Tags Posts tagged with "Jeanne Garant"

Jeanne Garant

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.

File photo by Elana Glowatz

During a public meeting on Monday, Feb. 6, Village of Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant announced her retirement from public service. Her 14 years of uninterrupted tenure presiding over the village government will come to its conclusion this June.

“We’re going to give the community back to the residents,” Garant told a group of supporters the night of her first election win in 2009.

Six successful races later, Garant has been at the seat of power longer than any other in the village’s nearly 60-year history. And during that window, the village has undergone considerable change.

Garant’s mother, Jeanne, served three terms as mayor starting in 1999 through 2005. Unlike her mother, who had previously sat on the village Board of Trustees, Margot Garant was a first-time elected official upon entering the mayor’s office.

For over eight years, Garant’s administration engaged in a widely publicized legal battle with the Long Island Power Authority over the assessed valuation and property tax bill on the Port Jefferson Power Station. The tax grievance case was settled in 2018. 

Colloquially known as the glide path, the village and LIPA agreed to an eight-year phasing out of the public utility’s local tax contribution, with a 50% reduction in revenue by 2027.

Known for her ambitious building philosophy, Garant facilitated the construction of numerous projects, including large-scale developments along Port Jeff Harbor and near the train station. 

The development of Upper Port has been a core tenet of her administration. The seven-term incumbent also advanced the envisioned Six Acre Park along Highlands Boulevard, with plans in place to preserve that last remaining tract of undeveloped land as open space.

Garant’s boards have been forced to confront the crippling effects of coastal erosion at East Beach, which presently endangers the Port Jefferson Country Club’s catering facility at the edge of the bluff. 

Construction is currently ongoing for a toe wall at the base of the cliff. Most recently, Garant announced the injection of federal funding to subsidize the upland phase of the bluff stabilization initiative. Controversially, village residents have not had input on these investments through voter referendum.

Outlining why she will not seek reelection, she told the group assembled at Village Hall that her decision to step down was motivated by a desire to let others into the political process. Leaving public life, she reiterated her message delivered 14 years ago.

“It’s not about me, it’s about this community,” she told the audience. “This community is yours, and it’s always been in your hands. I couldn’t have done my job without you.”

The race to fill Garant’s seat is now underway, with candidate announcements expected in the days and weeks ahead. Village elections will take place Tuesday, June 20.

Trustee Kathianne Snaden with her three daughters at the Unity Party victory party June 15. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Over the last few weeks of covering the Port Jefferson Village election, we’ve been fortunate enough to see things in person again. 

Restrictions have been lifted and people are vaccinated — the world is slowly getting back to normal. 

Last week, we attended the candidates’ debate at the Village Center. While sitting in the front row of the packed-out venue, we looked around at the people in the crowd. 

Sitting a few seats away were trustee Kathianne Snaden’s children — three girls, ages 11, 12 and 18.

As their mother debated, answering tough and controversial questions village residents asked, they looked at her with awe. That was their mom up there, taking the initiative to try and make a difference in their community. 

It was inspiring. Sure, we see strong women everywhere nowadays. There are doctors, lawyers, politicians, business owners, inventors — women do great things. But what we don’t always see is the impact this is leaving on our children. Young girls looking up to superstars who have multiple jobs — that include packing their lunches, driving them to school and doing their laundry. 

And it isn’t just that trustee. Candidate Suzanne Velazquez has a daughter who’s graduating high school. That’s another young person with an idol right in her own home. 

A few days later, the Unity Party held an election-result event at Saghar restaurant. Music was playing, food was being served and people danced together to celebrate another two years of the current administration. 

Mayor Margot Garant’s mother, Jeanne Garant, was there. She, too, was mayor of our village years ago, and during her acceptance speech, Margot thanked — and jokingly blamed  — her mom for her inspiration to become mayor. Now seven terms later, that family name is a staple in the village, and it all started with Jeanne putting her name on the ballot. 

What if Jeanne hadn’t run for mayor all those moons ago? Would Margot have decided to run? Maybe having that strong matriarch setting an example to her as a kid is what planted the seed in having her eventually try it out. 

Maybe Velazquez’s daughter will run one day. Maybe Snaden’s will, too.

But the fact that four out of five candidates this year were all women is spectacular and should be applauded. 

Photo by Julianne Mosher

Mayor Margot Garant was reelected by Port Jefferson residents for a seventh term.

Along with fellow trustee incumbents, Kathianne Snaden (936 votes) and Stanley Loucks (930 votes) the Unity Party announced their victory win Tuesday night.

Garant took home 913 votes, while candidate Barbara Ransome — on the Alliance for All ballot — had 513. Suzanne Velazquez, who ran alongside Ransome, received 552 votes.

“I can’t even believe this,” said Garant to her crowd of supporters the night of the win June 15. “I’m so lucky to be here with you guys, to be serving you in this beautiful village.”

Suzanne Velazquez and Barbara Ransome on voting day. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Ransome, who serves as the director of operations for the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, said that she and her campaign-mate were saddened by the loss.

“We worked hard to have a high integrity campaign,” she said. “We were disappointed because our hopes were that people really wanted change and that didn’t happen.”

But she and Velazquez took the high road, calling Garant after the results were announced to congratulate her on the win. 

“I told her the chamber will still be a great partner to the village,” she said. 

Velazquez agreed, and said she was thankful to all the people who supported Team Alliance for All.  

“I’m proud to have the opportunity to run for village trustee, especially walking the various neighborhoods, meeting and talking with our neighbors,” she said. “As mentioned in our campaign, both Barbara and I are involved in our community and will continue to be — always trying to make Port Jefferson a great place to live, work and play every day. We have and hope to continue our good, working relationship with Village Hall to make Port Jefferson Village the healthy community we all want it to be.”

Garant, who has been the village’s mayor for 12 years, said she is grateful to serve the community for another two years. 

“Sixty-five percent of the voter population that turned out said we are doing a great job,” she said. “So, we’re going to advance this community together. I want to thank our opponents for bringing out the issues, and for engaging our constituents. We are now putting our heads back down and going back to work.”

When announced, Snaden and Loucks were overjoyed. Loucks made a point to thank the mayor, too.

“Margot is the one who needs to be thanked,” he said. “She held the group together — and it wasn’t an easy year, it was a very difficult year.”

He said he’s honored to live, and help lead, this village.

Mayor Garant with her parents. Photo by Julianne Mosher

“We’re living, in my opinion, in the best village anywhere — not only on Long Island, but in New York state,” he said. “You’ve got everything here — and Margot has led us through it.”

Snaden, who was reelected to her second term, also thanked the mayor for her support from the beginning.

“I knocked on Margot’s door three years ago and I said I want to make a difference. I want to help. What can I do?” she said. “And she sucked me in — and I thank her for that because there was no turning back at that point. It opened up doors that I was able to see where I could help. I grabbed it and I ran with it. And the support that you guys all give me is what keeps me going every single day.”

John Reilly also scored 869 votes as judge in the Justice Court.

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This is a big THANK YOU to the Village of Port Jefferson and all those who worked hard to transform the village into the Charles Dickens Festival. For the 21st year in a row, the seaside village came to life in the time of Dickens, with decorations, lights, greenery and especially costumed characters roaming the streets and welcoming visitors. This year, a second THANK YOU for naming us, Times Beacon Record News Media, the honoree for the event.

The entire weekend was a thrill, for us and for the thousands of people who chatted with the characters, shopped in the many varied stores, ate in the wide selection of restaurants, rode in the horse-drawn carriage, enjoyed the festival of trees and took in the harbor views. How do I know? I asked the festivalgoers, because I was there every day from Thursday to Sunday, and they told me how they decided to come into the village. Some came from Connecticut, enthusiastic about the magical event because they had visited before and knew of the many fun activities. It also helped that Port Jefferson ferry general manager, Fred Hall, offered a two-for-one price special during the weekend. The 10:30 a.m. boat on Saturday morning had 300 walk-ons alone, and they came without cars so no parking problems, and they had money in their pockets to spend for a good time. And people came from towns to the east and west, responding to the publicity and reputation surrounding the annual fantasy on the Long Island Sound.

Everyone might take the festival for granted after all these years, but I know how it came about because I was also there at the beginning. It was the brainchild of Jeanne Garant, the mayor at the time and mother of the present mayor, Margot Garant. Jeanne, a woman of vision, wanted the many organizations and groups to come together and work as a whole on a project to strengthen the sense of community and to celebrate the village. And she figured it wouldn’t hurt if the project helped the local businesses. So the first weekend in December was designated as the ideal time to capture some of the holiday shopping, and the theme was to be the Dickens stories and characters, who would come alive during those couple of days. And so it happened.

This was no small project to get the organizers’ arms around. Among those invited to offer their talents and to hold special events was the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, which would become the managing body alongside Port Jefferson Village, the historical society, the school district, the churches, various cultural paeans like Theatre Three (“A Christmas Carol”) and Harbor Ballet Theatre (“The Nutcracker”), the chamber of commerce and the civics, the constables, the ferry company, music groups, the harbormaster, the individual businesses and the residents just for starters. Events were designed for all age groups.

Eventually the Currier & Ives-like ice skating rink — another Jeanne Garant idea — joined the enchanting picture. And a special THANK YOU to nationally famed and charming confection artist, Pat Darling, for once again creating the whimsical Santa’s Workshop in the historic Drowned Meadow Cottage on West Broadway.

There are new offerings each year, and this past weekend Mrs. Cratchit’s Colorful Christmas Crafts was one such in the Village Center, along with an expanded Festival of Trees that each sponsor creatively decorated.

Port Jefferson Village was rich with events running through Saturday and Sunday. Indeed, it required more than two full pages in our Official Festival Guide just to list them in their many different locations hosted by the various community groups. So the original vision of a unified village has once again been realized. And the businesses were delighted with the results. “Never had an empty table all weekend,” one restaurateur said. “Shoppers buying all afternoon,” a jewelry store owner said.

Dickensian pleasure will go on throughout December this year, with the decorations and specials. And I would like to end on a personal note. I have watched countless parades in my lifetime as a child, a mother and a grandmother, but until this weekend, I had never been on a parade float. As the honoree of the Dickens weekend, I got to ride atop the ferry float and to wave at the thousands of people and shower them with (artificial) snow as they waved back, calling out greetings. What fun! We are deeply honored to have been appreciated in this way.