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Tom Kehoe

Former Northport Mayor George Doll with newly re-elected Deputy Mayor Tom Kehoe. Photo from Tom Kehoe

Spring brings the winds of change to the village of Northport as the longtime Mayor George Doll and his deputy have stepped down, giving over the reins to  familiar faces.

As of April 3, Doll and Deputy Mayor Henry Tobin have officially retired. Former trustee Damon McMullen has taken up the mantle of village mayor, while Tom Kehoe is now the deputy mayor. The question on many residents’ minds is, why did they retire?

“It’s been 12 years,” Tobin said. “I never meant it to be a career. I loved being a trustee and the deputy mayor, but it’s time to do other things.”

Tobin hopes to travel more. Doll said he is ready to roll up his sleeves and spend more time at his other career, as a commercial fisherman. The former mayor also wants to spend more time with his wife, children and grandchildren.

“I will miss George and Henry both miserably,” said Village Clerk Donna Koch. “It was a pleasure working with them for the past 12 years.”

McMullen served as a Northport trustee for 10 years before running unopposed for mayor last month.

I never meant it to be a career. I loved being a trustee and the deputy mayor, but it’s time to do other things.

— Henry Tobin

“If George had wanted to run again, I would have stepped aside,” McMullen said. “I learned so much from George, mainly to relax and be level headed. He said there’s always a solution to whatever problem was at hand that day.”

McMullen added that he admired Doll’s ability to work well with everyone around him. As a trustee, he felt the two had a good relationship working together.

Kehoe agreed with McMullen on the longtime mayor’s approach to running Northport.

“George had an even-handed approach to managing the village; he never attacked people.” Kehoe said, explaining a prior mayor had been contentious. “There was so much rancor and bitterness before George became mayor. Once George took over, no one was ridiculed. He was approachable. He was never disrespectful.”

Kehoe lauded Doll for transforming the village hall into a community forum where residents felt their concerns and issues could be heard. He said the new board will endeavor to do the same.

As the outgoing deputy mayor, Tobin stressed it is important that the new trustees keep sight of working together.

If George had wanted to run again, I would have stepped aside.”

— Damon McMullen

“‘All of us on the board knew that the public wanted a well-unified, well-functioning village government and so we all worked through all the issues until we had a consensus, trusting George and each other,” he said.

Fellow board members said a great deal was accomplished by Doll during his tenure as mayor. Kehoe said they started outdoor dining in Northport, which turned the village into a destination like Huntington or Port Jefferson.

“We have zero vacancies now on Main Street, except for Gunther’s, which is closed because of the fire,” the new deputy mayor said. “We’ve brought people into the village.” 

Tobin said the former leadership also fostered many community activities such as the farmers’ market and Northport Harbor Family Nights, which occur in August. Among Doll’s successes, he said, was rallying community support to save the post office from being closed.

Northport is a unique place with all types of people here. We have 7,000 residents and we want to balance everyone’s needs.”

— Tom Kehoe

The former board, including McMullen and Tobin, managed to obtain significant grants to cover the cost of upgrading the sewer treatment system and installing sewer mains in Steers Pit. The project cost a total of $13 million, but due to the board’s hard work and financial savvy the village taxpayers only had to pay $1.2 million out of pocket. 

Now with McMullen at the helm, he will be setting new goals for the board and already has a list of projects he wants to tackle.

“I want to see the bay area even cleaner,” McMullen said. “And if the weather ever breaks, we will start a lot of road work, including curbs and sidewalks on Woodbine Avenue and work on Laurel Avenue by the library.”

The new mayor said he plans to have the board review the village’s code book to update some of the existing laws.

“Some of the code is 40 years old and it worked in its day, but it just isn’t practical anymore,” he said.

Both McMullen and Kehoe know they will face a few challenges, but both feel they are up for the job.

“We will keep Northport vibrant,” Kehoe said. “Northport is a unique place with all types of people here. We have 7,000 residents and we want to balance everyone’s needs.

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