Three vie for two seats on Old Field village board

Three vie for two seats on Old Field village board

The Old Field Lighthouse. Photo by Huberto Pimental

Old Field residents will choose from three candidates for two trustee seats on the village board when they go to the polls March 16.

Incumbent Stephen Shybunko, a manufacturing business owner, and Adrienne Owen, the lead member of production supervisory at Renaissance Technologies, will be running on The 1927 Party ticket, while Rebecca Van Der Bogart, a global account manager for the furniture company Herman Miller, is running on The Good Neighbor Party ticket.

Mitchell Birzon will be running for village justice to fill the remainder of the term left open after the death of justice Ted Rosenberg in September. The term will conclude April 1, 2022, and Birzon is unchallenged.

Stephen Shybunko

Shybunko is the only incumbent on the ballot and has been a trustee for more than 12 years. He was first appointed to the village board and went on to be elected six times. He is currently the deputy mayor, and has served in the position for eight years after being appointed by former Mayor Michael Levine and then current Mayor Bruce Feller. Shybunko said before running again he discussed his intentions with his family and received encouragement from the mayor and the other board members.

“I genuinely enjoy the interaction with residents and get great satisfaction in governing on a local level where results are quickly realized and change can be instituted swiftly when needed,” he said.

Living in Old Field for 30 years with his wife, Kerry, and raising three children, Kyle, 31, Stephen, 30, and Kathryn, 25, he feels that maintaining the beauty of the village is important.

“Being good stewards and maintaining the beauty and diversity of the environment is always important,” he said. “Balancing the fragile ecosystem with property development is a task that requires knowledge, experience and the ability to respect and listen to all stakeholders.”

Shybunko said he believes he possesses the qualities to take on that task, and he is “always willing to learn more and educate myself on best practices going forward.”

“Old Field’s waterfront properties and continuing development provides both a challenge and an opportunity to lead the way on responsible development,” he said.

In a letter to residents, he listed the board’s achievements during his tenure, including “sound village finances.” He said Old Field has continuously enjoyed “the lowest fiscal stress scores as reported by the New York State comptroller,” among all towns, villages and school districts in the state. With only two years left on a 10-year loan that was used for roads, the village will save $180,000 on taxes when the loan is paid off, Shybunko said. He said he currently doesn’t see any large expensives on the horizon for Old Field.

Adrienne Owen

While Adrienne Owen may be a new candidate on this year’s ballot, she is extremely familiar with the Old Field board. Her husband, Jeff, is currently a board member. After serving six terms, her husband decided not to run in 2021.

She said in an email it was Feller who planted the seed in her head about running at a birthday party back in 2019. She spent seven years on the board at Harbor Country Day School in St. James, and when she started, she said she had no related experience.

“I am an eager learner,” Owen said. “While a non-for-profit school board and an incorporated village board are different, the fundamentals of board service are the same. My experience on the HCDS board made me see how fulfilling giving my time and my energy to an organization I really cared about could be.”

She said she doesn’t see the village “facing any issues of great significance.”

“The board has always been populated with strong leadership during my residence,” she said. “Mike Levine was a dedicated mayor for a very long time, and Steve Shybunko has been a devoted deputy mayor. I am thrilled Steve is continuing the tradition of running for trustee with an Owen.”

While she doesn’t see any huge issues in the village, Owen added processes and procedures can always be improved.

“I think I will provide a fresh perspective in this regard,” she said. “I have extensive experience working on tight and balanced budgets, and I have good management skills. I will approach all issues by doing my own due diligence and listening to all perspectives.”

Owen has lived in the village with her husband since 2008 and their son, Grant, is about to turn 15.

Like Shybunko, she wishes to see new beautification projects in Old Field.

“We are about to embark on a major restoration and renovation of the Old Field Lighthouse,” she said. “I am secretary of the Old Field Lighthouse Foundation and, if elected, I will be the liaison between the board and the foundation.”

Rebecca Van Der Bogart

Van Der Bogart is also a new name on the ballot for trustee, but familiar with village business.

She volunteers with the Crane Neck Association and is on the zoning board of appeals for Old Field. She and her wife, Hayley Devon Ogle, have lived in the village since 1997.

Among the items Van Der Bogart would like to see improved in the village is communication among residents. She said sometimes residents are too quick to report a problem to the village, like a floodlight shining in their window, before communication with their neighbors. She believes in being a good neighbor and that’s why she picked it as her platform.

“I know it sounds funny, but I believe that people should communicate with each other, and work together and make this community — make our neighborhood — as great as it could be,” she said. “Have dialogue with each other, try to help each other.”

Van Der Bogart added as a resident she tries her best to attend village meetings and believes she will bring a different perspective to the board. She said while Old Field is known for having wealthy people, that’s not the case for every resident.

“We’re not all millionaires, and I think that should be represented on the village board,” she said.

Van Der Bogart added not only as a neighbor but also as a businessperson her goal is to make sure that everybody has a better experience when dealing with village government, likening it to a customer-service approach.

In the past, Van Der Bogart has worked with the village to curb issues brought on by deer such as eating vegetation and Lyme disease. On the village’s deer committee, she worked with the New York State Department of Conservation, local elected officials and deer hunters. She also investigated villages such as Quogue to see how they approached their deer problems, she said, not wanting to have massive amounts of deer killings.

“I said, ‘You know, here’s the problem, people are starting to get sick now, people who are getting tick-borne diseases,’” she said. “There’s a direct correlation that the more deer, the more ticks, the more tick-borne diseases.”

The village changed the code to allow residents to use deer fencing. With this, Van Der Bogart said homeowners could protect their properties and health without resorting to hunting.

“So, it kind of was the happy medium for everybody, and I felt really proud of working on that,” she said.

The election for two trustees and village justice will take place Tuesday, March 16, from noon to 9 p.m. at the Keeper’s Cottage, 207 Old Field Road.