The Huntington Democratic Committee has designated its four candidates for the November 2023 election. There will be two vacant seats on the town board; Councilwoman Joan Cergol and Councilman Eugene Cook have both announced that they won’t be seeking re-election. Positions for town clerk and collector of taxes are also up for reelection this year.
The Democratic candidates for each of these seats, and their professional backgrounds, are described below. Candidates designated by the Huntington Republican Committee will be presented in a separate upcoming article.
Huntington Town Board
Jennifer Hebert was born and raised in East Williston, in Nassau County, and went to Tufts University in Boston, where she met her husband. She graduated with a Masters in Early Childhood Education. Hebert and her husband chose to raise a family in Huntington because of its strong sense of community and diversity, she said. The couple has three sons.
Hebert worked as a public school kindergarten teacher in Massachusetts and then volunteered her time in PTAs when her children began school in the Huntington district. In 2011, she was elected as a board of education trustee and served nine years, with the last two as president. She said that during her tenure on the board, she worked collaboratively with her fellow trustees, and became known as a team player and consensus builder.
Hebert continued her career in education and administration as director of St. John’s Nursery School in Huntington Village. In that role, she was responsible for enrollment, staffing and coordination with various church groups.
In 2021, she ran for Huntington town council and was defeated by current council members David Bernardo and Salvatore Ferro. Hebert is currently serving as the program director at Kerber's Farm School, located on West Pulaski Road in Huntington.
Donald McKay was born and raised on Eaton’s Neck and graduated from Northport High School in 1983. For the past 24 years, he has lived in Dix Hills with his wife and two children. McKay attended Bethany College in West Virginia, where he majored in print journalism and communications. He had a 10-year career as a newspaper reporter, covering the towns of Islip, Brookhaven and Huntington for the North Shore News Group in Smithtown.
In 1990, McKay was hired as a reporter for The Saratogian in Saratoga Springs, New York and in 1994, he returned to his hometown to The Huntington News, covering Town Hall, not-for-profits, local businesses and more. He said that as a journalist, he held elected officials at all levels of government accountable for their actions and votes.
In 1998, McKay joined the Town of Huntington as a legislative aide to former Councilman Steve Israel, and then joined the staff of Supervisor Frank Petrone as the Town’s public information officer. In 2006, he was appointed director of parks and recreation.
In February 2018, McKay was appointed deputy commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation. He said that in his 25 years as a public servant, he has strived to carry out his responsibilities in a fair and honest manner.
Linda Davis Valdez
Linda Davis Valdez moved to the town of Huntington in 1975 and attended schools in both the Harborfields and Huntington school districts. She graduated from Huntington High School in 1979 and attended Adelphi University, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in social science, with a concentration in social and cultural studies, and law and social inequality.
She has worked within the criminal justice system for approximately 18 years and is currently employed with New York City Criminal Justice Agency as a court services coordinator and youth engagement coordinator. Valdez supervises a team of pretrial associates who are responsible for interviewing nearly every individual who is arrested for a crime within the borough of Queens. Additionally, she works with youth ages 14 through 17, and their families, helping them navigate the arraignment process, and subsequent court appearances, while focusing on providing referral services that would help place the youth on a path outside of the justice system. Valdez has held a similar role in Kings County and has also worked at County Family Court for both Suffolk and Nassau.
Prior to working within the criminal justice field, Valdez spent 20 years as a licensed financial services representative. She started her career at Shearson Lehman Brothers, also working at Chase Investment Services, Paine Webber, and A.G. Edwards.
Valdez said she has years of advocacy, community service, investigative, and leadership experience. Having worked in various professional environments, she said she’s comfortable engaging with professionals and individuals of diverse backgrounds.
Receiver of Taxes
Jillian Guthman is seeking re-election as the Receiver of Taxes, a position she has been serving since November 2018. Prior to that, she served for ten years as director of the town’s human services department, and in several prior positions in the town attorney’s office.
Guthman is a lifelong resident of Huntington and graduated from Huntington High School. She went on to St. John’s University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, and to Touro College’s Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center, where she earned her law degree. She has been licensed to practice law for more than 20 years.
Before joining town government, Guthman worked as a Suffolk County assistant district attorney, and in the New York City Corporation counsel’s office. She has also served as the attorney for the Village of Hempstead.
As Huntington’s Human Services Director, Guthman supervised the Senior Division; Division for Veteran Services; Division for Persons with Disabilities; Division of Minority Affairs; and the Women’s Division. She also served as the town’s Equal Employment Opportunity officer, where she presided over hearings.