Election News

Village of Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant during a Board of Trustees meeting June 5. File photo by Raymond Janis

Former Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant, the Democratic Party nominee in this year’s contest for Town of Brookhaven supervisor, has suspended her campaign.

Lillian Clayman, a resident of Port Jefferson and adjunct professor of labor and industrial relations at SUNY Old Westbury, will now lead the Democratic ticket.

Garant recently experienced “an unforeseen health issue,” prompting her to exit the race, according to a statement from the Brookhaven Town Democratic Committee.

“This was not an easy decision,” Garant said. “Public service has been the honor of a lifetime, and my love for Port Jefferson and Brookhaven knows no bounds.” But, she added, “Right now, I need to put my health and my family first.”

Incumbent town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) announced his candidacy for Suffolk County executive in February, triggering an open contest to fill his seat. Garant and Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico (R-Manorville) had secured their respective party’s nominations that same month.

Panico responded to news of Garant’s departure. “I wish Margot the very best for a speedy and full recovery,” he said in a text to TBR News Media.

Anthony Portesy, chair of the town Democratic committee, confirmed Clayman, former BTDC chair from January 2016 to August 2020 and three-time mayor of Hamden, Connecticut, from 1991-97, has stepped forward to replace Garant as the party’s nominee.

“I wish my dear friend Margot Garant a speedy recovery,” Clayman said. “I am delighted to join a slate of Democratic candidates who are committed to making Brookhaven a forward-looking, honestly governed community.”

In a message published on social media, Portesy offered consolation to Garant, maintaining an optimistic tenor as the race continues.

“I want to take the time to thank my dear friend Margot Garant for stepping up to run this race, and I wish her a rapid recovery,” the committee chair said. “The battle marches on, but you remain in our hearts, our thoughts and our minds as we carry your vision forward into November.”

Garant served as mayor of Port Jefferson from 2009-23. She announced her plans to retire from the village government earlier this year and was succeeded by trustee Lauren Sheprow on July 3.

Mayor-elect Lauren Sheprow celebrates on Election Night. Photo by Aidan Johnson
By Raymond Janis & Aidan Johnson

In a historic upset, trustee Lauren Sheprow — a write-in candidate — was elected Village of Port Jefferson mayor Tuesday night, June 20, capping off a contentious season in the village. 

In a contested race to succeed Mayor Margot Garant, who is running for Town of Brookhaven supervisor, Sheprow defeated Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden 956-796.

Incumbent trustee Stan Loucks and former village clerk Bob Juliano were elected with 935 and 1,244 votes, respectively, in an uncontested race. Voters also elected Tara Higgins as village justice with 1,381 votes.

Sheprow announced her bid for mayor in March, running on a platform of change and pledging to move the village in a new direction.

‘Our Village Hall is now open to all residents.’

— Lauren Sheprow

Her campaign hit an unexpected stumbling block on May 30, just three weeks before Election Day, when the Suffolk County Board of Elections removed her name from the ballot due to faults in her petitions after charges brought on by Snaden’s campaign.

Despite the unfavorable Suffolk BOE decision, Sheprow became a write-in candidate. In an interview, the mayor-elect commented on the race’s conclusion.

“It was an uphill climb all the way, but the determination of my supporters and the residents themselves made it possible to overcome every challenge,” she said. “I also want to congratulate Kathianne Snaden for a spirited race. I know we both want the best for Port Jefferson and its future.”

She added, “I’m humbled and honored by the unwavering support and the positive feedback I received from all the residents I met with throughout the village during this whole process.”

Before entering the board last year, Sheprow had worked as a media relations professional at Stony Brook University and Mather Hospital. Her father, Harold, had served as village mayor from 1977-85 and 1987-91.

Sheprow also congratulated the newly elected trustees and village justice, expressing optimism and pledging to follow the public will.

“I look forward to working with this board … to make positive change and a fresh start for Port Jefferson,” she said, adding, “Our Village Hall is now open to all residents. Whether you voted for me or not, I am listening.”

In a separate interview, Garant thanked the community for entrusting her throughout her 14 years at the helm. “I think I’ve done my job, and I’ve left this community in a good spot,” the outgoing mayor said. “I just hope for the base to know to keep it going forward.”

After four years of service on the Board of Trustees, Snaden’s tenure now ends as the deputy mayor had vacated her trustee seat to run for mayor. In the wake of the election result, Snaden released a statement expressing her gratitude for those who supported her campaign.

“While I may not have won this election, I am grateful for the opportunity to have shared my vision for the future of this village,” she said. “I believe that together, we can continue to make this village an even better place to live, work and raise a family.”

She added that she would remain involved, saying:

“To the Port Jefferson community, I want to say that I will continue to be a voice for positive change and progress. I will continue to work to ensure that this village remains a wonderful place to call home. I will continue to be an advocate for our community, and I will work to build bridges and bring people together.” 

Incumbent trustee Stan Loucks, left, and former village clerk Bob Juliano were also elected to the village board Tuesday night. File photos by Raymond Janis

Loucks, who has been on the board since 2015, ran alongside Snaden on the Unity Party ticket. While thanking the community for its vote of confidence in him, he expressed sympathy for his running mate.

“I think the village lost a very valuable person with Kathianne Snaden,” he said. “But congratulations, I guess, to the opponent.”

Outside of the uncontested Higgins, Juliano received the highest vote count of any candidate. In a phone interview, the first-time elected official thanked the community for its strong support.

“I am humbled by the support and encouragement that I have been getting from everyone,” he said. “I promise to do my best and make Port Jefferson a better place for us all,” adding, “I’m looking forward to sitting down with all the new board members and discussing where we want to see Port Jefferson head.”

The current board will convene for one final meeting this Monday, June 26, at 3:30 p.m. The new mayor and trustees will swear into office outside Village Hall on July 4 following the annual parade.

Lauren Sheprow, mayor-elect of the Village of Port Jefferson. File photo by Raymond Janis
Election results for the Village of Port Jefferson

Mayoral candidates:

Lauren Sheprow – 956

Kathianne Snaden – 796

 

Trustee candidates, two seats:

Bob Juliano – 1,244

Stan Loucks – 935

 

Candidates for village justice:

Tara Higgins – 1,381

Former Village Clerk Bob Juliano, left, and trustee Stan Loucks. Photo by Aidan Johnson
By Aidan Johnson

With two trustee seats up for grabs on June 20, the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosted a Meet the Candidates event at the Village Center Tuesday evening, June 14.

The candidates had their first Meet the Candidates forum last month during an event hosted by the Port Jefferson Civic Association. The two declared trustee candidates, incumbent trustee Stan Loucks and former village clerk Bob Juliano, tackled a range of subjects throughout the night. The following offers insight into a few key areas.

Transparency

Juliano said any bond issue or proposal for changing terms of office should go out to public referendum. He maintained the public should have input on matters immediately impacting them, such as taxes. 

Besides publishing legal notices, Juliano said that he would “really just plaster the village and let them know” that a public hearing was taking place.

Loucks said that any large project should have a public referendum, agreeing that the changing of terms from two to four years should have had a public referendum.

Public acquisitions

Loucks addressed the need for more green spaces in Port Jeff. He said the village should “go after” them when they become available, including the undeveloped parcel located immediately east of Mather Hospital.

Loucks also touched upon the underutilization of Roosevelt Park, which he suggested was a decent size green area currently serving little or no use. “Residents in those areas are more hesitant about the parking,” he said, “but that is one green area that we are going to begin to use.”  

Juliano said he would support the village obtaining the undeveloped parcel near Mather. While the former clerk said it was Mather Hospital’s right to take down the trees last year, he suggested that Port Jefferson should acquire some of that property and keep it green to help the environment.

Juliano also addressed the perceived lack of open space left in the village, saying that if space became available, he would advocate that the village take a look at it to see if it’s feasible to acquire, “even if it’s just purchased and just kept in its natural state.”

Decommissioning the Port Jeff Power Station

Juliano said that if the Port Jefferson Power Station were to shutter, the village would still receive some taxes on the property. Furthermore, Juliano said he would advocate seeing if there was another use for the land before additional public revenues declined.

Loucks concurred, saying that he didn’t know what it would cost to decommission the plant but adding that it’s “beautiful waterfront property.”

Development/single-family dwellings

Loucks said he does not believe Port Jefferson has overdeveloped. Instead, he said there is a need for housing, citing Conifer’s Crossing Apartments project that had 1,400 applicants for around 40 units.

Juliano also agrees that there is a need for housing in the village but advocated for condominiums instead of apartments. He also said the Building Department was in disarray, and a senior planner and senior engineer were necessary, along with a strengthening of the Code Department.

Industrial Development Agency

Juliano said that the village has no say as far as what happens with the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency but that he has a plan to make sure if the IDA grants property tax relief, then they will start at whatever taxes they are paying now and not go down to zero. What it should be, he said, is if they’re paying a certain amount of dollars, they’ll continue to pay that, and then any exemptions rise from that down.

Loucks highlighted the little control the village has over the IDA. He said that they can go to their meetings and make recommendations, but ultimately the IDA makes its own decisions.

Port Jeff Village residents will weigh in on these two candidates Tuesday, June 20. Voting will occur at the Village Center from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Trustee Lauren Sheprow, left, and Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden. Photo by Raymond Janis

The Village of Port Jefferson is nearing a crossroads.

Residents will enter the polls this Tuesday, June 20, to decide on a successor to Mayor Margot Garant. After 14 years leading the administration, the incumbent is stepping down to head the Democratic ticket for Town of Brookhaven supervisor against Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico (R-Manorville).

Garant’s seat is being contested by Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden and trustee Lauren Sheprow. In an exclusive office debate spanning nearly two and a half hours, the mayoral candidates pitched their respective visions to the voters.

Introductions

Defeated by just four votes in her first bid for trustee in 2018, Snaden won election to the board the following year and has since secured several liaison posts before taking over as deputy mayor in 2021.

She said she first ran for office “to be the voice” of the people, bringing their wishes to Village Hall and putting their priorities into action. 

“I am ready to run for mayor because I want to use all of that institutional knowledge, all of my experience, to do even more for the community,” she said.

Sheprow entered the board 10 months ago, unseating former trustee Bruce Miller during last year’s village election. She has since helped establish multiple advisory committees while serving as commissioner of communications, among other liaison positions.

She said she is running to take the village government in a new direction.

“I have been hearing a lot from residents and how they would like to see a fresh start for Port Jeff,” she said. “That’s what I was responding to when I decided to run.”

Petitions

This year’s mayoral contest took an unusual plot twist very recently, on May 30, when the Suffolk County Board of Elections opted to remove Sheprow’s name from the June 20 ballot over faults in her petitions.

“I take full responsibility for not putting my cover sheet on the petition submission,” Sheprow said. “But you know what? I don’t care. I’m running a write-in campaign. I would never stop fighting for the people of Port Jefferson.”

Snaden, whose campaign brought about the charges, said using the Freedom of Information Law to assess the opposition’s petitions is standard practice.

“We all have to follow the same rules,” she said. “It’s our job as candidates to know the laws and follow the laws.”

Budget

The candidates offered competing perspectives on the village’s present finances.

Snaden regarded the current fiscal health as “excellent,” noting the relatively low-interest rates the village pays when borrowing money.

She acknowledged “the budget can always use some tweaking,” adding, “there are some needs that I believe need an increase in budget.” 

Chief among them are salaries, Snaden said: “Bringing those numbers up would be imperative for getting the highest quality employees we can.”

Sheprow suggested the village’s Moody’s rating, a measure that calculates an organization’s relative credit risk, “can be improved,” saying her administration would strive for a AAA bond rating [compared to the current Aa3].

The trustee proposed instituting an advisory committee of certified public accountants and other financial professionals to assist the village board in preparing its budget.

“A zero-based budget is so important,” Sheprow said. “Also, having that budget committee [will help] create a budget that is responsible to the taxpayers.”

Revenue

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced new regulations targeting existing power plants, placing a cloud of uncertainty over the Port Jefferson Power Station.

With questions surfacing about the possible decommissioning of the plant, the candidates were asked whether the village should begin preparing for further losses of public revenue.

Sheprow again advocated for expert consultation.

“I think we need to include the Advanced Energy Center at Stony Brook University,” she said. “Maybe we can come up with ideas about how to bring advanced energy initiatives into that location.”

Snaden said continued collaboration with wind power companies, such as Ørsted and Eversource, would remain pivotal in “bringing green energy to Long Island through the Village of Port Jefferson.”

To account for potential losses in public revenue, she also proposed “increasing our tax base through responsible development.”

Staffing

Both candidates agreed the administration is understaffed but departed on possible solutions.

Snaden emphasized hiring a planner for the building and planning department and additional personnel for the code enforcement department.

She indicated the practice of assigning multiple administrative titles to a single staff member is “absolutely not” sustainable.

“I think that’s where the budget needs to be enhanced — to hire the right people to head up these departments and divide up more of the tasks,” she said.

Sheprow maintained the hiring process should follow “a [human resources] system and policy.”

“The idea that I have, should I become mayor, is to bring in someone to take a deep dive into the organizational chart of the village,” she said. “I find there are some conflicts of interest for these positions and roles for people who wear multiple hats.”

Public meetings

To boost attendance at public meetings, Sheprow supported overhauling the village’s municipal website.

“It is not responsive,” she said. “If there’s a village board meeting coming up, it should be on the front page on the carousel of the website.”

She also favored a more dynamic social media presence on behalf of the village, with suggestion boxes and other modes of “active responsiveness” between board members and residents.

“I think we need to set up — here we go again — another committee to hear and review complaints and take [them] forward to the Board of Trustees.”

Snaden discussed the value of live streaming public meetings.

“Bringing the meetings to [residents] in their living rooms, recorded so they could watch at a later date, was key” during the COVID-19 public health emergency, Snaden said, proposing to expand and enhance these methods post pandemic.

She also touched upon the role of the Port eReport in dispersing information to the public.

In welcoming more citizens into the local decision-making process, Sheprow expressed pleasure at the reformation of the Port Jefferson Civic Association, saying, “That means the people care, that the people in the community want to get involved.”

She said the chance for more frequent communications between residents and trustees during board meetings is “a huge opportunity for us.”

Snaden said, “Regular meetings with whoever wants to have a voice,” combined with an active social media presence, would be crucial for welcoming more residents into the process.

“I also believe there’s an aspect of people going to meetings when there’s a negative issue or problem,” she added. “As a person who always looks for the positive in things, I like to believe that a portion of the people not coming to meetings are very happy with what’s going on.”

Open government

Another central administrative function is the swift distribution of time-sensitive documents, such as public minutes and agendas.

Snaden returned to hiring when asked about expediting the release of these materials.

“That rests now on the clerk’s [Barbara Sakovich] responsibility list,” she said. “She’s just overwhelmed with the amount of work,” adding, “I believe we could help by bringing in more people to divide up those duties to get [those documents] out there.”

Sheprow favored implementing a “proactive communications system,” including an internal newsletter, to bring the information to staff and the public more expeditiously.

“We need somebody who’s creating content,” she said. “The content would include a press release after every meeting [saying] here’s what happened.”

Building density

During the May 1 public hearing on possible zoning code changes for the Maryhaven Center of Hope property, several community members voiced concerns about increased villagewide building density.

Sheprow raised objections of her own.

“The proposals and the sketches that have been drawn for this space are looking like we’re bringing city life into a transitional [not entirely commercial nor residential] area of Port Jefferson,” she said. “The surrounding communities are horrified by the prospect of seeing four stories from their backyards.”

Snaden noted, “Density is already here,” referring to some existing apartment and condominium developments neighboring Maryhaven.

In moving through the building and planning stages, she said, it will be necessary to continue consulting traffic and environmental studies, which she indicated are “always done as a matter of course.”

“Residential use has been proven to be the softest use, environmentally speaking,” the deputy mayor added. “My concern is that if we don’t move ahead with … some type of a code change, then as of right, an office park could move in, causing more issues for the neighboring community.”

Parking garage

The village is also working to mediate longstanding parking issues, with both candidates detailing how a proposed parking garage could offset shortages.

“There has to be a careful balance with that — without overbuilding but creating the parking spaces that are needed,” Snaden said of the parking structure.

She also supported continued public-private partnerships for shared parking agreements.

Sheprow called for establishing a parking committee, composed primarily of business owners, to help manage the village’s municipal parking apparatus.

She referred to the proposed garage as “an idea I think residents need to hear and weigh in on.”

Flooding

During a recent climate resilience forum at Village Hall, local architect Michael Schwarting shared alarming projections of more frequent and intense flood events in Lower Port. Each candidate was asked how the village could mitigate these concerns.

“Utilizing an engineer or planner to lead that process,” coupled with a new grant writer to help underwrite new projects, could “move the village forward conceptually,” Sheprow suggested.

Snaden proposed daylighting hidden underground water bodies to offset increases in flood load. “I would like to continue building bioswales,” she added, “making gardens in conjunction with these bioswales.”

Concluding remarks

Sheprow expressed appreciation for the residents throughout the campaign process.

“I’m having a lot of fun talking to people and learning more about everyone in our community,” she said. “There’s a lot of love for this community, and I would just be grateful to represent them and have their trust put in me.”

Snaden reiterated her past experiences in positioning her for the responsibilities of mayor.

By “voting my opponent in as mayor, you lose me entirely — you lose my experience, knowledge and love for this community,” Snaden said. “However, if you vote for me, Lauren stays on as a trustee, and you have us both.”

Voting information

The public will be the ultimate arbiter of these two mayoral candidates on Tuesday, June 20. Voting will take place at Port Jefferson Village Center, where polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden on her bid for mayor. Sketch by Kyle Horne: @kylehorneart • kylehorneart.com

Seven-term incumbent Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant is leaving the village government, instead making a run for Town of Brookhaven supervisor under the Democratic ticket. 

In a contest to fill Garant’s seat, Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden is running against trustee Lauren Sheprow, who is now a write-in candidate. In an exclusive interview, Snaden opened up about her plans for economic development, East Beach, recreation, parking and more.

What would be your top priority for the coming term, if elected?

Using my institutional knowledge and experience in every aspect of the village.

One of the things I had just started working on and want to take to the next level when I become mayor is economic development. Over the last year or so, Kevin Wood — our parking and mobility [administrator] — has been in charge of economic development.

I’d like to start a task force to bring together business and restaurant owners, the chamber of commerce and the Business Improvement District. I want to reach out to developers and real estate brokers and have a committee or task force that will be able to connect with other businesses — national businesses, restaurants and retail establishments — to see what they need to come into our village to continue to make our downtown a thriving district.

Doing that task force will be beneficial to take our village to the next level, where it needs to go. We’re very lucky to have a vibrant downtown, and we must keep that going. It benefits the residents and the entire village as a whole.

If elected, how do you intend to help guide East Beach bluff stabilization efforts and maximize the use of the village-owned Port Jefferson Country Club?

Fortunately, we have a map forward with that. 

We’ve been working with our coastal engineers, and the Board of Trustees voted unanimously on their plan, which includes finalizing the bluff stabilization with the FEMA grant — the $3.75 million.

Once the bluff is stabilized, we will move to the redevelopment of the property at the top of the bluff. Our coastal engineers, the experts in this field, were able to give us a plan for pickleball and tennis courts, which is key to bringing back that membership. 

We were very sad to lose that membership when we had to shut the courts down for reconstruction, but I’m hoping this new racket sports complex will bring back that membership. 

The best part about that is all of that project will be self-sustaining, paid for by the membership. This will not be on the backs of the taxpayers, which is very important to me. I support that whole plan.

What is the role of the village board in overseeing new developments and redevelopment projects?

Working very closely with our planning and building departments and our Zoning Board of Appeals if that’s one of the routes a developer takes. Careful and responsible development, always looking at traffic studies and environmental impacts. Always talking to the surrounding residents and the residents as a whole.

Keep in mind that development will help to increase our tax base. At this point, with the LIPA glide path continuing and going into its final stages, we must be very mindful of our tax base, making sure that it’s solid.

How can the village alleviate its parking capacity challenges, balancing the competing interests of residents, businesses and tourists?

As we know, parking is a big issue in Port Jefferson because we’re not getting any more property.

One of the things I did when I started as parking liaison was work with our Parking Department head to build our Barnum parking lot. That was key.

When I found out that we have about 640 spaces in the village and over 300 were used by employees, I said, “We have to do something.” Employees need to park, but that’s a large portion of our parking capacity.

For an employee — let’s say a waitress, for example — that doesn’t make a huge salary, it would be a huge hit to pay for parking every shift they have. But if we incentivized them to park in the Barnum lot free of charge, I felt that that would be very helpful. That parking lot has 43 spaces, I believe, and it has been very successful.

I continue to work with the Business Improvement District and the chamber of commerce, adapting to their changing needs. As times changed — and during COVID, the needs changed — we were able to pivot on the fly, changing the parking for the needs of the businesses.

One of the other things I’ve done and continue to work on is the PASSPort rideshare service. The idea behind PASSPort was that even though we do have resident parking, it’s limited. To alleviate residents’ parking in the other spaces that visitors can park in, they can take the PASSPort rideshare service.

One of the other things I started about four years ago was working with an engineer and our head of parking for a potential parking structure. That’s been in the works for a few years. Initially, there was an issue with the location and cost of the structure, as well as whether it would yield enough spaces to pay for itself.

One of the things I pride myself on is never saying “no.” There’s always a path to solve a problem. When I hear, “We can’t,” I say, “How can we?” And I gather the best minds in the room to figure out the best path forward that benefits the entire community.

What is your preferred method for public engagement?

That’s the reason I ran for trustee in the first place — I ran to be the voice of residents of the village of Port Jefferson. 

I enjoy speaking to people, hearing their concerns. Having the ability as deputy mayor to take their problems to Village Hall and get that problem addressed immediately has always been very important to me.

When I see the back-and-forth on a platform like Facebook, being able to answer resident questions in real time with factual information has always been something I’m happy to do. I would continue to always be available to people on social media.

Another thing I brought to the village and would continue to expand on is technology changes. We started live-streaming board meetings during COVID, and I was a strong advocate for continuing that once COVID ended.

The other thing I started was our [Port] eReport, our newsletter. I got people on board to help write the newsletter and gather the information. It expanded and expanded, and it is what it is today because of that initiative. 

I’m a “my door is always open” kind of person. I’ve always been very proud of my openness and ability to communicate with folks on many levels.

What is your professional background, and how does it apply to the role of a village mayor?

I worked as a paralegal for almost 20 years in the Buffalo area of upstate New York and on Long Island. 

In litigation, I worked on the insurance defense side for Ford and Hyundai motor companies. I did insurance defense cases for them and did a lot of work as a family law paralegal for attorneys here on Long Island.

I have been deputy mayor for the last two years and trustee for four years. I have been commissioner of building and planning, commissioner of public safety, liaison to parking and mobility, the Zoning Board of Appeals, the planning department, beautification, the Business Improvement District and have worked closely with the chamber of commerce.

My vast experience in the village and my institutional knowledge of all of the workings of the village have all come into play to get me where I am today.

Port Jeff Village trustee Lauren Sheprow on her run for mayor. Sketch by Kyle Horne: @kylehorneart • kylehorneart.com

Margot Garant, a seven-term incumbent, is stepping down as mayor of the Village of Port Jefferson to head the Democratic ticket for Town of Brookhaven supervisor. In an open contest, trustee Lauren Sheprow and Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden are vying to fill Garant’s seat.

Less than a year into her first term on the village’s Board of Trustees, Sheprow, who is running as a write-in candidate as of now, has her sights set on the office once occupied by her father, Hal, who served as mayor from 1977-91 with a one-term break. 

In an exclusive interview, Sheprow offered her plans for communications, East Beach, parking and more.

What would be your top priority for the coming term, if elected?

There are several priorities. Fiscal responsibility is number one.

My first step will be to establish a finance and audit committee. In this village, the mayor has decided to be the finance commissioner, but there is no committee assisting the finance commissioner. The finance commissioner is working with the treasurer, and [they are] doing it themselves. 

I support creating a committee of CPAs and people who work in finance who can inform our process, coming in with ideas, suggestions and opportunities to shape our budget a little bit differently — a little healthier and more disciplined. 

Job two is establishing a board of ethics. It’s something that is highly recommended by New York Village Law.

Another aspect is being resident centric, having two-way communication with the residents. Right now, the two-way communication with the residents is once a month at a [general] meeting [of the village board].

We need a brand-new, professional municipal website. When you use it now, it’s so difficult. If you go to the Town of Brookhaven’s website, it’s so easy to navigate. That’s what I want to see for Port Jeff.

We can also do well to start listening to our chamber [of commerce] members and the Business Improvement District, hearing their feedback. There’s a lot of opportunity for success in how we do business with the merchants.

If elected, how do you intend to help guide East Beach bluff stabilization efforts and maximize the use of the village-owned Port Jefferson Country Club?

When I became a trustee, I was appointed liaison to the food and beverage licensee at the county club. I was interested in improving the relationship with the licensee and the member experience up there.

I started a task force made up of some members and a nonmember resident. We started meeting with management and came up with some real opportunities for improvement. 

They changed the menu to be more community and family oriented. We discussed having socials and other events for members, and they ended up implementing that. There are still a lot of challenges that exist with that relationship, but it’s improving because of the task force.

Right now, we’re waiting to hear whether or not we’re getting that federal money [$3.75 million]. There’s some back-and-forth, I think, between FEMA and us.

I’d like to see the tennis program come back — and not just with two courts. I’d like to see six courts, at least, so we can welcome our tennis membership back. I’d also like to see the pickleball program come together and thrive.

What would be the best way to design that? We have engineers draw drawings, but shouldn’t we be relying on a real designer that has worked on country club designs before? 

Let’s get someone in there who knows what they’re doing, looking critically at the space they have to work with and making the best recommendations based on their experience with other facilities.

What is the role of the village board in overseeing new developments and redevelopment projects?

The first thing we should do is hire a planner. We need a senior planner who can advise, direct and inquire. I’m not an engineer, architect or planner. But there are some very good engineers, architects and planners out there, and we need them on staff. It is our role to hire those positions.

I think we can commission a study to look at open space. How would you treat green space? You first have to understand what green space actually exists, and then get our planner and engineer to take a look at how to address these things. 

The opportunities are there. We need to understand what they are and then get the advice of a senior planner to figure out how to move this village forward.

How can the village alleviate its parking capacity challenges, balancing the competing interests of residents, businesses and tourists?

I’ve been speaking with business owners, restaurant owners and residents, and there is a strong need for a parking committee. We need to understand what the business owners are seeing, hear their feedback and try to act upon it.

The parking committee should be made up primarily of business owners, but you also need residents who can weigh in on aesthetics and real-world experiences.

We also have to look at building a parking structure. They have parking structures that are architecturally appealing and can adhere to the architectural integrity of the community. That’s a design element, but the question of where comes into play.

If a big decision is to be made about a parking garage, then residents need to be heard on that.

What is your preferred method for public engagement?

I’m enjoying the face-to-face connections with people. I’m learning so much about the village, and people are so open to speaking with me right now. That’s my favorite way to communicate with people and engage.

If we have messages that we need to communicate in a broader sense, an upgrade to our website is essential. Sharing information through The [Port] eReport is good — it’s a good resource. But, again, it’s talking at people, not listening to people.

I feel we need to start suggestion boxes, surveys and phone banking. We need a community relations effort that hasn’t existed since I’ve been around. 

All these things — code enforcement, parking, engagement with the school district — are all community relations functions that, if we do well, we’ll have residents feel they’re listened to and have a responsive government. That’s the goal.

What is your professional background, and how does it apply to the role of a village mayor?

I have been a public relations professional for pretty much my whole career. My most recent position was as the chief media relations officer at Stony Brook University, where I worked for 16 years. Prior to that, I was the public relations director at Mather Hospital for four years.

I consider my experience at Stony Brook the most illuminating. Stony Brook is a campus of about 44,000 people between students, staff and hospital employees. They have all of the infrastructure that a municipality has. 

As I was working at Stony Brook, I was responsible for communicating a lot of the things that were going on at campus to the media. Everything that I was involved with there and helped communicate is very similar to what is happening in the Village of Port Jefferson. It’s similar in scope — Stony Brook was just much greater in size.

While at Stony Brook, I interacted with representatives from the federal, state, Suffolk County and town governments, building a lot of relationships with people in those jurisdictions. I was privy to how they did business and operated, so I feel very prepared.

Editor’s note: This interview was conducted before the Suffolk County Board of Elections removed Sheprow’s name from the mayoral ballot May 30. See story, “Suffolk County elections board removes Port Jeff mayoral candidate from ballot.”

Note to our readers
We intend to interview each of the declared candidates for village office, starting with those running for trustee, then mayor. In keeping with past practice, we first interview incumbents seeking reelection, followed by nonincumbents, selected alphabetically.

The Suffolk County Board of Elections ruled on May 30 that Village of Port Jefferson trustee and mayoral candidate Lauren Sheprow's petitions were invalid, removing her from the June 20 ballot. Above, Sheprow during a May 10 Meet the Candidates forum hosted by the Port Jefferson Civic Association. File photo by Raymond Janis

The mayoral race in the Village of Port Jefferson just took a shocking twist. 

In the upcoming village election on June 20, trustee Lauren Sheprow and Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden are vying to succeed incumbent Mayor Margot Garant, who is running for Town of Brookhaven supervisor. Following a meeting of the Suffolk County Board of Elections on Tuesday, May 30, Sheprow’s petitions were ruled invalid. This ruling removes Sheprow’s name from the ballot. 

In a statement, Sheprow said her opponent challenged her petitions due to an error on her cover sheet. In the face of the decision, she pledged to continue her mayoral campaign, now running as a write-in candidate.

“My opponent’s campaign and its lawyers challenged my petitions, and due to an issue with the cover sheet, the Suffolk County Board of Elections on May 30 determined that my name cannot be placed on the ballot,” Sheprow said in a statement.

She added, “I am committed to continuing my campaign for mayor even if it means I’ll be a ‘write-in’ candidate. It may be an uphill battle, but I will not quit the people of Port Jefferson.”

A statement issued by The Unity Party, the ticket under which Snaden is running alongside trustee Stan Loucks, clarifies how the challenges to Sheprow’s petitions first came about.

“The Unity Party requested, through the Freedom of Information Act, all documents related to Ms. Sheprow’s petition filing,” the statement said. “Upon discovering several defects, including the lack of a cover page, resident signatures on blank petition forms and other inconsistencies, a challenge to Ms. Sheprow’s election documents was filed. The SCBOE reviewed the challenge and found the deficiencies identified to not only be fatal, but also incurable.”

In the same statement, Snaden commented on the outcome: “While this decision will be disappointing to some, we should take pride that the law and process were followed. I have the utmost respect for the integrity of the bipartisan SCBOE and the decisions they make. Following the rules with transparency and integrity are the hallmarks of good government.”

The Suffolk County Board of Elections declined to comment for this story, referring inquiries to the Village of Port Jefferson clerk’s office. 

In a phone interview, Village clerk Barbara Sakovich said she was not involved in the decisions leading up to the ruling, maintaining that her position is strictly administrative.

“A mayoral challenge was submitted, and it then was brought to the Board of Elections,” she said. “The commissioners met, and the determination was made by them, not at the village level.”

Sakovich said the appeals process will be open until the end of business on Friday, saying, “I’m assuming if there is any change, the Board of Elections will notify me.”

Former Port Jeff village clerk Bob Juliano on his run for trustee. Sketch by Kyle Horne: @kylehorneart • kylehorneart.com

What would be your top priority for the coming term, if elected?

It’s more like a top couple of priorities.

I’d like to see the Building Department be a full complement as far as the planning and enforcement sides. Right now, I know the building department is in the process of interviewing planners. Hiring in the village is tough because you have to go through civil service — you have to exhaust the civil service list before you go outside. It becomes a long, laborious project to interview and hire somebody.

Entering the busy season in the village, as far as tourists, the Code Enforcement office is a little in flux with not having a chief. I’d like to see that stabilized, going ahead and ensuring that the village is a safe place for everyone.

I’d like to see trustee [Stan] Loucks’ plan for the country club implemented. There’s water there that we should be capturing. It just makes economic and ecological sense to put his plan in and create another pond.

Environmentally, Port Jefferson was called Drowned Meadow for a reason. It always flooded out, so we have to work environmentally to do something to either alleviate or lessen the flooding in the downtown area. Especially going forward, I think flooding will be more and more of an issue downtown. 

If elected, how do you intend to help guide East Beach bluff stabilization efforts and maximize the use of the village-owned Port Jefferson Country Club?

The country club is a very important piece of property that the village owns. 

The country club is a dedicated parkland, so it’s there to stay. It’s there, and we have to protect it. [The Board of Trustees] started the [lower] part of the wall, which I think should have gone out to public referendum, but that’s water under the bridge — no pun intended.

I think what they have to do is to continue the wall. They have to build the second portion upland. I like the idea that they’re getting federal funds and help to stabilize the bluff and build the second part of the wall. That should stabilize it, but for how long, I don’t know.

I’m not a golfer myself, but I know it does help property values just by the village owning a golf course and having village residents able to join the country club to play golf.

I’d like to see it expanded a little. I know with the bluff issue, they had to close down the tennis [program], and I’d like to see the tennis courts come back for the tennis players to come back and play. I just started to play pickleball, so I’d like to see some pickleball courts put in there, too. 

But I think it’s a valuable asset that the village has to protect.

What is the role of the village board in overseeing new developments and redevelopment projects?

The village board can lead and tell the Planning Board how we want the village to go.

There are two current issues that are going on. There’s the second half of the [uptown] Conifer Project, which I believe has already been approved and starting construction shortly. That’s going to be an asset to the uptown area as a whole. I’m hoping they have [commercial] tenants ready to enter the lower portion. Then they can start renting out the upper portion.

As far as Maryhaven, I’d like to see that thought out fully before they go and say, “Yes, you can do the condos.” I know as much as everybody else — I don’t have any inside information — and what was said at the [May 1] public meeting.

Everything has to be looked at there. Could the village use that property? It’s a perfect piece of property up the hill for the Fire Department, the Building Department and Village Hall. That would be perfect with everything right on the campus there.

That will cost money, so whether that’s feasible or not and whether there’s money out there is a question. But it has to be looked at and investigated before everything’s a done deal.

As far as future developments, I have an idea. I’ve seen it done in Westbury. A lot of times, the IDA will come in, the Industrial Development Agency will go in, and they’ll meet with the developer and say, “We’re going to give you rebates or tax relief.” And the village has no say.

In Westbury, I’ve seen it done where the property in question has to pay at least the taxes they’re paying now. So they don’t go back down to zero but start with the taxes they’re paying now. The village won’t lose any money, and then it builds up from there as the building gets built and the assessment changes.

How can the village alleviate its parking capacity challenges, balancing the competing interests of residents, businesses and tourists?

Parking in the village is very interesting. If you look back at the village’s history, one of the reasons it was incorporated was because of parking.

There’s very limited land in the commercial district to add parking. I can foresee some sort of parking — a level or two — being added to the area. “Where?” is the question. 

If you put a parking structure in the uptown, you have to worry about getting people from the uptown area to downtown. How do we deal with that?

We have a parking administrator. I’d like to see maybe the parking committee come back into being and resurrect the parking committee to get more ideas — ideas from businesspeople and residents.

I think, eventually, the only way to do it is to put up some sort of parking structure. That’s going to have to be built. That leads to other challenges that we’ll have to overcome.

What is your preferred method for public engagement?

My plan is that once a month, I’ll be at the Village Center — in the living room area there — and as a very casual thing, I’ll sit there for anybody who wants to come by and talk to me. I’ll have set hours, and then I can bring those concerns and issues back to the village board.

I’d also like to see some sort of portal added to the village website. People can either volunteer or see what volunteer opportunities there are for various committees. It’s a way to open up to the rest of the village.

What is your professional background, and how does it apply to the role of a trustee?

I’m a graduate of St. John’s University. I graduated with an undergraduate degree in government and politics and public administration. I have an MBA, also from St. John’s, in economics.

Right out of college, I started working for two different banks for 10 years. Then I became a treasurer of the Village of Lindenhurst. I was treasurer for eight years. I had a brief stint working for News 12 and was moving to Port Jeff when a friend of mine said the [then] clerk was leaving Port Jeff and that I should drop my resume off to the mayor. 

I did that and was interviewed by the first Mayor Garant [Jeanne]. She hired me, and I was the clerk of Port Jefferson for 18 years. Then I retired from Port Jeff and went to the Village of Westbury, where I grew up. I was clerk-treasurer of Westbury for two years.

When I was in college, my grandfather was the mayor of Westbury. He was a trustee for many years, so I got my introduction to local and municipal politics through the family.

Note to our readers

We intend to interview each of the declared candidates for village office, starting with those running for trustee, then mayor. In keeping with past practice, we first interview incumbents seeking reelection, followed by nonincumbents, selected alphabetically.

Port Jefferson Village trustee Stan Loucks on his bid for reelection. Sketch by Kyle Horne: @kylehorneart • kylehorneart.com

If reelected, what would be your top priority during the coming term?

I want to go forward successfully with a plan to capture water — not only to give us more water at the golf course but to protect the environment.

The water now that’s running rampant, a lot of it is dumping right into the Long Island Sound. We have a large spillway that goes right alongside our golf course. All that water we’re going to try to collect, putting it in ponds on the golf course. 

The water we collect will be purified before we put it on the golf course. We’re going to have a system to sanitize the water. 

The one pond we have now is filled with turtles, fish and wildlife. I’d like nothing better than to see more water on our golf course.

How do you intend to help guide ongoing bluff stabilization efforts at East Beach and maximize the potential of the village-owned Port Jefferson Country Club?

The lower wall is basically complete. The bluff itself — except directly underneath the clubhouse — has been stabilized.

It’s all been raked out, leveled out and covered with a heavy-duty burlap. And both the east and west portions of the bluff project are fairly complete. Now we’re waiting for [the Federal Emergency Management Administration] to come through with the money to begin phase II of the bluff project — an upper wall.

Our goal at this point in time is to save that structure, our clubhouse up there now. Prior to FEMA, maybe my thoughts would be different. But that [$3.75] million we’re getting from FEMA is a game changer for the taxpayers and the village.

What is the proper role of the Board of Trustees in overseeing new developments and redevelopment of village parcels?

We’re running out of space for further development, barring, for example, uptown. Many developers have come in there and bought out a lot of the businesses.

Beyond the master plan, a lot of that development came in as a way to replace revenue lost from [the Long Island Power Authority glide path settlement]. Unfortunately, the Town of Brookhaven controls the [Industrial Development Agency] tax situation. 

When those developers come in and get a tax break, that’s not on us. That’s very unfortunate because, in the first two or three years, they pay a very small percentage of what they should be paying.

The village has probably reached its max in development. Maryhaven is kind of a foggy area for me right now. I was not involved in any of the discussions leading up to the [May 1] public hearing. I think some of the board members were a little surprised.

I have some great ideas, but I’m not so sure that, moneywise, the village can afford my great ideas. We have some major [flooding] problems with the fire department, Village Hall and all of Theatre Three. The village is built in a bowl, and as we keep developing more buildings and more blacktops, water has nowhere to go. Things are going to deteriorate and get worse downtown.

If I had a magic wand, Maryhaven would be a village possession. Village Hall, the parks department, the fire department — everything can go on that property. But I don’t think that’s going to happen. I definitely would not want and would not vote for any kind of apartment complex to go in there — we have enough of that.

Would I like to see more homes in the village and more green space? Absolutely. But I think we’ve reached the point of density that we want to be at in terms of building in the village.

How can the village alleviate its parking capacity challenges while balancing the competing parking interests of residents, businesses and tourists?

The only solution I see is a parking facility — a parking garage.

It would not be a subsurface parking garage because of the water table in Port Jefferson. Where I would put it, I don’t know, but that’s the only solution I can see — a two-story, maybe three-story parking garage somewhere in the village.

We do have some vacant land that the village owns. It’s the location, the acceptance or rejection of that location and the concept. Some people don’t like parking garages, but I can’t see a solution beyond that.

Would you support resurrecting the parking committee? 

I think a parking committee should be in place. The more people you can get ideas from, the better off you are.

What is your preferred method for engaging the public?

It’s about time that we’ve got a [civic] organization that’s going to take an interest in what’s going on in our village.

I have spent eight years as a trustee, and it was always amazing to me — I’d go to a board meeting and see eight people sitting in the audience. Yet you have all these major problems — parking, flooding, code enforcement.

I come from a small village upstate where their civic association was half the village’s population. It’s a valuable organization — to get information from the people who live there.

I was very pleased the other night with that whole scenario [during the May 1 public hearing]. People were sincere, they were civil and they gave a lot of good feedback. I hope the [Port Jefferson] Civic Association stays active, and I hope they stay in the direction that they’re going in.

When they talk about zoning, I don’t think that’s negative. That’s a sincere concern. The board can listen to the public more, and it’d be nice if even the Planning Board exposed themselves more to the public. I like hearing from the public, and I think that’s important. 

What is your professional background, and how does it apply to the duties of a trustee?

My professional background is in education. A graduate of [SUNY] Cortland, I started as a phys ed teacher. At that time, I immediately started my education at Hofstra University, receiving a master’s degree in secondary school administration, then continued my education and got a master’s degree in districtwide administration.

I moved from a physical education teacher to the local athletic director. Throughout my career, I coached girls tennis, boys golf, boys basketball and varsity football. After 34 years in Plainview, I retired in 1995.

One year after the village purchased the [Port Jefferson] Country Club, I got involved in tennis, belonging to the tennis membership up at the country club. I got involved on the tennis board and became chairman, then moved over to the golf side when it became reasonably priced. I got involved with the board of governors, became president and was later appointed to the [Country Club Management Advisory Committee].

In 2013, [Mayor] Margot [Garant] asked me to run for trustee. At that point in time, I was not interested. In 2015, I did relent and ran for trustee and was elected. I was elected again in 2017, 2019 and 2021, and I’m running again now.

I am involved in the recreation and parks in the village. And, of course, the country club is my main goal. Right now, we have a lot of projects going on up there.

My entire career, my goal has been to work for people and work with students of all ages and backgrounds. My main interest right now is to continue working in pretty much the same direction I have been going in. I’m interested in serving the public, continuing what I did for 34 years [in education].

Note to our readers

We intend to interview each of the declared candidates for village office, starting with those running for trustee, then mayor. In keeping with past practice, we first interview incumbents seeking reelection, followed by nonincumbents, selected alphabetically.