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2022 elections

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Setauket Fire Department Headquarters. File photo.

When residents of the Setauket Fire District vote on Tuesday, Dec. 13, for fire commissioner, they will find one candidate on the ballot for a five-year term.

Anthony Todaro

Current fire commissioner Anthony Todaro is running unchallenged to retain his seat on the board, and he said first and foremost on his mind is recruiting and retaining more volunteers.

He joined the department in 1999 and became certified as a firefighter and EMT. Since then he has been a lieutenant, captain, assistant chief,  chief of department and has served on the board of directors. After leaving the chief’s office in 2014, he has been the department safety officer.

The 43-year-old has lived in Setauket for more than 30 years. He is married to a lifelong Setauket resident and is the father of two boys, 9 and 3.

Todaro started his career as a first responder at Stony Brook University Hospital where he was an emergency medical technician with the hospital’s EMS team. He later transferred to the university’s Environmental Health and Safety as a campus fire marshal.

For the past 13 years, he has been the senior fire marshal with the Town of Brookhaven’s Department of Public Safety, Division of Fire Prevention.

Todaro answered a few questions in an email about why he chose to run for another term.

Why did you decide to run for commissioner again?

I was elected fire commissioner five years ago and as a board we have accomplished a lot in that time frame. We have seen the opening of our new Main Street firehouse; we have upgraded our communications infrastructure and purchased new radio equipment; computers for the apparatus (MDTs); and we have purchased new fire apparatus and ambulances and currently have a new ladder truck on order. We have upgraded equipment such as battery-operated extrication equipment and self-contained breathing apparatus (air packs) and personal protective equipment for the firefighters and EMTs. As a board we have provided our responders with the best possible gear, equipment, vehicles and facilities while staying under the tax cap and keeping an eye on spending. 

I am running for reelection because I feel there is more work to be done and that I can contribute to helping the department and my community. I currently enjoy working with my fellow fire commissioners and feel that we work well together as a board. 

Is there an issue within the district that you would like to tackle?

One of the issues that we need to address as a board is recruiting and retaining more volunteers. Our community is blessed with dedicated and skilled volunteers who respond to calls at all hours of the day. These volunteers give so much of their time to serve their community while balancing their own careers and family obligations, but it is becoming more difficult. Volunteering is down nationally, and call volume continues to rise. Additional training requirements have increased over the years that add to the time volunteers have to devote to the department including new hazards faced in modern building construction, new technologies such as lithium-ion batteries and stored energy facilities and how to respond to these incidents, newer vehicle designs that require special knowledge during motor vehicle accidents and of course COVID just to name a few. 

How would you go about it?

A few years ago, we added part-time career firefighters in addition to our career EMTs and paramedics. This was not done to replace the volunteers but to shoulder some of the burden and help during the daytime when typically most members are working, and response was limited. The chief’s office is working hard to get the most out of the membership and it’s the board of fire commissioners responsibility to assist the chief’s office and provide them with the tools needed to accomplish their mission. 

Todaro added that anyone interested in joining the Setauket Fire Department can visit  www.setauketfd.com for more information. “I did almost 24 years ago, and it’s been an amazing experience,” he said.

Setauket FD election day 

Residents of the Setauket Fire District duly registered with the Suffolk County Board of Elections as of Nov. 21 are eligible to vote in the Tuesday, Dec. 13, election. Voters can cast their ballots between 2 and 9 p.m. at the firehouse located at 394 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook.

The five-year fire commissioner term commences on Jan. 1, 2023, and ends on Dec. 31, 2027.

Stony Brook FD fire commissioner race

Like the Setauket Fire Commissioner race, Stony Brook Fire District has one candidate for one position. Current fire commissioner Brian McAllister will look to retain his seat for a five-year term beginning Jan. 1, 2023, and terminating on Dec. 31, 2027.

Voters in the Stony Brook Fire District who have registered with the Suffolk County Board of Elections on or before Nov. 21 are eligible to vote.

Voting will take place Tuesday, Dec. 13, between 2 and 9 p.m. at Station 2, located at 1410 Stony Brook Road, Stony Brook.

TBR News Media was unable to reach McAllister before our deadline. We invite him and other fire commissioners to contact us in the future. We are always open to profiles on local fire commissioners to introduce them to the community and to educate our readers on the latest happenings in our fire departments and districts.

Nick LaLota, Congressman-elect for New York’s 1st Congressional District made an appearance at Stereo Garden in Patchogue on Election Night. Photo by Raymond Janis

While New Yorkers voted Democrat Kathy Hochul as the first woman elected governor, Republicans scored big in races throughout Suffolk County.

Due to September’s cyberattack, results for local races were delayed on Tuesday night as Suffolk County election workers struggled to upload votes.

After technical problems, election workers delivered voting booth memory cards to Yaphank headquarters for votes to be counted. The first voting results started trickling in by the early morning hours of Nov. 9.

Congressman Lee Zeldin, defeated gubernatorial candidate, made an appearance at Stereo Garden in Patchogue on Election Night. Photo by Raymond Janis

New York State governor

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY1), the Republican Party’s gubernatorial candidate, made a surprise appearance en route to his official viewing party in Manhattan. At the Stereo Garden in Patchogue, Zeldin expressed gratitude for the people of Suffolk County, saying his night would not be complete without first dropping in.

Slowly, the returns began to come in, and the room took on a different tone and tenor as the gubernatorial contest was called for incumbent Hochul. 

With 94% reporting as of press time, Hochul carried the state by a 53-47% margin — unusually tight for a state that Democrats generally take handily. 

“Tonight, you made your voices heard loud and clear, and you made me the first woman ever to be elected to be the governor of the State of New York,” Hochul said in her victory speech. “But I’m not here to make history. I’m here to make a difference.”

Zeldin conceded the afternoon of Nov. 9 in a statement.

“This race was a once-in-a-generation campaign, with a very close margin in the bluest of blue states,” Zeldin said. “The unrelenting passion and hard work of our grassroots volunteers and supporters made this incredibly close race possible and helped us win at least 49 of New York’s 62 counties.” He added, “Republicans, Democrats and Independents united as New Yorkers, pouring their heart and soul into this campaign.” 

Congress

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was declared the victor early on Nov. 8, receiving 56% of the votes as of press time.

Despite this and a lackluster Republican performance nationwide, some at Stereo Garden did have cause to celebrate. In the race to fill Zeldin’s congressional seat, Nick LaLota defeated Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac) by a 56-44% margin with 94% reporting.

“Thank you to the voters of Suffolk County for placing your trust in me,” LaLota said in a statement. “I am extremely thankful for the trust and confidence you have placed in me, and I won’t let you down.”

State Assemblyman Keith Brown (R-Northport) was among the incumbents who retain his seat. Photo by Raymond Janis

State Legislature

At the state level, incumbent state Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) defeated Democratic Party challenger Skyler Johnson by 12 points. “This is a team effort, as you all know, and we don’t get here without the hard work of all of our volunteers,” Palumbo said in a speech.

Johnson said he wouldn’t make any promises about whether to run for another office. However, he hasn’t ruled it out, either.

“If I think that we have a viable path, and I think that what I can offer is what the constituents need, then ‘yes,’” he said.

State Sen. Mario Mattera (R-St. James) faced Democrat Susan Berland, formerly Suffolk County legislator in the 16th District and Town of Huntington councilwoman, for the seat in the 2nd District.

The incumbent retained his seat with more than 58% of the votes. Mattera said it felt great to hear the results of his race the morning of Nov. 9, even though he was disappointed that Zeldin lost the gubernatorial race.

“One party rule is upsetting to me because it’s like a business having a monopoly,” Mattera said.

The state senator said he is looking forward to returning to Albany to continue working toward bringing funds back to the area to help with infrastructure and local businesses. He added he was appreciative of the overwhelming support from his family, friends, law enforcement and trade unions, and the confidence they all have had in him.

In the state Assembly, incumbent Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead), who represents the 2nd District, easily won her race by a 32% margin over Democratic challenger Wendy Hamberger.

As of early afternoon Nov. 9, the race for Assembly District 4 was tight, with a mere 973 votes dividing the candidates. Incumbent state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) is in a competitive bout with Republican challenger Edward Flood. Flood maintains a 2-point lead with 96% of the precincts reporting as of press time, though that race has not been called.

Englebright said his last race in 2020 was a close one, too, and he was not ready to make an official statement as of press time.

In the state Assembly District 8 race, incumbent Michael Fitzpatrick received more than 68% of the votes. His opponent, Democrat Jeanine Aponte, did not run an active campaign.

In addition to parts of Suffolk County, state Assembly District 10 also takes in parts of Nassau County. Incumbent Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) was the winner with 54% of the votes (25,879), while IT professional Aamir Sultan (R) received 46% (21,843).

In the state Assembly race in the 12th District, incumbent Keith Brown (R-Northport), faced Democrat Cooper Macco.

Brown retained his seat with 58% of the votes. Macco said he would consider running for office in the future.

“It was a learning experience,” he said. “I think that in the future, hopefully, I can take what I’ve learned” and apply it to a campaign.

County Comptroller John Kennedy (R) was among the speakers at Stereo Garden on Election Night. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Suffolk County

After losing a June primary, current Suffolk County Clerk Judith Pascale (R) did not run for the position. 

Republican Vincent Puleo, the town clerk of Smithtown, faced Democrat Lisa Jimenez, a newcomer running for political office. Puleo won the race with 59% of the votes. 

Incumbent county Comptroller John M. Kennedy Jr. (R) won reelection with ease at 60% over his inactive Democratic Party challenger, Thomas Dolan. During a speech at Stereo Garden, he thanked those who helped him secure victory and expressed his vision for the future.

“We left nothing untouched, ladies and gentlemen,” the comptroller said. “We will have change in Suffolk County, and we will restore Republican values, I’m confident.”

Propositions

The $4.2 billion state Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act of 2022 was approved by about 59% of voters (93.64% precincts reporting).

The Suffolk County term limits proposition, to 12 years total, passed with a massive 86% approval. 

METRO photo

By Lisa Scott

If you’re a news consumer you’ve heard a lot about how important these midterm elections are. Voter turnout is usually greatest in a presidential election year (66.8% in 2020 59.2% in 2016) but falls off at midterms (49% in 2018 and 36% in 2014). It shouldn’t, since the entire House of Representatives and 1/3 of the Senate is on the ballot along with many state governors and state legislatures. 

Also this is the first election after many states reapportioned their districts, which has been contentious due to extreme gerrymandering (resulting in court cases, re-drawn lines, and in New York State  a huge amount of confusion for voters who don’t know which congressional and state districts they now reside in). Whether you’re an occasional voter or a consistent one, what matters is that YOU VOTE. Be prepared: study the ballot and make a plan. Keep in mind the following:

• If you didn’t register to vote by Oct. 14, you cannot vote in this election.

• If you didn’t request an absentee ballot by Oct. 24, the only way you can get one now is to physically appear at the Board of Elections on or before Nov. 7 (and fill it in while you are there).

• If you’ve requested an absentee ballot, you can track it online at https://voterlookup.elections.ny.gov/ 

• Early voting is currently underway (from Oct. 29 through Nov. 6). You can vote early at any of the 27 early voting sites in Suffolk County. Hours do vary, so check before you go at https://my.lwv.org/new-york/suffolk-county.

The Suffolk County Board of Elections is still down as a result of the county’s IT department restoring systems after September’s hacking incident, but their phones are staffed. However you must vote at your assigned polling place on election day Nov. 8 — find it at https://voterlookup.elections.ny.gov/ 

Suffolk County Board of Elections trained poll workers staff the voting sites. Each position has a 2 workers — one a Republican and one a Democrat. An individual cannot unilaterally make a decision without the approval of the other party’s worker which provides balanced oversight. If you have any issue at the polls you can call the Election Protection hotline at (866) 390-2992, or the Suffolk County Board of Elections at 631-852-4500.

To find out what races and candidates are on YOUR ballot, visit the League of Women Voters’ www.Vote411.org. If you’re not familiar with the candidates you can refer to their answers to questions (which are unedited). 

When you’re at the polls, “flip” your ballot to see what propositions you are being asked to vote on. All NYS voters can vote yes or no on the “Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act of 2022”  proposition. (Bonds would be issued to provide moneys to make environmental improvements; these are not taxes.) The League of Women Voters supports this proposition. 

There is also a Suffolk County proposition on all ballots which updates the language in the County Charter with regard to terms limits for County Executive, County Legislator and County Comptroller. Because of vague language in the original Charter Law, voting yes to this proposition would make the language clearer; that the limit of years of service for those offices is 12 years, regardless of whether 12 years are served consecutively on non-consecutively. Voting no does NOT eliminate term limits for these offices. A no vote simply means that the original Charter Law language remains unchanged.

We live in challenging times and apathy on election day is not an option for any of us. And after you’ve voted, remain engaged: stay informed and active and communicate with your elected officials.

Lisa Scott is president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit https://my.lwv.org/new-york/suffolk-county or call 631-862-6860. 

Photo by Gerard Romano

By Nancy Marr

The $4.2 billion Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Job Bond Act proposition on our ballot in 2022 will allow our state to undertake vital and urgent environmental improvement projects via issuing bonds; not a tax increase.

Long Island’s waterways are impaired by failing sewage and septic systems, and algae and nitrogen pollution impacts our sole-source aquifer system which provides drinking water to three million state residents. We need to find a way to conserve open space to benefit wildlife habitats, food production, and outdoor recreation. Many marginalized communities are harmed by pollution and have no access to open space, clean air and water.

There have been eleven environmental bond acts passed since the early 20th century. The conservation movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was a response to vast deforestation, natural resource depletion and industrialization. The “forever wild” clause was added to the New York State Constitution in 1894 to enshrine the protection of lands in the Adirondacks and Catskills. 

In 1910 voters passed a bond act for $2.5 million, in 1916, for $10 million, and in 1924, for $15 million, all for the purposes of land acquisition and the establishment of parks. The 1965 Bond Act funded infrastructure to limit the flow of wastewater from untreated sewage overflows. In the 1970’s and 80’s, attention was galvanized by the problems with Love Canal, near Niagara Falls, the site of thousands of tons of toxic waste from the Hooker Chemical Company, which led policymakers in the US to establish hazardous waste regulatory systems.  The majority of the funding from the Environmental Quality Bond Act of 1986 went to manage hazardous waste in sites under the State Superfund program which had been established in 1979. The Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act of 1996 allocated the bulk of its $1.75 billion to safe drinking water and treatment of solid waste. 

The infrastructure in New York City, which supplied water to approximately 40 percent of NYS’s population, had already exceeded its life span by 2008 when the NYS Department of Health estimated that $38.7 billion would be needed over the next twenty years for drinking water infrastructure. The Legislature responded with an initial allocation in 2017 of $2.5 billion. In 2019 it passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which established clear statewide goals for emissions reduction and clear energy. 

Governor Hochul’s budget released the Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Act of 2022. The final version, $4.2 billion, makes climate change its largest category of funding and designates that a portion of the total funding must be allocated to disadvantaged communities that bear a disproportionate share of negative environmental consequences. The 2022 Bond Act includes:

Climate Change Mitigation (includes money for electrifying school buses) — $1.5 billion: Will fund projects that expand clean energy infrastructure, increase energy efficiency, reduce green gas emissions, and protect air and water quality to help fight and mitigate climate change. 

Restoration and Flood Risk Reduction — $1.1 billion: Damage caused by severe storms and flooding is projected to cost over $50 billion statewide. Funding would provide investments in NY’s natural and manufactured coastal resilience systems such as shoreline protection, wetland restoration, local waterfront revitalization, green infrastructure, and voluntary buyout programs.

Open Space Land Conservation and Recreation — $ 650 million: The Bond Act funding will expand open space conservation programs, promote outdoor recreation, protect natural resources, improve biodiversity, benefit threatened and endangered species and help farmers who are facing the challenges of climate change. Funding will invest in restoring and maintaining native fish populations and increasing public access to our waterways to support LI’s maritime culture. 

Water Quality Improvement and Resilient Infrastructure — $650 million: A long-term solution is needed to fund our backlog of water quality and infrastructure needs which continue to outpace available funding; the Bond Act will help fill the gaps in funding by investing at least $659 million in protecting water quality, spending 35% of the total in disadvantaged communities.

On Election Day 2022, remember to turn over your ballot and vote for the Environmental Bond Act proposition! 

Nancy Marr is Vice-President of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit www.lwv-suffolkcounty.org or call 631-862-6860.

State Sen. James Gaughran (D-Northport) decided to end his four-year run as senator when he saw the boundaries of the fifth district.

“This was a decision I made pretty quickly once we got the final lines from the special master,” Gaughran said.

While Gaughran, who is also a practicing attorney, decided not to run, he is eager to embrace his duties for the remainder of the year. That includes figuring out ways to spend $350 million in an economic development grant program he helped put in place in the budget.

The grant program is earmarked for local governments and organizations for long-range improvements, including downtown revitalization and other development projects.

“One of the things I’m heavily focused on is working with the governor’s office and colleagues on how to spend that money” which will be authorized between now and the end of the year, he said.

Gaughan also said he plans to work with his staff for the remainder of the year to “help our constituents in as many ways as we can” with issues including unemployment.

He doesn’t have specific plans yet for his activities after he leaves office in January. As a citizen, he will get involved in community issues and speak out.

He said he has already spoken with Linda Beigel Schulman, whose son Scott Beigel, a teacher, was killed in the Parkland school shooting. He said he’d like to help Schulman in her efforts to “continue our fight to pass laws that are going to help us with gun safety.”

Schulman had publicly endorsed Gaughran’s candidacy for senate in 2020.

Partisanship concerns

The senator believes the biggest issue in politics at every level is polarization.

Gaughran suggested that bipartisanship is institutionalized in Albany.

“Republicans show up, feel that their sole responsibility is to be critics,” Gaughran said. He said that while criticism plays an important role in American society, he would have preferred to see more bipartisan efforts to work on legislation.

Republicans routinely voted against a capital budget that included money for improving roads and drainage and providing new sewer systems.

While they voted no, urging that the state couldn’t afford the debt, he said they still appeared at ribbon cuttings.

“I wish they could play more of a role to compromise and get things done,” he added.

Gaughran believes partisanship has prevented some people from speaking out about their own views.

“Just look at [Republican] Congressman [Chris] Jacobs,” Gaughran said.

Jacobs, who represents a heavily Republican district in Buffalo and who received the support of former President Donald Trump (R) and the National Rifle Association when he ran for office said he would back a federal assault weapons ban and place a limit on high-capacity magazines.

He made his comments after the attack in a Buffalo supermarket that killed mostly Black employees and shoppers.

Within a week of Jacobs’s remarks, “Republicans took away his nomination,” Gaughran added.

Reflecting on his role

Gaughran is pleased with several initiatives he supported or led, including election reform that made it easier for people to vote.

When he came into office, New York was ranked 44th in the nation in terms of voter turnout.

The climate change bill established a blueprint to get New York to use more renewable resources by 2030.

“When we passed the Reproductive Health Act in 2019, we were chastised by many Republicans” who thought such efforts were unnecessary in light of the protection offered by the landmark Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision.

After a draft of a Supreme Court decision that appears poised to overturn that decision, Gaughran said that law is “one of the most significant things we did.”

He is also proud of an environmental bill he wrote to protect drinking water and was gratified by the additional school funding he supported.

Lessons learned

One of the most significant lessons he learned occurred in the area of the budget process.

When he first arrived, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) would submit a proposed budget. He and others would spend numerous hours analyzing it. He and his staff would come up with proposals and amendments.

“All of a sudden, this is a final budget” and he had to vote up or down, he said.

After the first year, he learned the process better and when he needed to push to get something added to the budget.

He described Cuomo as being “much more difficult” and that the former governor would “veto things and not even give you the time of day.”

He has a better working relationship with Gov. Kathy Hochul (D).

“She’s doing a great job,” he said. “She inherited a very difficult period of time, not just coming in after Cuomo … but also having to deal with the height of COVID-19.”

As for mental health concerns, Gaughran recalls his first week in Albany. He met with a corrections officer representative who worked in the state prison system. The officer said that half of the incarcerated were there for mental health reasons.

The officer told him that the corrections staff weren’t trained as mental health professionals, even though their jobs forced them to be.

A big part of the problem is that “a lot of people are walking around who need help and can’t find it,” Gaughran said. “They are getting caught up in the criminal justice system.”

Society needs to react accordingly, he said.

As for his best days as a senator, Gaughran suggested it was when he was passing laws for the first time.

“That was pretty cool,” he said.

TBR News Media sat down with Vincent Puleo, town clerk of Smithtown. In our interview, he discussed his professional background, addressed his recent endorsements for Suffolk County clerk, and shared his expectations for the upcoming race.

Smithtown Town Clerk Vincent Puleo, right, during Supervisor Ed Wehrheim’s swearing-in ceremony earlier this year. Photo from Town of Smithtown

Q: Before we go into the details of your upcoming race, can you provide an overview of your own professional background? How did you get to this point in your career?

I was in the private sector, in the bar and restaurant business, for 26 years. I spent most of my career in the private sector. I did some insurance business up until around 2005, when the previous town clerk was retiring. I’m also a volunteer. This month, I’ve been in the Nesconset Fire Department for 50 years. 

I had community ties. An active Conservative since ’92, before that I was a Republican. I knew [Smithtown] Supervisor [Pat] Vecchio [R] very well. I knew the chairman of the Conservative Party fairly well, and they were looking for somebody with a little bit of a profile. I started my 17th year here in January. 

I’m married. I have three step-boys, eight grandchildren, and I’ve been the president of my chamber of commerce for the last three years. I’m active in my local community of Nesconset, born and raised on the same block. That’s just what I do. It helps me here because I know a lot of people. I do like to help wherever I can. In terms of people having nowhere else to turn, they call me. 

My duty is to help my community and help my town. I’m a lifelong resident here and that’s what we do.

Last year, Councilman Tom Lohmann, Puleo and Wehrheim presented a check to Pat Westlake of the Smithtown Food Pantry. Photo from Town of Smithtown

Q: For those who may not know, what are the responsibilities of a clerk?

Here in Smithtown, I’m first and foremost the secretary to the town board and to the supervisor [Ed Wehrheim (R)]. I maintain all the records of any vote that the town board makes, so I’m the secretary to the town board meetings. I’m also the records retention officer. I’m responsible for any records that are official. We continue to keep the records up to date here in Smithtown, so that’s
one facet. 

The other facet is that I’m a registrar. The registrar records birth and death. We have a record of every single birth and death in Smithtown. Certainly, we do permits. We maintain the marina list of all of the boat slips, and we keep a list of people who are on a waiting list to get a permit for their boat. We presently have a 26-year waiting list for boat slips, so people get a little antsy. We do garbage permits, dog licenses for our animal shelter and all the things of that nature.

The most important thing for me is to keep up with the times electronically. For the past 16 years, I have probably obtained $750,000 to $800,000 worth of grants in order to take paper and put it into an electronic format. My office is pretty much an electronic format. We very rarely have to go into our records retention room to retrieve any records because over the years, that’s been something that I thought could save time and it does. We are able to pick up records and get our constituents whatever they need much quicker than we ever have before.

Q: To move into your upcoming race for Suffolk County clerk, you have received the Republican and Conservative Party’s endorsements over incumbent Judy Pascale (R). From what I have read, you seemed a bit surprised about how this race has unfolded. Why?

I was asked in 2018 if I would be interested in running for that position. At that time, that was Judy’s spot and I said that as long as she’s going to retire, I would be amicable to run for that position. She, at that point, had a conference with the Republican and Conservative parties and she decided that she wanted to stay. From what I was told — and I wasn’t in the room, so I don’t know for sure — she said she wanted just four more years and then she would retire.

In early February of this year, the chairman of the Conservative Party called me and said he would like me to run for county clerk. I said I’m flattered that he asked me again and certainly would be honored to do that. A week later, I hear that she’s very upset and that she changed her mind and now there is a possible primary. That’s what surprised me. 

I’m surprised that she decided to not retire. Now, I already have both the Republican and Conservative endorsements and we will see what happens.

Q: Are you interested in a primary? 

I’m going to wait to answer that question until after the petitions are filed. 

Q: If elected, what is your vision for the Office of the Suffolk County Clerk?

Judy has done an outstanding job in making the office as transparent as possible. I’m going to continue that. I think that regardless of being two different worlds — where town stuff is town, and the county is a little bigger and has bigger roles — the thing that I want to continue is making sure our constituents get what they need as quickly as possible.

[Whether town or county clerk] it is still the same premise. I want to continue to go out there and get as many grants as I can to facilitate electronic filing. The scope of the work is different, not the intent of what you are looking to do. I really feel that constituent services are number one and that’s what I will continue doing. 

Q: Is there anything else that you would like to say to the local readers?

I just hope that everything moving forward goes smoothly. I would be happy to be in a race and compete. Hopefully, I won’t see a primary. That’s basically it.

Northport Village Hall. File photo

A former village clerk is ready to take over the mayor’s seat.

Donna Koch

Village of Northport residents voted for Donna Koch for mayor on March 15. She beat out current trustee Dave Weber Jr. for the spot, with an unofficial result of 1,015-799.

Up until 2020, Koch worked as a full-time clerk for the village for 20 years. Two years before she took on the position, she was deputy village clerk.

In a March 10 The Times of Huntington & Northport article, Koch said she decided to run after attending village board meetings. She said she felt the board rushed through meetings and found department heads had nothing to report, including the treasurer. She also felt the board was disrespectful to residents. 

“It was then I knew I wanted to run for mayor and bring this village board back to a position of respect, transparency, with open, honest, informative meetings,” Koch said.

Trustees

In addition to choosing between mayoral candidates Koch and Weber, voters selected three trustees, two for a four-year term and another for a two-year period. Mary Biunno ran unopposed for village justice.

At the end of the night, Meghan Dolan and Joseph Sabia won four-year terms with 1,034 and 982 unofficial votes respectively, and Ernest Pucillo gained the two-year seat with 880 votes.

In the March 10 article, Dolan, a litigator in both the public and private sectors, said that running for village trustee wasn’t something she ever thought she would do. The co-founder of Not In Our Town Northport, which works with the community, school administration and the police department to stand up against hate and bigotry, said her experience working in the village the last few years inspired her to run.

“In attending and speaking at the village meetings, it became clear to me that new voices — voices of women, parents and young people — are essential to continuing to make Northport Village the best it can be,” she said.

Joseph Sabia, who had an unsuccessful run for trustee three times and mayor once in the past, is the owner of Sabia’s Car Care.

He said not only as a business owner, but as someone who has been a member of the Northport Police Department and on the Northport-East Northport school board from 2011-14, he has seen a lot in the village. He also has been attending the village board meetings for 10 years.

“I’ve been living in the village for over 45 years,” he said. “I have a business here, and I live here, and I raised my family here, and after going to meetings, I realized how this place is run,” he said. “It’s very poor.”

Among the issues on the minds of
Koch, Dolan and Sabia are finances and stormwater runoff.

Pucillo could not be reached for comment. Final official vote counts were not available at press time.

Northport Village Hall. File photo

In the Village of Northport, residents will vote for a new mayor on Tuesday, March 15.

In addition to choosing between mayoral candidates Dave Weber Jr. and Donna Koch, voters will select three trustees, two for a four-year term and another for a two-year period. Mary Biunno is also running unopposed for village justice.

Weber and Koch recently answered questions via email about the mayoral race.

Donna Koch

Koch is no stranger to Village Hall. Until October of 2020, she worked as a full-time clerk until she had a parting of ways with the mayor, she said.

The candidate had been with Village Hall for more than 25 years. After starting her career as a crossing guard in the village in 1993, she spent a few years working part time in Village Hall and in 1998 became full-time deputy village clerk. In 2000, she took on the job of village clerk. After taking some time off, she realized she “missed Northport village government and started to attend village board meetings regularly.”

“With a different perspective, I could see what the residents saw,” she said. “A board whose sole purpose was to hurry through the meeting, with department heads having nothing to report, a treasurer who had nothing to report. And, with a total disrespect for the residents who do attend the meetings. It was then I knew I wanted to run for mayor and bring this village board back to a position of respect, transparency, with open, honest, informative meetings. This is an unprecedented time for the village. With four new spots up for election, experience will be key. I have that experience.”

She said taxes are a constant issue in
the village.

“We need to get our spending in check,” Koch said. “I will work with a board who takes a hard look at spending and finds ways to cut back. Do more with less. I will strive to achieve a zero tax increase.”

She also is concerned about keeping the “harbor clean, by mitigating stormwater runoff.”

She said the village needs “to dust off” several studies that were done “to see how we can implement them today.”

“I love the idea of rain gardens and more aesthetically pleasing remedies,” Koch said. “We as a board will look into every option that’s available.”

She said she would also aim to keep cannabis out of the village, control speeding on the roads, and put in new sidewalks, trees and curbs in the downtown area. She also has street congestion, parking and living in the post-COVID world on her mind.

Dave Weber Jr.

Dave Weber Jr.

Current trustee Weber said his experiences as a volunteer with the fire department and a downtown business owner, both for 26 years, have given him a unique perspective of the village regarding what it needs for long-term growth and sustainability.

“Joining the board of trustees in 2020, I have given our residents that voice that has been missing over the past administrations,” he said.

Among his accomplishments while trustee, he listed, “Transparency, calling out and getting professional guidance and new eyes into our finances when wrongdoing was discovered; fiscal responsibility, building relationships with federal and state as well as local elected officials to obtain grant monies to improve recreational facilities for our youth; environmental initiatives, continuing stormwater mitigation along Main Street with state funding for continued improvement of our water quality; aquaculture programs to clean and strengthen the condition of our harbor for future generations.”

Weber said the village’s lingering issues would be compounded by new hurdles as it transitions into a post-pandemic era. He listed commerce and stormwater mitigation as priorities once the new board takes office. He also said that building relationships between public/private partnerships and community organizations, in turn, can create a stronger village.

Weber said one example of partnerships has been how as trustee he has already built a relationship with the local community organization Not in Our Town and the Town of Huntington Anti Bias Task Force to address hate and antisemitism after incidents in the village.

He also said he would work to connect local businesses with the community and has a plan for stormwater mitigation.

“Building relationships with business owners and bridging residents and customers to those businesses to help fill storefronts and keep our downtown thriving is an initiative that I have already begun and will continue to do,” he said. “Stormwater mitigation or the ‘flooding on Main Street’ has and probably will always be an issue due to our Main Street being in a valley. Using federal money for dry wells and filtration as well as installing rain gardens along these key areas will help to alleviate the increase of nitrogen in our harbor. Partnering with key environmental organizations within the village to educate and get our community involved in this extremely important issue is currently happening, and will continue
if elected.”

Two-year trustee

Meghan Dolan Saporita

Meghan Dolan Saporita

Trustee candidate Meghan Dolan Saporita, a litigator in both the public and private sectors, said in an email that running for village trustee wasn’t something she ever thought she would do. Throughout her career, she has been a trial attorney and an assistant district attorney for Nassau County. She is the mother of school-aged children and is a current member of the Ocean Avenue PTA and a youth soccer coach in the village. Dolan Saporita is also one of the co-founders of Not In Our Town Northport which works with the community, school administration and police department to stand up against hate and bigotry. NIOT also heads up donation drives for Thanksgiving and the winter holidays as well as school supplies.

My decision to enter the race was really organic, growing out of my work the past few years in this village, the relationships I have formed here, and the real opportunity for new and needed leadership in this particular election,” Dolan said. “In attending and speaking at the village meetings, it became clear to me that new voices — voices of women, parents and young people — are essential to continuing to make Northport Village the best it can be. I decided to enter the race because I am dedicated to Northport and because I am qualified, experienced, and professional, all qualities that Northport Village deserves in its leaders.

Dolan said she feels the biggest problem facing Northport Village is environmental.

“We have suffered from flooding in the downtown, which produces significant pollutants which then run into our Harbor,” she said. “We need to make tackling these environmental concerns a priority: addressing the infrastructure (with Federal money) to prevent flooding every time it rains, by committing to native plantings, by following through on commitments to a native tree planting program, in partnership with our incredible local nonprofit Northport Native Garden Initiative, by continuing work on our aquaculture programs, and by starting new initiatives in the village geared towards sustainability.”

Jim Izzo

James Izzo

James Izzo, who owns Cow Harbor Realty, said this is the first time he is running for village trustee. He said when he was president of the Northport Chamber of Commerce, he was slightly frustrated with what he felt was a lack of response from the village during the COVID-19 response by the existing administration.

“We just got to a point where our members needed a lifeline,” he said. “The village did not respond, and as the chamber, we offered multiple things that were safe in nature that could have easily been done and benefited our members and our small businesses. Initially they said, “no,” and then after a while, they just stopped responding completely. So, that level of frustration was my initial looking at what’s wrong and then evolved.”

He said when he moved from Asharoken to the village a year and a half ago, he started “seeing shortcomings that went well beyond how they treated the chamber and its members, but how they treated the residents. So, it really evolved from a level of frustration to a level of, “Oh my goodness, I have to do something.”

Izzo said there may be a myriad of issues in the village but have been identified and are easy to resolve. He said he feels the residents should be more involved in decision-making too, and he doesn’t feel there needs to be so many meetings behind closed doors. He said the village needs accessibility, caring and transparency.

“I’ve been self-employed all my life; and I’ve run my own companies; and I’ve been involved with business improvement districts; I’ve been on a number of boards, where you have a mission statement,” he said. “It seems to me, although in an elected capacity, [village] boards don’t have a mission statement per se, but they still have a mission.”

He added, “a good manager doesn’t solve the problems, a good manager anticipates future problems.”

“It’s more like you anticipate what could come up and you try to anticipate it and resolving before it escalates. So, I think now, what we’re seeing is maybe the tip of the iceberg, and maybe there’s other underlying problems that haven’t surfaced yet, and that’s my real concern.”

Joseph Sabia

Joseph Sabia

Joseph Sabia, the owner of Sabia Car Care, has unsuccessfully run for trustee three times and mayor once in the past.

He said as not only is he a business owner, but as someone who has been a member of the Northport Police Department and on the Northport-East Northport school board from 2011 to 2014, he has seen a lot in the village. He also has been attending the village board meetings for 10 years.

“I’ve been living in the village of over 45 years,” he said. “I have a business here, and I live here, and I raised my family here, and after going to meetings, I realized how this place is run,” he said. “It’s very poor.”

Sabia said as someone who is financially conservative, he feels the village having a more than $8 million fund balance while having a nearly $17 million budget is “ridiculous.”

“Our village, they over budget, underspend and they bank a lot of money,” he said.

He said a $4 million reserve would be enough for a village the size of Northport, and he also feels that the village needs to stop raising taxes needlessly, especially with rising inflation.

“You look at every and each individual department, you see how much money has been spent the year before. The real numbers. And that’s when you go back to which is called the zero-based budget. So, if they spent 4 million less you go back to the 4 million less and then raised taxes on the 4 million less than what Curtis’s and if you have the reserve that you have, which is eight and a half million, you don’t raise taxes at all.”

Sabia said he would do his best not to raise taxes, but he understands there are situations where it may be necessary.

He said other issues on his mind are the deteriorating conditions of roads, sidewalks and curbs in the village. Sabia added he has seen overgrown trees where the roots are breaking up the sidewalks. He also said the village has to look at the stormwater runoff issue on Main Street, and he believes rain gardens and catch basins can help.

One-year trustee

Michael Bento

Michael Bento

A financial professional and as someone just starting a family, Michael Bento said he can bring a unique perspective to the village board.

He said one of the key issues is the fiscal challenges that will be brought on by the school tax hike due to the LIPA settlement, and he plans to keep village taxes low to offset the effects. He said his goal is to fight for federal infrastructure funds that New York State will allocate and search for intergovernmental grants.

“To me the biggest problem facing our village is the impact of the LIPA settlement,” he said. “The school tax hike after the glidepath has been exhausted will make Northport unaffordable for many families if we are not agile and proactive with offsetting the pain on other tax lines, such as village taxes or instance,” he said. “I am looking to leverage my experience as a financial professional to find as many offsets as I can to help keep village taxes low without sacrificing the quality of our services.”

Bento also listed other issues in the village such as repairing roads, sidewalks and storm drains. The flooding on Main Street is also on his mind.

“The health of the harbor is also of great concern,” he said. “Infrastructure grants would also go a long way toward mitigating runoff, but also partnerships with NGOs [non-governmental organizations] and non-profits dealing with marine and environmental issues are also essential to keeping our waters clean for the next generation.”

While Bento has been a full-time resident since he his wife, Victoria, settled in the village in 2017, he said he would visit his grandparents in the summer when they had a house in Northport.

“We chose Northport because drawing from my own childhood experiences we could not envision raising our future kids anywhere else,” he said.

Ernest Pucillo is also running for trustee but could not be reached.

March 15

Residents will be able to vote for the Village of Northport mayor and trustees on March 15 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Northport Village Hall, 224 Main St.