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New leader of Islip Dems

Liz Finnegan
The Suffolk County News

ISLIP TOWN—Luis Montes is the new chairman of Islip’s Democratic Party. He took over the role late last year from the previous leader, Gerry Pallotta, who had been at the helm in Islip since 2012. Though the challenges to build up the party that has narrow influence in the town seem great, Montes said he is energized by the optimism he is seeing and looks forward to some major changes occurring in the months ahead.

A Bay Shore resident, Montes, 36, is married and the father of three girls ages 16, 11 and 3. His life from native El Salvador to the Town of Islip has been an interesting journey. As the son of a diplomat, he received his education at a German school near his hometown. After high school, he attended Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis., majoring in applied mathematical economics and Asian studies. He spent time studying in both China and Germany. Consequently, in addition to speaking fluent English and Spanish, Montes is also fluent in German and speaks some Chinese as well.

Montes is the founding partner of Pan American Communications, LLC, which specializes in minority outreach. He also serves as a political analyst contributor for national and international media outlets and has had columns published in the United States and throughout Latin America. He is currently a Suffolk assistant deputy county executive.

He jumped into the political realm soon after meeting NYS Assemblyman Phil Ramos, rising from being a volunteer in the lawmakers office, then political aide and finally to his chief of staff. During that time, he became increasingly more interested in the whole political process.

Last fall, he took a major step within that process. “I heard Gerry Pallotta would be stepping down, so I threw my hat into the ring,” Montes said. “I was lucky to get elected.”

Montes said he was interested in getting more involved because he wanted to make sure the people of Islip Town would be properly served.

“There are a couple of major issues,” he said. “Town government has been under a one-party rule for the past five years…and one-party doesn’t make good government. You need checks and balances.”

Montes noted that the last five years of one-party rule in Islip has brought major tax increases, serious allegations of impropriety, in addition to the toxic dumping at Roberto Clemente Park and at several other locations, all while under Republican watch. He said he is focused on bringing more accountability and transparency back to town hall.

Though there are roughly 12,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans in Islip Town, he noted that this advantage has not made a difference in recent elections. He’d like to see more turnout for elections from voters in the northern sections of the town.

“The challenge we have is engaging voters,” he said. “I believe it can be done. We are living in a historic moment when civic participation will increase dramatically on the part of both Democrats and Republicans.”

Montes said that participation is evident in the doubling of Islip Democratic committee members to 146 just since last autumn. He expects that number to rise due in large part to the national political climate of dissatisfaction. “There are a lot more people getting involved,” he added. “They see a reason to join in.”

He said the goal in the coming weeks is to garner more committee members for Islip’s 226 election districts as well as volunteer workers. He’s been hosting well-attended meet-and-greet sessions, where people are able to come together just to discuss the issues. And he has also been holding workshops to inform people on how the national, state and local governments work. He said those attending are from diverse backgrounds and are all ages.

“Luis’s leadership will be critical to [return] the two-party system in Islip Town,” said Suffolk County Democratic leader Rich Schaffer. “We are very excited about the future with him at the helm.”

Montes said he wouldn’t be able to do everything he’s done so far without the encouragement of his wife, Ana, who was his high school sweetheart. “She knows I’m passionate about politics and has been very supportive,” he said.

Though busy, he’s still having a good time. “I’m excited,” Montes said. “Talking to people around town reaffirms my commitment to work towards bringing better government to the people.”