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Bill Glass

Port Jefferson Village is crafting its budget for next year. File photo by Elana Glowatz

Port Jefferson residents shook up the village court on Tuesday night, voting for a new justice to take over the bench.

Tara Higgins is the new village justice. Photo from the candidate
Tara Higgins is the new village justice. Photo from the candidate

In addition to re-electing Trustees Bruce D’Abramo and Bruce Miller, who were running unopposed, to their positions on the village board in this week’s election, voters chose attorney Tara Higgins to serve out the three years remaining on the term of former Justice Peter Graham, who died in office late last year shortly after being re-elected to his judgeship — and after more than 30 years of service.

Candidate Bill Glass had been appointed to serve in Graham’s place until an election could be held, but he lost his bid for re-election, with only 330 votes to Higgins’ 390 votes.

A third challenger, attorney Scott Zamek, garnered just 158 votes.

The defeat is a repeat for Glass, who also lost a try for the village bench against Graham in 2011.

Higgins, a 50-year-old East Setauket native, has lived in Port Jefferson for 18 years. Her connection to the village goes further back: the Tara Inn pub uptown, owned by her father, was named for her.

Tara Higgins: 390 votes
Bill Glass: 330 votes
Scott Zamek: 158 votes

A graduate of Seton Hall University School of Law, she works at Islandia-based Lewis Johs Avallone Aviles LLP, where she does municipal defense work and civil defense litigation.

The unopposed trustees, D’Abramo and Miller, secured their fourth and second terms, respectively.

Miller has listed his goals for a new term as pushing for the Port Jefferson power plant to be upgraded, to keep it a viable form of energy and property tax revenue; making the village more energy-efficient; and strengthening the power grid in Port Jefferson to better withstand storms. For his part, D’Abramo wants to revitalize the uptown area and improve the village’s infrastructure.

Bill Glass is a newly appointed village justice in Port Jefferson. Photo from Glass

By Elana Glowatz

Justice will be served during the Port Jefferson government election later this month, with three people vying to be a village judge.

Bill Glass is a newly appointed village justice in Port Jefferson. Photo from Glass
Bill Glass is a newly appointed village justice in Port Jefferson. Photo from Glass

There are three years remaining on the term of former Village Justice Peter Graham, a judge of more than 30 years who died in office late last year, just months after being re-elected to his position on the bench. Bill Glass, the man appointed to fill in until the next election, is running to be returned to the seat and faces challenges from residents Tara Higgins and Scott Zamek.

Glass, 61, decided to run “because I really enjoy the job and I’d like to keep doing it.”

The lifelong resident, who also has volunteered with the Port Jefferson Fire Department for more than four decades, has a private law practice in the village through which he represents fire and emergency medical service groups throughout Suffolk County.

He graduated from Fordham Law School and once filled the roles of village prosecutor, village attorney and village trustee. He was also previously an assistant district attorney in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, where he worked under village Trustee Larry LaPointe in the Rackets Bureau.

Glass tried to win a village justice seat in 2011, but voters re-elected Graham.

People should vote for the married father of three this time because “I feel like I know the village inside and out,” he said. He has vast experience in criminal procedure law, which is a “key ingredient” in the village court. “I think that I’m … uniquely qualified for the position.”

Tara Higgins is running for village justice. Photo from the candidate
Tara Higgins is running for village justice. Photo from the candidate

Higgins grew up in East Setauket and moved to Port Jefferson 18 years ago, when she got married. The 50-year-old, who graduated from Seton Hall University School of Law, said she spent time in defense litigation for an insurance company before moving on to Islandia-based Lewis Johs Avallone Aviles LLP. She does municipal defense work and civil defense litigation for that firm.

“I just thought that it was a natural progression in my career,” she said about running for village justice. “I’ve tried cases, I’ve written appellate briefs and I thought, ‘Why not?’”

Voters should choose her because she is experienced in the courtroom, she said.

“I’ve spent my entire career in the courthouse,” Higgins said. “There are plenty of lawyers who never see the inside of a courtroom.”

The married mother of two high school kids, whose father named the Tara Inn pub in uptown Port Jefferson after her, said, “I’m hardworking, honest, fair and think I’ve got a good temperament for the position.”

Zamek grew up in the village, graduating from the local high school, and returned with his wife to raise his three daughters in Port Jefferson.

Scott Zamek is running for village justice. Photo from the candidate
Scott Zamek is running for village justice. Photo from the candidate

The 55-year-old graduated from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and has a private practice in Hauppauge where he focuses on transactional real estate. He explained that he represents landlords and developers with buying, selling and borrowing transactions.

He decided to run for justice because he’s always wanted to be a judge and has always been involved with the community, including working summer jobs for the highway department, volunteering with youth sports, helping out with the Port Jefferson arts council and, for the last two decades, serving with the Royal Educational Foundation.

“I think it’s time for me to step up a little bit,” Zamek said. He wants to give back to the village because “I feel that’s something everybody should do. … I want to do what I can to make it as good of a place as possible.”

Voting is at the Port Jefferson Village Center on June 21, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Also on the ballot will be two trustee seats, for which the incumbents are running unopposed for re-election. Bruce Miller is running for his second term on the board and Bruce D’Abramo is running for his fourth.

Bill Glass is a newly appointed village justice in Port Jefferson. Photo from Glass

Bill Glass has big robes to fill.

The local lawyer was appointed Port Jefferson village justice on Monday afternoon to hold the seat of Peter Graham, a judge who served more than 30 years on the village bench before he died last week.

Glass, a 60-year-old former village prosecutor, attorney and trustee who has lived in Port Jefferson his entire life, was previously an assistant district attorney in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, where he worked under village Trustee Larry LaPointe in the Rackets Bureau.

“He’s a person of the highest character and I think he’ll do this village proud,” LaPointe said at the village board of trustees meeting Monday.

A graduate of Fordham Law School and a longtime fire department volunteer, Glass currently runs his own practice out of Port Jefferson, representing fire and emergency medical service groups throughout Suffolk County.

“I’ve never been behind the bench so this should be interesting,” he told the board at the meeting.

Glass signed his oath of office the same day he was appointed, and will wield the gavel until at least June, when there will be a village election to fill the justice seat for the three years remaining on Graham’s term.

Graham had been most recently re-elected to a four-year term this past June.

The coming election is one in which Glass plans to run, he said in a phone interview Tuesday. He added that he brings “a lifelong commitment to living in this village to the job.”

The new justice previously tried to win Graham’s seat in a 2011 election, but voters overwhelmingly supported the incumbent.

“It’s my home, it’s my community and I like to see things done right here,” Glass said about his interest in serving as a justice, adding he hopes he can “begin to live up to the reputation that [Graham] left behind.”

Graham was known for his vibrant personality, particularly his sense of humor. His life was full of color, between being born on Independence Day, abandoning the seminary after four years of study in favor of practicing law, and his service in the U.S. Army. After he died last week, those who knew him called him irreplaceable.

“I’m certainly not in a very real sense replacing Pete, because you can’t really replace Pete,” Glass said at the board meeting. “What a huge character and a valued part of the village. But I’m certainly going to do my best to do so.”

According to the new justice, he is concerned about villagers’ quality of life, which is why he wants to tackle issues from the bench.

As she appointed him to the bench on Monday afternoon, Mayor Margot Garant said, “I don’t know another attorney and resident of the village who is more up to the task.”