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Tom McCarthy

Romaine's win continues rightward political shift in the county

Suffolk County Executive-elect Ed Romaine delivers his victory speech at Stereo Garden in Patchogue Tuesday night, Nov. 7. Photo by Raymond Janis

By Raymond Janis and Aidan Johnson

As returns came in Tuesday night, Nov. 7, electricity pulsed through Suffolk GOP headquarters. 

Republicans flipped the Suffolk County executive’s seat for the first time in two decades, with Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine cruising to victory over his Democratic opponent, businessman Dave Calone, by a 57-43% margin as of Wednesday morning.

“Thank you, Suffolk,” the county executive-elect told the audience assembled at Stereo Garden in Patchogue. “You’ve given me a large mandate tonight — you’ve crushed it.” 

“And we’re going to use that mandate to move this county forward,” he added.

Calone concedes, county executive transition commences

At the Democratic headquarters in Holtsville, Suffolk County Democratic Committee chairman and Town of Babylon supervisor, Rich Schaffer, addressed the deflated crowd as the results started to come in.

“Obviously, we would have wanted to be on the winning side tonight, but we know that what we are up against is not only the atmosphere created out of Albany, the atmosphere that’s created out of Washington, and that has hurt us here as a brand in Suffolk County,” he said.

In his concession speech, Calone thanked his family, team, running mates and outgoing county executive Steve Bellone (D), along with his supporters.

“I want to thank the people of Suffolk County for the last year, for the chance to visit with you, your families from one end of this county to the other,” he said. “And I am so proud of the ticket we put together.”

“I promise to continue working with all of you as we move and push meaningful solutions that affect the lives of the people of Suffolk County,” Calone added.

Bellone congratulated Romaine on his victory, pledging to do “everything I can to assist the new county executive-elect and his administration.”

“I am committed to ensuring a seamless transition and handover of responsibilities to the new administration beginning on Jan. 1,” he said in a statement. “To that end, I have asked Chief Deputy County Executive Lisa Black to lead our administration’s efforts to coordinate with the incoming administration.”

Republicans expand county Legislature majority

Romaine’s victory was fortified by steady gains in the county Legislature.

Chad Lennon (R-Rocky Point) flipped the county’s 6th Legislative District, besting Dorothy Cavalier (D-Mount Sinai) 61-39% in the race to succeed termed-out Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai).

“I would not be here today without you,” Lennon told the audience. “Thank you for entrusting me. I’m looking forward to a successful two years.”

Majority Leader Nick Caracappa (C-Selden) won reelection in the 4th District over Timothy Hall 64-36%. Additionally, incumbent Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) cruised to reelection with 69% of the vote in the 12th District. And Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) won his uncontested race in the 13th District with over 99% of the vote.

In Huntington, incumbent Legislator Stephanie Bontempi (R-Centerport) narrowly defeated her Democratic Party challenger Dr. Eve Meltzer-Krief, of Centerport, 53-47% in the 18th District.

Former state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) defeated Anthony Figliola (R-East Setauket) 53-47%, winning the 5th District seat left vacant by Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket).

“I’m looking forward to working on the environmental issues that are tied to the economy, such as tourism, and we really have a chance with the people who are being elected here tonight to make a difference going forward in the county Legislature,” Englebright said, before all of the final results had come in.

According to the unofficial results, the Republicans gained one seat in the county Legislature, giving the party a veto-proof 12-6 supermajority.

Town-level victories

The GOP racked up considerable victories across the towns of Brookhaven, Smithtown and Huntington.

In the race to succeed Romaine as supervisor of the county’s largest township, Brookhaven Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico (R) defeated SUNY Old Westbury professor Lillian Clayman (D) 62-38%.

“We know what our mandate is,” the supervisor-elect said. “We are going to govern correctly. We are going to be bold in our initiatives. This is a new day in the Town of Brookhaven, and I am proud to be the supervisor.”

Panico pledged to redirect the focus of the town government toward traditionally nonconservative areas, adding, “We are going to make major inroads throughout this entire town.”

Alongside Panico, Republicans held onto their 5-1 majority on the Town Board. Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) and Councilman Neil Manzella (R-Selden) were both reelected carrying 65% of the votes in their districts.

Incumbent Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) retained his seat with a 55-45% margin of victory over Republican challenger Gary Bodenburg.

“For the past three years, I have worked hard to represent the more than 80,000 residents of Three Village, Port Jefferson village, Port Jefferson Station and Terryville, and last night the community hired me to serve another term,” Kornreich said in a statement.

“I love this community and promise to keep showing up for them day in and day out, celebrating our successes and sharing our challenges,” he added.

Brookhaven voters also reelected incumbent Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) and Receiver of Taxes Louis Marcoccia (R) with 62% and 63%, respectively.

Republicans swept each townwide race in Smithtown. Town clerk candidate Tom McCarthy — not the incumbent town councilman — cruised to victory over Bill Holst (D) carrying 65% of the townwide vote. Incumbent Smithtown Receiver of Taxes Deanna Varricchio (R) retained her seat by a 2-1 margin of victory over challenger Amy Fortunato (D). For Town Board, incumbent town Councilman Thomas Lohmann (R) and Councilwoman Lisa Inzerillo (R) each carried 33% of the vote over Democratic challengers Maria Scheuring and Sarah Tully.

In Huntington, Republicans expanded their majority on the Town Board to a sweeping 5-0, if the unofficial results hold. In an extremely close four-way contest, Republican candidates Brooke Lupinacci and Theresa Mari edged their Democratic counterparts Jen Hebert and Don McKay. Lupinacci and Mari received 25.5% and 25.4% of the vote respectively to Hebert’s and McKay’s 25% and 23.9% share respectively.

Incumbent Receiver of Taxes Jillian Guthman (D) was reelected over Pamela Velastegui (R) 53-47%, and incumbent Town Clerk Andrew Raia (R) won reelection over Linda Davis Valdez (D) 57-43%.

Smithtown town clerk candidates Tom McCarthy, left, and Bill Holst debate the issues facing the office. Photos by Raymond Janis

Former Smithtown Town Clerk Vincent Puleo (R) got a promotion last November when county voters elected him as Suffolk County clerk after 16 years in the Smithtown Town Clerk’s Office.

The vacancy Puleo left behind in January has remained unfilled ever since. Now, for the first time in nearly two decades, town residents will choose his successor.

Stepping forward for the role are Bill Holst (D) and Tom McCarthy (R). McCarthy is not the same person as incumbent town Councilman Thomas J. McCarthy (R).

Holst has served in various public service roles throughout his professional career. He was an assistant town attorney in Smithtown and Central Islip. He was appointed as Suffolk County clerk by former Gov. Mario Cuomo (D) until losing that post in an election against then-county Legislator Ed Romaine (R).

“By and large, I enjoy public service,” Holst said. “I think there’s an opportunity, since the town clerk’s position has been vacant since January, to improve the dialogue” within town government.

McCarthy hails from the security sector, where he worked in various management roles and specialized in investigations, executive protection and security aberrations.

“It’s not about politics. It’s about service,” he said. “I was responsible for all aspects of managing a multimillion-dollar profit center in addition to overseeing all the security operations. I have skill sets in administration, finance, operations, client services and HR,” adding that he intends to leverage this private-sector background for Smithtown residents.

Role of the clerk

In outlining what he views as the principal responsibilities of the town clerk, McCarthy referred to the position as “a forward-facing client service office” that also serves as secretary to the Town Board.

“We provide licenses that protect people, property and the environment,” he said. “The town clerk provides permits for people to make a living lawfully. We touch people’s lives at very tender moments — birth, marriage.”

He emphasized that the town clerk is not a policymaker but a service provider. “What it’s about is transparency, security of the records and providing those services to our people,” McCarthy said.

Holst referred to the clerk’s office as “the gateway to the town.” He emphasized that the position has been vacant since January, with the deputy clerks having kept the office running since that time.

“I think that if the people in the existing office can run the office without anyone being appointed, then the person who is running should be able to justify what they’re bringing,” he said. “I’m bringing years of experience as an assistant town attorney, a county attorney and the chief legal officer of the City of Long Beach, where I was involved with things like land use.”

While the clerk may fall outside the political functions overseen by the Town Board, Holst said the clerk’s role is to “make them reach higher on behalf of the taxpayers.”

Cybersecurity

In light of last year’s cyberattack against the Suffolk County government, a ransomware event crippling the county government’s IT infrastructure for months and compromising residents’ sensitive information, both candidates were asked how they would fortify the town’s network, keeping sensitive records safe.

Holst said overseeing the system’s passwords would be a necessary deterrent while coordinating closely with town IT personnel. “I think that in terms of the security matters, it all has to be done with the town’s IT department,” he said.

McCarthy cited deterrence, detection and response as the “three pillars of cybersecurity.” He noted that the human element is generally the weakest link within any cybersecurity program.

“The biggest part is training and enabling your people, creating an environment where they can be excellent,” he said.

Resident access

As a service provider within town government, the clerk frequently interacts with constituents. McCarthy touted the accessibility of the office as it stands today.

“We want the experience to be welcoming,” the Republican candidate said. “We want 100 percent customer satisfaction. You can do that by providing an environment where your team can reach excellence, and they can produce and provide a service to the public.”

Holst contended that the real value of the clerk’s position comes from maximizing its service functions as outlined under the code. “Even with Freedom of Information Act [requests] … the Town Code talks about how documents can be made through the Town Clerk’s Office,” he indicated.

Staffing

Currently, there are two appointed deputy clerk positions within the office, with the others being civil service positions. When asked for the principles that would guide personnel matters, Holst said his past experience working alongside civil service officials would be an asset.

“I had a lot of dealings with labor issues, and I definitely respect anyone who’s in the civil service,” he said.

McCarthy said his private-sector background has guided his approach to personnel hires. He emphasized finding staff who are enthusiastic about providing a service and adding value to others.

“One of the things you want is someone who enjoys people, has the personality and the intelligence to learn and a dedication to do customer service,” he said. “Those are the skills you look for.”

Open government

When asked how they would promote open government within the office and bring residents closer to town government, McCarthy emphasized the value of transparency. “From the outside looking in, I see a functional office,” he said. “If you just get on the website, you can get just about any information you want.” He also promoted maintaining an open-door policy.

Holst said the clerk could advocate for promoting the Public Officers and Open Meetings laws. “I don’t think the Open Meetings law is being followed,” he said. “Although I can’t force [the Town Board] to do something, I can certainly raise the issue.”

Smithtown voters will choose one of these two candidates on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

TBR News Media published its endorsements in the Nov. 2 editions of our papers, which run from Wading River in the Town of Brookhaven to Cold Spring Harbor in Huntington along the North Shore. As always, these are only our opinions, and we urge you to learn about the candidates and make your own decisions as to whom you will give your vote. We merely share our impressions with you, feeling it our duty since we have personally interviewed them.

Romaine is what county government needs

Ed Romaine

Suffolk County is staring down trouble, and it will take strong leadership to lift us from this rut.

Our ancient wastewater infrastructure is deteriorating rapidly, prompting urgent, countywide planning and intervention. The Brookhaven Town landfill, which serves our entire region, is set to close, triggering potentially a regional garbage crisis.

Seniors and young people are fleeing our region, forming a vacuum of local leaders and depleting our up-and-coming workforce. And financial projections for our county government paint a bleak picture in the years ahead.

To confront all of these challenges, our residents will select a new Suffolk County executive this November. For this role, we need someone with the political tact to guide 18 legislators toward tangible policy outcomes. This moment requires urgent action, and given the choice of who best can steer this teetering ship, we believe Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) will rise to the occasion.

Our county government is a vast, complex bureaucracy. Bringing order to this labyrinthine system will require someone with a firm grasp on the inner workings of government. Romaine is a consummate politician, someone who has lived and breathed politics for the better part of a lifetime. It is now time for him to apply that lifetime of political experience toward fixing our broken county system and improving our collective quality of life.

At the same time as this year’s county election, we are deeply aware of the growing concentration of power and political influence forming within the Suffolk County Republican Committee. We hope that if he is elected, Romaine will stand up to the power brokers within his party ranks, that he will not put party interest over the public good. We challenge Romaine to stay true to the aspirations of his campaign, and we pledge to hold him accountable if he backs down from his word.

Romaine’s opponent, Dave Calone, is a good man with the interests of county residents at heart. We believe that Calone has the makings of an effective public official and we encourage him to throw his hat in the ring again soon.

But for his experience, proven record and knowledge of the system, TBR News Media endorses Ed Romaine for our county’s highest post.

Panico will provide needed reform for Brookhaven town government

Dan Panico

The Town of Brookhaven faces many challenges in the years ahead, and meeting this moment demands bold leadership and vision within the Town Supervisor’s Office.

The chief executive of the municipality must be an advocate for the people, someone guided by core values and who will not be beholden to party bosses, land developers or union leaders. We believe Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico fits this description.

In our office debate, Panico impressed us as well-informed with the inner workings of town government. With land use determinations being the central function of local government, we believe Panico can leverage his vast knowledge of this area to advance resident interests effectively.

Throughout the TBR News Media coverage area, major plans are currently on the drawing board. From Three Village to Port Jeff Station to Middle Country, our residents are eager for sewers to come into their communities, with expanded sewer access to bring about real transformation and revitalization.

But with increased sewer capacity comes the potential for over densification and sprawl. We need someone in the supervisor’s office who understands the levers of government and land use and who can pull them appropriately to advance our local interests.

The function of the Brookhaven Town Board is to serve the public, guiding developers and awarding contracts in a manner that serves the public good rather than advancing the private interests of developers and unions.

We believe Panico is properly suited to make those decisions. He assured us that he is not beholden to any outside interest group, and we hope he stands by his word if elected.

Panico’s opponent, Lillian Clayman, did a tremendous service by stepping forward in this race after an unforeseen illness eliminated  the previous Democratic candidate, Margot Garant. Through Clayman’s candidacy, she has raised public awareness around several important topics, such as the town’s landfill and animal shelter, while identifying other areas for improvement.

We thank Clayman for keeping the democratic process alive and well and for offering a powerful counterbalance throughout the campaign. Win or lose, her efforts will go a long way to help reform this town government.

But we believe Panico is the right person to enact those reforms in office. In this year’s race for Brookhaven Town supervisor, he has our endorsement.

Kaplan would put service first as Brookhaven highway superintendent

Michael Kaplan

As Election Day quickly approaches, Brookhaven residents will have an important decision before them about who they want overseeing their town highways. 

Incumbent Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) has undoubtedly proven to be a capable leader of the Highway Department, with accomplishments such as securing multiple multimillion dollar grants for Brookhaven projects.

However, Losquadro’s opponent, Michael Kaplan (D), proved that he would put his position over politics and party affiliation. We believe that kind of messaging is highly appealing amid these turbulent times.

During our office debate with the two candidates, Kaplan displayed a true gentleman’s nature, praising Losquadro for the work that he has done for Brookhaven residents while politely establishing areas of disagreement. Kaplan refused to engage in any form of unnecessary attack against Losquadro, instead tactfully debating the substance of the job.

Kaplan’s eagerness to use a hands-on approach to lead the office is warmly received, and it is clear that his past positions in highway departments (and the U.S. Army) have shaped his style of thinking and way of approaching complex problems.

In the end, we firmly believe that Kaplan will listen to the needs of the residents, and will fulfill his duty wholeheartedly. While Brookhaven is a geographically massive township, it needs leaders with a “small-town mentality.” That kind of resident-centric, hands-on focus is sorely needed to meet this moment.

For these reasons, TBR News Media endorses Michael Kaplan’s bid for the position of Brookhaven Superintendent of Highways.

Englebright’s record speaks for itself

 

Steve Englebright

On this November’s ballot, voters will decide between two very different kinds of candidates for Suffolk County’s 5th Legislative District.

Given the passion and sincere convictions of both candidates, the decision to endorse was close. But given the choice of only one candidate, we believe former New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) has the political experience and impressive connections to advocate most effectively for 5th District residents.

If elected, Englebright would bring a lifetime of political experience with him into the county Legislature. He had already served in that capacity from 1983-92, followed by three decades in the state Assembly. Also a geologist by training, Englebright’s expertise on environmental sustainability — coupled with his sustained commitment to protecting our groundwater and surface waters, preserving open space and preparing our community for a sustainable future — make him the right choice to meet the growing environmental needs within our county. With simultaneous wastewater and garbage crises brewing along our county’s horizon, we need a firm environmental voice in the county Legislature.

In securing public investment into the 5th Legislative District, we know Englebright will help bring home its fair share and then some. Throughout his political entire career, he has done so repeatedly. With a wealth of experience and connections behind him, Englebright is prepared to leverage those assets to benefit this community.

Anthony Figliola, Englebright’s Republican Party opponent, has good ideas and passion that would be of service to 5th District residents. We hope that he stays involved in the political process.

But this year’s county election is about experience and proven leadership. Because Steve Englebright uniquely possesses those experiences, he has earned our endorsement to represent the 5th Legislative District.

Kornreich is a champion for Council District 1

Jonathan Kornreich

One of the great civic victories in the Town of Brookhaven’s recent political history was the institution of the councilmanic system.

This system created six separate council districts, each with one representative on the Town Board. The principal fruit of this civic effort has been Council District 1, a traditionally Democratic council district whose representative serves as a valuable check against the Republican Party stronghold in town government.

Since entering the Town Board via special election in 2021, incumbent Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) has been a forceful advocate on behalf of his constituents. Through his efforts, real progress has been made, with tangible policy wins for the people of his district.

Look no further than Port Jefferson Station, a place where a homegrown local renaissance is currently underway. Thanks to Kornreich’s advocacy work, that hamlet’s Train Car Park has become a central community hub. And with the proposed redevelopment of Jefferson Plaza on Route 112, we believe Kornreich will help create a vibrant, traditional downtown feel along that corridor.

During our office debate with the CD1 candidates, we were struck by Kornreich’s depth of expertise in the areas where town government is most central: land use. His private-sector background and his civic leadership within the Three Village Civic Association uniquely qualify him for this kind of work.

We also notice and greatly appreciate the considerable efforts he takes to be present for his constituents. Whether at civic associations, chambers of commerce or other local events, Kornreich always seems to be there and engaged. These frequent interactions between the representative and his constituents are instrumental in identifying and advancing the local interest.

As journalists, access to public officials is crucial for properly informing our readers. Whenever we request a comment from Kornreich, he is quick to offer his insight and perspective. This is an important public service, assisting the local press in informing the public and fostering  democracy. We encourage Kornreich to continue contributing op-eds to our newspapers, which help keep our readers up to speed on his work in town government.

Evidenced by his presence and actions, Kornreich is an effective ambassador for his district. It is undeniable that he cares deeply for this community and leverages his experience and skills to make this area a better place.

If reelected, we remind Kornreich that his position — while determined by CD1 voters — has townwide implications. As the lone elected Democrat in town government, residents across the entire town look to him for guidance and leadership. After all, the formation of CD1 was the consequence of a townwide civic effort.

For this reason, we were disappointed by Kornreich’s “yes” vote for the adopted map in last year’s redistricting process — a vote negatively impacting the historically underrepresented communities of Gordon Heights and North Bellport in Council District 4. But while Kornreich’s redistricting vote was a mistake, we believe in his capacity for growth and remind him to let the light of conscience and good will guide similar votes down the road.

We found Kornreich’s opponent, Gary Bodenburg, to be a likable and sincere person. We admire and respect his advocacy work for disadvantaged youth, and we believe his time is most valuably spent if he continues in that capacity.

But this election cycle, the choice is clear. TBR News Media strongly endorses Jonathan Kornreich’s reelection campaign for Brookhaven’s 1st Council District.

Marcoccia is a dutiful department head

Louis Marcoccia

Unlike the other races, the Town of Brookhaven Receiver of Taxes race isn’t exactly competitive, with the democratic candidate Tricia L. Chiaramonte not running an active campaign. However, as incumbent Lou Marcoccia (R) offers a high quality choice. 

Marcoccia’s dedication to serving his constituents cannot be underestimated. He has made it clear that he truly wants to help the residents of Brookhaven in ways such as allowing them to turn in their taxes after the office has closed on the last day possible, and not charging them a hefty late fee. He doesn’t have to do this, but he chooses to, which shows his true character. 

He does not concern himself with party politics, but rather sticks to being a good leader and superb manager, very rarely raising his voice. His strive for accessibility is admirable, as there are many times when the blind and deaf community have to fight for basic accommodations. 

However, Marcoccia makes sure to offer an inclusive environment. TBR News Media looks forward to another term served for Lou Marcoccia as the Brookhaven Receiver of Taxes and endorse his campaign for reelection.

Cavalier will bring continuity to the 6th Legislative District

Dorothy Cavalier

Due to county term limits, incumbent Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) cannot seek reelection, creating an open contest for the 6th Legislative District for the first time in over a decade.

To succeed Anker, two well-qualified attorneys have stepped forward. During our office debate with Dorothy Cavalier (D-Mount Sinai) and Chad Lennon (R-Rocky Point), we were struck by their shared knowledge of the law and familiarity with their community.

It’s unfortunate that only one of these candidates will be selected this November because we believe each has a unique set of ideas for guiding our county in a positive direction. But like the voters, we can only endorse one. And while the decision was close, TBR News Media supports Cavalier this November.

If elected, Cavalier will bring with her a wealth of legal knowledge to the county Legislature. Given her experience as Anker’s chief of staff, she has a firm grasp of the issues at stake and a rooted understanding of the challenges facing 6th District residents.

Cavalier’s boss has been a positive force during her time in county government, working across the aisle to attain cross-partisan appeal. We believe Cavalier seeks to continue the work Anker has started.

During our debate, Lennon demonstrated an enthusiasm and dedication we deeply respect. His interest in veteran issues especially moved us. Given his combat experiences and his evident passion for his fellow service members, we believe Lennon is ideally suited to chair the county’s Veteran Services Committee if elected this November.

The only variable that brought Lennon down a notch in our eyes was his tenure on the Town of Brookhaven’s controversial redistricting committee last year, resulting in a botched process and a gerrymandered map. We wish cooler heads could have prevailed within that committee and remind Lennon he must be an independent voice for 6th District constituents capable of bucking his party when necessary.

To represent the communities across northern Brookhaven, our staff endorses Dorothy Cavalier for Suffolk’s 6th Legislative District.

Bonner is an ambassador for Brookhaven’s 2nd District

Jane Bonner

In the race for Brookhaven’s 2nd Council District, which covers the northeastern hamlets from Mount Sinai to Wading River and a large chunk of Coram, residents are weighing various quality-of-life concerns.

Seniors and young people are becoming increasingly priced out of the region. Commercial districts, such as those along state Routes 25 and 25A, are struggling post-pandemic. And the town government is staring down a sizable loss of public revenue due to the planned closure of the Brookhaven Town landfill.

To meet this moment, Brookhaven requires experienced, knowledgeable public servants in office. Given her track record, we believe incumbent Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) will rise to the occasion.

Bonner’s commitment to the 2nd Council District is undeniable. She has served in this capacity for well over a decade, and her continual reelection suggests that her policies are registering with voters.

We also appreciate Bonner’s continued presence within the community. While covering local events, we often bump into the councilwoman. Making frequent public appearances is critical for connecting with the public and advocating on their behalf in town government. Bonner has done just that.

Bonner’s challenger this election cycle, Carol Russell (D-Coram), has some good ideas and has demonstrated an interest in serving her community. If elected, we believe Russell would be a positive force within the Town Board. We hope she stays involved in the community, regardless of the outcome.

But given a choice, we will stand by the incumbent for this election. Bonner has our endorsement for Brookhaven’s 2nd Council District.

Caracappa will show up for 4th District residents

Nick Caracappa

Uncontested elections are all too familiar in Suffolk County, evidenced by the current race for Suffolk County’s 4th Legislative District.

Incumbent Legislator Nick Caracappa (C-Selden) is running virtually uncontested, his Democratic Party challenger Timothy Hall a candidate on paper only. Hall is not running an open campaign and declined to attend an office debate with the incumbent.

Our staff would have appreciated a spirited discussion on the issues. The 4th District has many challenges ahead, from limiting overdevelopment along Middle Country Road to expanding housing options for seniors and young people to addressing the plight of homelessness within the district.

In this race, only one candidate is willing to offer any ideas or potential solutions. Caracappa has thought through the many issues facing his constituents and is determined to address the quality of life needs within the area.

We appreciate Caracappa’s willingness to serve, advocate for his community and make the Greater Middle Country area a better place to live. For showing up for the people of his community, TBR News Media endorses his reelection campaign this November.

In the meantime, we are deeply distressed by and strongly condemn the tendency of the Suffolk County Democratic Committee to sacrifice races to their opposition. Holding contested elections should not be a calculation of cost or likelihood of victory. Having two viable candidates debate the issues is a universal good for our local deliberative process.

We ask that Suffolk Democrats radically rethink their current political strategy. They are bleeding seats across all levels of local government precisely because of their unwillingness to debate the issues and run contested campaigns. Our democracy depends upon a functional two-party system. We hope to have one again in elections to come.

Leslie Kennedy is a compassionate voice for Suffolk’s 12th District

Leslie Kennedy

Leslie Kennedy has served as legislator of Suffolk County’s 12th District for the last eight years and is seeking another term.

Within her work as a legislator, she is recognized for her focus on constituent services, showing compassion for those needing aid and assistance. She serves as a voice for the district’s residents.

As a result of the recent county redistricting, District 12 now includes more low-income residents, a cohort she seeks to help.

Kennedy is often recognized for her compassion for helping those within the elderly community, most often those economically disadvantaged. In an interview with TBR News Media, she shared a story detailing her experience with seniors, typically women, who cannot afford retired life based on the Social Security stipend they receive. She touched upon her work connecting seniors to food pantries, accessible transportation and affordable housing options.

She has also voiced her views on one of the most significant issues this election cycle, Suffolk County’s wastewater infrastructure and the proposed sales-tax referendum accompanying it. Kennedy voted against the referendum to enhance the existing infrastructure by instituting a 1/8% sales tax increase due to her expectations for a future plan including a more well-thought-out and effective revenue split between sewers and Advanced/Innovative septic systems.

Kennedy is a major proponent of open-space preservation, with efforts to combat the ever-growing development slowly engulfing Suffolk County. She continuously expressed concerns and the need for adequate legislation for young people and families seeking life on Long Island who are increasingly unable to afford it.

If elected, Kennedy plans to continue her important work serving the residents of her district. Her opponent, Democratic candidate Denis Graziano, is not actively campaigning. TBR News Media endorses Kennedy’s reelection campaign.

McCarthy will do the job of Smithtown town clerk

Tom McCarthy

To fill the vacancy left behind by former Smithtown Town Clerk Vincent Puleo (R), who vacated the post in January when he assumed the Suffolk County clerkship, Smithtown voters are faced with two candidates with starkly different outlooks on the office’s role within town government.

On the one hand, candidate Bill Holst (D) brings a wealth of public-sector background and civic energy to this campaign. During our office debate, he advocated for a more assertive clerk to help steer the Town Board toward better policy outcomes.

On the other hand, Tom McCarthy (R) — not the town councilman — has a private-sector background that qualifies him for the demands of the office. Given the growing fears over cybersecurity both locally and more broadly, McCarthy’s experience in the security sector could be a major asset for town government.

But given the pick of only one candidate, the choice seemed clear. While we admired Holst’s drive, McCarthy seemed genuinely interested in the position.

There is nothing sexy about record keeping. Serving as recording secretary during Town Board meetings does not conjure ideas of political intrigue either. Yet this position is an elective office because it’s quite important for the operations of government.

We believe Smithtown residents deserve a clerk who is engaged by the office. An effective town clerk must be 100% dialed in. As evidenced by last year’s cyberattack against the county, when officials are not fully dialed into these seemingly mundane municipal affairs, things can go wrong quickly.

Tom McCarthy seemed to be excited by the prospect of performing these tasks. He had ideas about maximizing the office’s customer service potential. We hope he continues that enthusiasm if elected.

For his interest in the work ahead, TBR News Media endorses McCarthy’s candidacy for Smithtown town clerk.

Trotta adds a healthy dose of pessimism to county government

Rob Trotta

A government as large and complex as Suffolk County’s could take any reform-minded individual down an arduous and ultimately unfulfilling rabbit hole.

Take Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), who has been running on a reform agenda since 2013. Trotta is running for his sixth and final term in the county Legislature, and his prospects for reelection look promising — he is running unopposed. He has always been a rebel, but entering his last term, he pledged to go out with a bang. We hope he does.

The county government is at a critical juncture in its history. From aging cesspools polluting our water to long-term uncertainty over our regional waste management system to the potential for serious financial strife in the years ahead, there are many challenges our county government must soon resolve.

Trotta not only concentrates on the principles of good government; he has staked his entire political career upon these precepts. And with just two short years before he is termed out of office, he has nothing to lose.

In the coming term, we wish Trotta well and hope that he achieves his goal to “clean up this mess.”

We also support his platform of open space conservation, which is critically important in this time of often continuing development. Our county must protect the few remaining parcels left, and Trotta seems determined to do so.

Meanwhile, we strongly condemn the Suffolk County Democratic Committee for refusing to run an opponent against the sitting incumbent. This practice is detrimental to our local deliberative process and quite possibly explains the staggering loss of Democratic seats in the county Legislature and for countywide office.

But despite the committee’s faults, we have good reason to back the incumbent. This November, TBR News Media strongly endorses Rob Trotta’s uncontested reelection campaign.

Majority endorsement: Hebert and McKay will bring needed change for Huntington

Don McKay
Jen Hebert

Watch a typical public comment period during general meetings of the Huntington Town Board and the takeaway will be clear: the people yearn for change.

This year, voters are considering a qualified slate of candidates, all deeply motivated and informed on local policy. Yet there are some noteworthy differences between them.

During our office debate, our staff was deeply moved by Jen Hebert’s depth of insight, her conviction and her compassion for local residents. For each issue we asked her about — from accessory dwelling units to land use to quality of life decisions — Hebert seemed to speak to the core issues facing ordinary citizens, offering tangible policy solutions for each problem.

We believe Hebert’s background as a trustee on the South Huntington school district Board of Education uniquely qualifies her for the task of breathing new life into Huntington Town Board. This year, each member of our staff enthusiastically endorses her vision for town government.

In deciding between the other two candidates, a majority of us felt Don McKay had the slight edge.

If residents desire change, then McKay would be the ideal vessel to carry out their will. McKay said he is not looking to make friends while in office but to bring about real reforms. If elected, we hope he follows through on his objective and brings change to a system which evidently demands new vision.

We thank each of the candidates for a substantive and cordial discussion of local topics. Any one of these three candidates, we believe, will be a force of good for town government.

But given the choice of only two, a majority of our staff endorses Jen Hebert and Don McKay for Huntington Town Board.

Minority endorsement: Mari will preserve Huntington’s charm and character

Theresa Mari

During a roundtable debate with TBR News Media, Theresa Mari exhibited an ardent dedication to the betterment of the Town of Huntington. 

Mari prides herself on her strength of character and commitment to being a strong leader.

Mari’s vision for Huntington revolves around responsible development and sound infrastructure. While acknowledging the necessity for housing, she stands against large-scale development projects that could alter the town’s character.

Mari is equally dedicated to maintaining financial stability. If elected, she vows to “hold the line” on taxes, ensuring that residents’ tax burden remains stable. Simultaneously, she aims to enhance infrastructure, addressing issues like road maintenance and safeguarding drinking water resources.

Mari also showed a deep care for community youth as she shared plans to bridge the gap between youth organizations and school districts to create positive programs for the town’s young residents. This includes collaborating with youth courts, local drug rehabilitation centers and school districts to offer crucial support, particularly in the area of mental health.

As Huntington faces the upcoming election with two vacant seats on the Town Board, Mari stands out as a dedicated advocate with a clear vision for the town’s future. Her legal background, commitment to community service and passion for preserving Huntington’s character make her a compelling candidate for the Town Board. 

She, therefore, has the endorsement of a minority of our staff.

 

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Smithtown school district's administrative New York Avenue building. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

By Kevin Redding

The Smithtown school board is not yet sold on a proposal by the town to buy its administration building on New York Avenue and surrounding property to turn them into municipality offices and a central park.

“The Board of Education has made no decision as to what direction it wishes to pursue with respect to the New York Avenue property,” said the Smithtown school board in a statement Sept. 19.

This comes months after the Smithtown Town Board issued an appraisal of the administration building to the school board for its review in order to kick-start a negotiation process as quickly as possible.

Councilman Tom McCarthy (R), who proposed the town purchase the property to help boost its downtown revitalization efforts, said during a Sept. 5 town board meeting the school’s decision to not sell the property or meet with council members to discuss the topic at this time meant the town could not move forward with anything.

He also suggested the board not proceed with its original plans to appraise six buildings — existing satellite-buildings utilized as office space by town departments — which would be vacated if services could be consolidated into one centralized location on the New York Avenue property.

Nesconset resident William Holst disagreed.

“I would strongly recommend looking at getting those appraisals done, looking at those buildings in terms of being consolidated, [and] reducing the number of buildings in the downtown area so you actually can generate some real revitalization in this area,” Holst said during the meeting.

McCarthy responded by calling the $20,000 for appraisals a waste of taxpayer money at this time.

“To spend money when they really aren’t interested at this time [to sell us the building] wouldn’t be prudent,” McCarthy said.

The councilman said that he has reached out to members of the school board in an attempt to try to schedule a future meeting.

“If we can get them to the bargaining table, I’m sure this board would be more than happy to do the appraisals on our outlying buildings,” McCarthy said.

In an interview Sept. 18, McCarthy said, “It’s in limbo right now but I would get moving on it tomorrow if they got back to us, which I hope they do. I think they’re looking at it from a monetary standpoint for themselves and doing their due diligence. They’re a good board.”

Smithtown resident Bob Hughes, a member of the civics New York Avenue Group and Smithtown United, said he has unofficially acted as an intermediary between the two boards since last year to help them find common ground on the matter.

Hughes believes school board members are holding out on a decision until after town elections are over “so they don’t have to deal with two possible town boards.”

“Once we get past November, there probably will be more interaction between the school and town,” Hughes said, holding out hope the project will move forward soon. “It’s about what the community wants. The New York Avenue property could be a focal point of the downtown revitalization and improve efficiency.”

Incumbent Smithtown town councilmembers Thomas McCarthy (R) and Lynne Nowick (R) have beaten Republican Party-endorsed challengers Robert Doyle and Thomas Lohmann based on the unofficial Sept. 12 primary results. File photos

By Kevin Redding

Smithtown’s incumbents appear to have won the Sept. 12 Republican town board primary, but there are absentee ballots to be counted and the challengers aren’t backing down.

Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) has come out on top in the four-candidate race with 2,929 votes while Councilman Tom McCarthy (R) followed with 2,833 votes. Coming in third and fourth were challengers Bob Doyle (R) with 2,575 votes and Thomas Lohmann (R) with 2,543 votes, respectively, according to unofficial Suffolk County Board of Elections results posted Sept. 13.

Bob Doyle. Photo by Nicole Garguilo

“With Nowick and McCarthy, there are a number of absentees out,” said Bill Ellis, the Smithtown Republican Committee chairman. “I think Lynne Nowick will prevail, [but] there’s still an opportunity for Doyle and Lohmann to surpass McCarthy. It’s a bit of a long shot, but it’s a possibility.”

Nick LaLota, Republican commissioner for the county board of elections, said there are 322 absentee ballots as of Sept. 13. He said he expects the county may still receive a few dozen additional ballots over the next week. Absentee ballots must have be postmarked by Sept. 11 and received by the county by Sept. 19 to be valid.

Nowick, who was first elected to the board in 2013 and has served as an elected official for 22 years, has focused her bid for re-election on keeping taxes low, getting sewers into downtown areas like Kings Park and St. James, and maintaining Smithtown’s quality of life including its parks, beaches and roads.

“I, of course, am very happy to have been so successful,” Nowick said, of the town council results. “I think a lot of that success was that Councilman McCarthy and I worked for the town and cared for the town. When you’re here a lot of years and you’ve helped a lot of constituents along the way, make no mistake, constituent services are very important. When you help people for many years, it resonates.”

She said her sights are now set on the Nov. 7 election with plans to utilize the same campaign strategy.

“Look, this is what we’ve accomplished, this is who we are, and that is what we’ll run on in November,” Nowick said.

Tom Lohmann. Photo by Johnny Cirillo

McCarthy, deputy town supervisor who has been on the town board since 1998 and, if re-elected, said he looks forward to continuing his service to Smithtown residents alongside Nowick.

“I’m pleased that the voters saw fit to elect me,” McCarthy said. “It proves that all the hard work we do on a daily basis is appreciated and we appreciate their votes. We’ve had so many good initiatives that I’m happy to have championed over the last four years.”

The councilman has spearheaded multiple projects to revitalize the downtown areas — most recently pushing the infrastructure rebuilding of Lake Avenue in St. James and working to develop sewers with $40 million in state funds.

Doyle, a retired Suffolk homicide detective from Nesconset, and Lohmann, a former New York City police officer from Smithtown, ran on similar agendas to restore the town’s former glory, including its infrastructure, and create a more transparent board.

Despite being disappointed in the results and low-voter turnout, both challengers said they have every intention of continuing to run on the Independent and Conservative party lines in November.

“I am encouraged by the numbers and how well Tom Lohmann and I did against two very powerful incumbents,” Doyle said. “I’m looking forward to Election Day and taking our message to all of the voters in the Town of Smithtown. We truly believe we will be victorious in November. The fight has just begun.”

Lohmann echoed the sentiment.

“I plan to go forward with my quest into the general election and we’ll let the people decide,” Lohmann said. “I’ve never walked away from anything in my life, and I’m not starting now.”

Smithtown Town Hall. File photo

Four Republican candidates — two incumbents and two challengers — are ready to face off Sept. 12 to get their name on the party line this November. There are two seats that are up for grabs on the Smithtown town council, each for a four-year term.

Bob Doyle. Photo by Nicole Garguilo

Bob Doyle

Doyle, 66, of Nesconset, has 37 years in law enforcement under his belt. He  is a former Suffolk homicide detective and served in the U.S. Army during Vietnam. He created what became the Suffolk County gang task force and has spent most of his career bringing MS-13 gang members to justice.

As president of the Country Pointe Homeowners Association, he  has experience running a large sewer treatment plant. Doyle said he is determined to bring sewers to the three downtown hamlets.

If elected, Doyle said he wants to restore the town’s infrastructure — including its curving roads and sidewalks — bring in smart business development to the downtown areas, and create a more transparent town board.

“Don’t you want to elect a new team that has the leadership, the vision and the energy to accomplish that?” Doyle said. “I’m hoping, ultimately for a clean slate because we need to get the job done for the citizens of Smithtown. I’m ready to hit the ground running once I’m sworn in.”

Tom Lohmann. Photo by Johnny Cirillo

Tom Lohmann

The former member of the New York City Police Department and current investigator for the county district attorney’s  insurance crime bureau said he’s stepping into the political arena for the first time because he’s unhappy with how his town’s government has operated in recent years.

“Smithtown used to be the town that most townships wanted to emulate,” Lohmann, 59, a Smithtown native, said. “We had bustling downtown districts and it was just a great community. But over the years, I don’t think the town has kept up with the influx of people and our streets, ball fields and marinas are not what they once were.”

Lohmann said he hopes for a more transparent, committed and cohesive town board if elected.

“We still don’t even have sewer systems,” he said. “In good conscience, I was no longer going to stand by. I have the work experience and leadership to do things. I’ve always been a doer and the time for talking is over, it’s now the time for action.”

Tom McCarthy. File photo

Tom McCarthy

McCarthy, a former local business owner who has served on the town board since 1998, wears a lot of hats at town hall. He has spearheaded multiple recent projects, such as planting more than 100 trees throughout Smithtown, pushing the infrastructural rebuilding of Lake Avenue in St. James, and has been evaluating the possible purchase of the administrative building from the Smithtown school district.

The Nesconset native also serves as deputy town supervisor and is actively working to develop sewers with $40 million in state funds, which will be split between Kings Park and Smithtown.

He said he would look forward to another four years on the board with Supervisor Patrick Vecchio (R) and Nowick.

“We just want to continue making Smithtown greater,” McCarthy said. “Financially, we’re in the best shape the town has ever been in, we have a triple A bond rating, and a tax decrease coming up in 2018. There’s so much positive going on right now and it is not time for a change.”

Lynn Nowick. File photo

Lynn Nowick

A lifelong resident of St. James, Nowick, a former county legislator and tax receiver for Smithtown, followed in the footsteps of her father, the late Councilman Eugene Cannataro (R), when she ran and was elected to the town board in 2013.

In her 22 years as an elected official, Nowick said she has been a strong advocate for open space and preservation, in areas like Head of the Harbor and the Nissequogue River. She championed much of the current sewer project and revitalization efforts in Smithtown, Kings Park and St. James.

If elected, Nowick said she wants to continue to keep taxes low, get sewers into the downtown areas and maintain Smithtown’s quality of life — which she considers to be a major priority among residents.

“When it comes down to it, it’s about the parks, the beaches, the golf courses, sidewalks, roads, and if we can get sewers and our downtowns back up, it’s going to be a bonanza for the town,” Nowick said.

Go Vote

Polls will be open for primaries Sept. 12, 6 a.m. – 9 p.m. Town of Smithtown residents are eligible to vote in the town council race if: you are a registered Republican, are at least 18 years old, have lived at your current address at least 30 days before the election, and not been in prison or on parole for a felony conviction.

To double check if you are registered to vote, check on the state’s website at voterlookup.elections.state.ny.us/votersearch.aspx.

The 265-year-old Arthur House, located on the corner of New York Avenue and Main Street, has historic ties to Long Island’s Culper Spy Ring. Photo by Kevin Redding

A neglected, pre-Revolutionary War house on the corner of New York Avenue and Main Street in Smithtown and other historically significant structures in the area could help boost the town’s future, according to a Smithtown historian.

Smithtown scholar Corey Victoria Geske urged for Supervisor Patrick Vecchio (R) and town council members to draft a resolution to start a Town Hall National Register Historic District in the downtown area at the Aug. 8 town board meeting, which, according to her, would serve to benefit the region’s economy. 

She asked the resolution be expedited by the Town Planning Department in cooperation with the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities as well as the community.

The proposed historic district, which Geske first proposed to the board about eight months ago, would center on the town hall building — built in 1912 by St. James architect Lawrence Smith Butler — and include the 106-year-old Trinity AME Church on New York Avenue, the 105-year-old Byzantine Catholic Church of the Resurrection on Juniper Avenue and the 265-year-old Arthur House.

The Arthur House is located at the corner of New York Avenue and Main Street in Smithtown. Photo by Kevin Redding

The Arthur House is the only Revolutionary War-era house on the Route 25A Spy Trail, Geske said, and currently sits on the grounds of the Smithtown Central School District. It’s a property she has pushed in the past to be included on the National Register of Historic Places.

Geske informed the board that the house, built in 1752, was once inhabited by Mary Woodhull Arthur, the daughter of Abraham Woodhull — better known as Samuel Culper Sr. — George Washington’s chief operative during the famous spy ring. The intelligence he provided helped win the American Revolution.

Her recent call for the historic district coincided with the July 27 bipartisan legislation introduced by Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) and Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) designating the Washington Spy Ring National Historic Trail. The trail runs through towns and villages in both Nassau and Suffolk counties, including Smithtown along Route 25A.

“Let Smithtown lead the way in a big way by capitalizing on its own special history and world-class architecture added to the heritage now being recognized at the state and national levels for all towns along the Route 25A Washington Spy Trail from Great Neck to Port Jefferson,” Geske said at the board meeting. “The Washington Spy Trail wouldn’t exist if not for the father of Mary Woodhull Arthur of Smithtown, a true daughter of the American Revolution.”

She also noted The Ward Melville Heritage Organization and North Shore Promotion Alliance were granted funds from the state to install signs along the trail in May.

The Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities has listed the Arthur House as endangered for more than 10 years. Photo by Kevin Redding

Geske said registering the Arthur House would be beneficial to the town as it could bring about possible grants from the state for the restoration and stabilization of old properties and promote more tourism in that area.

“The Arthur House was on the SPLIA’s endangered list over 10 years ago and it’s a building that’s been proposed for demolition,” she said. “These are the buildings that have been cast off in the past. [But] they actually could become the cornerstone for revitalizing downtown Smithtown. The history can actually bring to life a new future for downtown, it would be amazing.”

Sarah Kautz, director of preservation for SPLIA, said she hopes the town will involve its vast history into the downtown revitalization efforts. The town’s comprehensive revitalization plans came to the conclusion its historic buildings were an important component, according to Kautz, but did not provide concrete plans to address them.

“The town has never really incorporated preservation in a systematic way that would bring it into the wider plan for revitalization,” Kautz said. “The Arthur House is important because it’s an early property and is part of Smithtown’s really interesting early history going back into the 18th century. We would love to see a real clear approach for how those historic properties are going to fit into the revitalization and there’s a great potential for them to do so.”

The town board is in the process of evaluating Geske’s proposal, according to Councilman Tom McCarthy (R).

“We’ve asked the planning department to see how feasible it is … we’ll have to look at the pluses and minuses, do due diligence, but it could be a benefit to the township as a whole,” McCarthy said. “We have so much history [and] it’s very important to preserve it but now we have to look at everything surrounding it. We don’t want to shoot from the hip.”

Councilman Tom McCarthy hopes to win another term on the board. File photo

One lifelong Smithtown resident, business owner and longtime public servant is looking to continue to serve the community he loves.

Town Councilman and Deputy Supervisor Tom McCarthy (R) who first ran in 1997, is looking to win yet another term this November to serve on the town board.

“I felt like people in the town needed a local business person to listen to their problems and to treat them like customers,” McCarthy said in a phone interview of why he first ran for a seat on the board two decades ago. Although he retired in 2007, McCarthy at one point owned seven car rental dealerships throughout Smithtown and Huntington.

McCarthy was raised by his parents in Nesconset, who moved to the area in 1938.

“I loved growing up there,” he said. “It was fabulous. It’s a wonderful life. People always envy you when you say you live in the Smithtown area.”

Throughout his tenure on the board McCarthy has worked to develop and progress revitalization efforts in downtown Smithtown and the surrounding hamlets, expand commercial properties and conserve and improve green spaces and local parks.

Currently McCarthy has his hands in multiple projects, including planting more than 100 trees in areas throughout Smithtown, rebuilding the business district in St. James with infrastructure upgrades, working to purchase the administrative building from the Smithtown school district and more.

Many residents of Smithtown were upset when they heard the school district intended to sell the New York Avenue building to a development company that would establish an apartment complex there. When that plan fell through, McCarthy presented an alternative.

“You have 13 acres of playing fields there,” he said. “You can’t afford to lose that. I want to preserve those fields and come up with a downtown green and park, to give downtown Smithtown an identity.”

The councilman is also working to develop sewers with money from New York State, which the town was able to acquire this past year.

“All of these projects would not be possible without the financial stability the supervisor has given us,” McCarthy said of Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R). “He has given me the ability to run with the ball.”

Vecchio had nothing but praise for the work McCarthy has done.

“Tom is a solid, hard working member of the town council,” Vecchio said in an email. “It is for that very reason that I have appointed him deputy supervisor over these many years.”

As for why the residents of Smithtown should continue to put their trust in him, McCarthy said his background is exactly why.

“I’m the only business man on the town board, and running for the town board,” he said. “The people of this town have given me a wonderful life, and I have more to give back to them.”

Councilman Tom McCarthy shouts in anger during the meeting. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.

The Smithtown Republican Committee was anything but united this week at their convention while deciding which GOP candidates to support for town board positions.

It was revealed earlier in the week Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) was a contender for the GOP’s Smithtown supervisor nomination, although at the committee’s meeting Tuesday night, May 30, it was clear leadership believed Wehrheim is not the only change they have in mind.

After a roll call vote the results gave Wehrheim the comittee’s nomination instead of current Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) who announced his intentions to run for another term last month. Incumbent councilmembers Tom McCarthy (R) and Lynne Nowick (R) also lost the comittee’s nominations for re-election from their party, with the committee voting to support Robert Doyle, a retired Suffolk County detective from Nesconset, and Thomas Lohmann, a Suffolk district attorney investigator. None of the incumbents came out of the meeting defeated though, and are determined to claim victory in the primaries this fall.

“You’ll get an opportunity in September to vote the way you all want,” Nowick said at the meeting. “Here’s the problem…nobody is interested, if they were interested they would be here tonight. This shows a lack of unity in the leadership.”

Councilman Ed Wehrheim listens to a protester Tuesday night at the Smithtown GOP convention. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.

Nowick was referring to the amount of proxy votes submitted — the majority of which went to challengers and not incumbents. She and other members of the party said the committee decided these changes last minute, and several members who sent in their proxy assumed the chairman would be casting their votes for the incumbents.

“You fixed this with proxies that no one even knew who they were voting for,” McCarthy said at the meeting. “Everybody gets blank proxies, they didn’t know they weren’t voting for their incumbents. It was a sham by you Bill [Ellis] and your lack of leadership. This committee was lied to. You led us to another split of the Smithtown Republican Party. You don’t know what the heck you’re doing.”

Ellis is the current chairman of the Smithtown Republican Committee, and said before the meeting he was confident that many members of the party wanted these changes.

“A lot of people support this,” Ellis said in a phone interview. Of the 180 members, Ellis cast proxy votes for dozens. As for the most controversial decision to try and unseat Vecchio, who was supported by the party in each of his previous campaigns over his 39-year tenure running the town, Ellis said he believes it’s the right decision.

“[Wehrheim] is the best man for the job,” he said. “The supervisor is 87 years old, and he’s not necessarily functioning like he did in the past.”

Ellis said there were several political reasons that led to the decision but would not go into any details.

As for the current leader of the town, he’s not swayed at all by the turn of events.

“I’m determined to get those signatures and win the primary,” Vecchio said in a phone interview. As for the decision made by Ellis and the leadership Tuesday night, Vecchio said he certainly doesn’t see it “as an example of a participatory democracy or very democratic at all.”

Marlene Wolke, who served as Vecchio’s secretary for many years, nominated him at the convention.

“I would be proud to nominate Patrick R. Vecchio who has served this town faithfully for the last 40 years,” she said. “He has done an outstanding job, I was proud to have served under him.”

Joanna Betts also spoke in support.

“I’m perplexed why we’re doing this when the town is run so finely by him,” she said.

But regardless of the divide in the party, Wehrheim came out the winner of the night, and thanked members for their support — despite having to wait several minutes for members to stop yelling in protest and calling for him to step down.

“I will say that this was a very difficult decision for me,” the councilman said at the meeting. “But I made it on behalf of this committee and the Smithtown community. I’ve worked 45 years serving this community and I will continue to do so with honor and integrity.”

It’s clear this primary will be anything but business as usual.

“This is no different than an election in the U.S.S.R, it’s fixed in advance,” McCarthy shouted at the end of the meeting.

“Mr. McCarthy I think needs to take a tranquilizer,” Ellis said in response.

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File photo

Smithtown’s aging vehicle fleet might soon see a major upgrade.

Town Comptroller Donald Musgnug pitched a proposal at Tuesday’s Town Board work session that could essentially allow the town to trade in its dated cars and trucks for newer, more fuel-efficient vehicles. The Town Board discussed the potential fleet management agreement with representatives of Enterprise on Musgnug’s recommendations to act sooner than later.

“Clearly we have an aging fleet,” Musgnug said to the board members at Tuesday’s work session. “Enterprise is one of the leaders in this industry. The proposal is on the table.”

The comptroller said Smithtown currently manages 192 vehicles of varying sizes with many of them approaching two decades of use under the town’s ownership. Some of its most maintenance-heavy vehicles, he said, included a 1997 Ford F250 pickup truck with 285,000 miles on it and a Chevy Express 3500 cargo van with 184,000 miles on it. If the town were to sign onto a deal with Enterprise, representatives said, an advisor would help the town lower the age of its fleet to cut costs of maintenance and fuel by trading them out for newer, leased vehicles.

“We’ve been doing this with a lot of New York entities,” said Jacob Garth, government marketing manager at Enterprise Fleet Management. “We do more than just managing and acquiring vehicles. When we look at the fleet, one of the key objectives we make is to lower the age of the fleet, and a significant portion of your fleet is more than 10 years old.”

Garth said that municipalities like Smithtown typically purchase their vehicles via state contractors, which often limit purchases to only one manufacturer. Enterprise, however, has more than 1.6 million vehicles in its fleet from a range of manufacturers, which Garth argued would give Smithtown more opportunity for savings through open-ended leases.

Musgnug said his preliminary recommendations were to reduce Smithtown’s fleet size from 192 to 173 over five years.

“We’re looking at a phase-in approach because we currently have a maintenance crew of more than 20 auto mechanics in the town,” he said. “Phasing it in allows them to stay occupied, and through attrition, there may be some reduction because as you have some new vehicles, the maintenance lessens. This could be significant cost savings.”

Town Councilman Tom McCarthy (R) expressed steadfast support for the proposal to upgrade the town’s aging fleet and asked Musgnug if it was possible to phase new vehicles in over three years instead of five.

“Let’s get rid of all this garbage,” he said.

Fleet consultant Jay Greene of Enterprise said his group has already signed onto similar agreements with Brookhaven and Huntington towns and started discussing plans with Smithtown back in September.

Town Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) said he felt the board needed to take more time to learn about its options and pushed the discussion to a later date. He also instructed Musgnug to touch base with his government counterparts in neighboring Brookhaven and Huntington in order to draft a report of testimonials from towns already working on a similar plan with Enterprise.

“I would think we would need more discussion amongst ourselves about whether or not we want to do this,” Vecchio said. “This is a discussion we need to have at another date, and we’ll contact Enterprise.”