A local mom, nonprofit founder and small business owner is looking to run for Village of Port Jefferson’s mayor seat.
Melissa Paulson, a Port Jefferson village resident since 2014, and owner of the online-only antique store, Melissa’s Cottage and Consignments, said she decided to go against incumbent Mayor Margot Garant because she believes the village needs a change.
A graduate of Hauppauge High School, she moved on to study special education and early education at Dowling College. While there, she worked for the America Reads program providing tutoring services to local children.
Paulson said after getting married and starting her family, she chose to move to the village because she had fond memories of it growing up.
“Coming here as a child and seeing how beautiful it is, but then now, I see the decline,” she said. “It’s very disheartening to see what has transpired. I specifically came here to raise my family, because the ambiance and historical history, and now we’re faced with vacancy, homelessness, acts of violence and safety concerns. So, it’s really time for leadership to really implement changes positively and effectively.”
Prior to her settling down in the village, Paulson’s daughter was diagnosed with cancer at just 18 months. It was then that the mayoral candidate decided to start up a nonprofit, Give Kids Hope Inc., in 2011 where she claims she has helped over 14,000 underprivileged families throughout the last year.
Give Kids Hope is now located in Port Jefferson Station, after finding a permanent home at 4390 Nesconset Highway last year.
Paulson said her charity work led her to consider a run for mayor over the last couple of years, when she believed the current administration wasn’t fixing the problems she saw.
“The proposed changes that were set to happen years ago unfortunately haven’t and after being here for so long, I realized it’s time for change,” she said. “I’m not a politician. I’m not a lawyer. I’m Melissa Paulson — I run a charity, but I want to be the voice for people and that’s what people need.”
She said she believes the village needs someone who’s “going to fight for them.”
“I will fight for what’s right,” she added. “I will listen to the voices of our residents, businesses and owners, even schools. We all need to work together to really make positive changes.”
Some of those changes she is looking to work toward are making the village a safer place, and stopping its commercialization.
“It was a historical village, and now it’s being commercialized by big apartment buildings, and people want that to stop,” she said.
Paulson said she wants to hold business owners in Upper Port more accountable for graffiti by issuing fines, and to bring businesses back to Down Port. She plans to address homelessness and raise police presence throughout the village.
Although the village has created a task force to keep an eye on troublesome bicyclists, while also increasing its constable presence on the streets, Paulson said she would like to see more.
“We need police watching our residents. We need more jurisdiction of constables,” she said. “We need to begin finding ways to allow them to have more duties to protect our village more.”
Despite a random and unfortunate incident where a man was killed on Main Street in March, a recent report at the village board of trustees meeting stated that Port Jefferson’s crime rate has been on the decline.
Paulson acknowledged that, but she still sees concerns over the teenage bicyclists who have harassed visitors and residents in the past.
“I’ll feel safer if I see police officers walking around the village,” she said.
One concern that village residents noted when Paulson announced her candidacy was the fact that her two children are part of the Three Village school district.
“I don’t have a choice to attend Port Jefferson schools,” she said.
The village vote is scheduled for June 15.
“Every day I’m working hard to become your mayor,” she said. “This is more than an election, it’s my passion and mission to be the voice of the residents.”
Keep checking back with TBR News Media for more updates on the upcoming village election.