NEW YORK – Emily Drenis Beys’ path from her birthplace in Megara to candidate for membership on the Town Board of North Hempstead, NY is a map of the American dream and giving back through civic and public service.
Her grass roots campaign – “the first time the Democratic leader came to my house we had a meeting with 20 of my friends” she told TNH – also has the strong backing of the North Hempstead Democratic party and she is running on a ticket with the popular Town Supervisor Judy Bosworth.
GETTING PEOPLE TO THE POLLS
The campaign has gone very well but everything will depend on the turnout during the 2015 off-year election on November 3.
The Greeks in the community will thus have a disproportionate impact she said, for herself, and for Madeline Singas who is running for DA of Nassau County, who is also a fellow Archangel Michael parishioner.
“She is so deserving,” Beys said of Singas, whom she helped at a January fundraiser. That is probably how she caught the political bug, and Singas became very excited for her upon learning they would be on the same ballot.
The energy and character of the mother daughter of immigrants and mother of two have motivated support from old and new friends alike.
“My friends and my family have been very instrumental in getting the word out and raising the money,” she said. “It’s very personal. Lots of phone calls, emails and door knocking.”
“We do a lot ‘meet and greets’ in people’s homes,” she told TNH. Once there were only three people, but Beys said, “that’s fine. The point is to meet people and talk to them about what my vision is and how I would do things a little differently and ask them to spread the word. That has created a lot of momentum.”
Beys told TNH the campaign has been “not so much about issues as approaches.”
Asked to differentiate herself from her opponent, who is an attorney,” Beys said “my background is in sales and managing teams where I teach team and consensus building. I feel I have the ability to work better with people, where my opponent” – Beys hesitated for a moment, and when TNH suggested the word “abrasive,” she concurred, “yes, abrasive.”
The position is part-time, so Beys emphasizes that it will be her only job. “My interests are 100 percent with the town. I have no conflicts that would impact my votes on the board.”
North Hempstead, with a population of 240,000, comprises the Northwest quarter of Nassau County and its villages include Manhasset and Port Washington, where Beys has lived since 1995.
The administration consists of a Supervisor and six other council members. Beys is running for the District 6 seat.
Beys has been advocating for what she has cared about since childhood, and she has helped things run better from her family and its businesses, to her children’s schools.
She came from Greece at the age of four and grew up with younger siblings Kathy and Jerry Drennis in Brooklyn’s Three Hierarchs community.
“My father was an electrician. He got a job and was also a superintendent in apartment buildings, assisted by my mother, and eventually he bought his own buildings,” she told TNH.
As the family’s advanced English speaker she was instrumental in helping her father establish his business when she was nine. “It was a true American dream: starting from nothing.”
She studied political science at NYU with the aim of going to law school.
“I decided it wasn’t for me but I took a class in college, Media and the Law which I enjoyed and got a job two weeks after graduation as part of the national sales force for a company representing radio stations nationwide,” she said.
She met her husband, Bobby, in Greece and he immigrated for his American dream. He, Beys’ brother Jerry, and a friend opened Olympic Flame, which is now Marathon Energy, selling heating oil.
She was also a major component of that endeavor, helping with the company when she came home from work.
Beys did that for 14 years and in 2001 she and her husband Bobby decided it was a good time to devote herself to raising their children Pauline, who lives in California and is part of the management team at Amazon, and Mano, who is studying atmospheric science at Cornel University.
“We have interesting family dinners when it comes to weather. Mano and my brother, who doesn’t believe in global warming, have little arguments and my son says ‘are you kidding?’”
But staying home opened the political door for Beys.
“I am not one of those people who just stop working. I immediately got involved in our Port Washington schools and with our Church, Archangel Michael.”
She became PTA and then school board president of the Greek school and was active the youth program, and also in the public schools the children attended.
As her children grew, so did her responsibilities, eventually becoming president of Parent’s Council, the advisory council of all local parents groups and the liaison to the school superintendent of Port Washington.
She told TNH “Most people think it was all about bake sales, but it’s not. We deal with school budgets and other important matters like state mandates and tax caps, contract negotiations and personnel issues so that running for the Town Board seemed like a natural progression.”
That phase came to an end when her son graduated from high school, but Beys said to herself “I need to do something else because I really enjoyed working and serving the community.”
People think I’m crazy, but most times it takes somebody who really cares about the community,” to make good things happen, she said.
She was encouraged asked to run by some friends from Church – Oscar and Christine Michelen.
“They suggested I speak to the current Town Supervisor, Judy Bosworth, who told me she had a similar background and said they needed people like me who had the pulse of the town…The fact that I was Greek was attractive to everyone because we have a strong presence here, and we need a voice that represents our community.”
After that March 2015 meeting began the process getting endorsed by parties. She is running on the Democratic, Green, Independence, Women’s Equality, and Working Families Party lines.