The village election will be held on Tuesday, March 19, from noon to 9 p.m. at village hall, which is located at 2 Prospect St.