Tuesday night, Joshua Lafazan ’16 made history. He was elected to the Nassau County Legislature for the 18th District, making him the youngest legislator on Long Island.
The 23 year-old defeated the 39-year old Republican incumbent Donald N. MacKenzie.
Lafazan believes that residents of his district wanted change and his campaign offered it.
“Residents of the 18th district were fully fed up with the status quo,” he said. “We campaigned on a bolder and brighter vision for Nassau County. We laid out specific detailed proposals that we would put up in front of a legislator.”
Lafazan, who graduated from ILR in 2016 and received his Masters of Education from Harvard University in 2017, credits some of his campaign success to his Cornell education. He said he used the skills he learned at ILR to survey his employees and inspire hard work from his volunteers.
“Cornell taught me all about how to manage individuals,” he said. “I know I definitely wouldn’t have been as effective as a candidate or as a manager without my time at ILR.”
He also credits his victory partially to his grassroots campaigning. He said he and his team worked tirelessly to get his message out to the public from phone calls to knocking on doors.
“We believe that face to face wins the race always,” Lafazan said. “We knocked on 18,000 doors.”
Lafazan is no stranger to being the youngest; in 2012, he became the youngest elected official in the state when he was voted onto the Syosset Board of Education as an 18 year-old high school senior.
His campaign team was also atypically young — his volunteers ranged from 14 to 21 years old.
“I wanted to have an intern program made up of young people to show young people across Long Island that you are not too young to move the political needle even if you cannot vote,” Lafazan said. “You are not too young to make a difference in your community.”
“I told my [volunteers] on election night that the takeaway from this campaign was that if anyone tells you you’re too young to do something, you tell them they’re wrong,” Lafazan added. “And if they still think they’re right, remember what we did here on this night and think again.”
As for his general goals now that he is in office, Lafazan — a registered independent — said he hopes to “restore a sense of civility to politics” by bringing Republicans and Democrats together to draft and pass effective legislation.
Legislatively, Lafazan said he will introduce a bill on his first day setting term limits for legislators. His main goal, however, is to introduce a package of bills tackling the opioid epidemic.
He believes that with the help of his young team, he will achieve his goals.
“Channeling young people as a political force will make me a really effective legislator,” Lafazan said.
When asked when he first became interested in politics, Lafazan half-jokingly recalls his elementary school success as a student council representative. His time on the first-grade student council taught him what he could do as a representative.
“In first grade, when I was elected to the student council, I fell in love with the concept that I could use my voice to lift the voices of my peers,” he said.
Lafazan said he is very grateful for his opportunities, and is looking forward to being sworn into office in January.
“I give this job my all because I’m never done saying thank you,” he said.