By Annette Hinkle
Larry Cantwell, supervisor-elect of East Hampton Town who will take office on January 1, 2014.
What are some of the big issues you see facing East Hampton Town in 2014?
The big issues are the airport, coastal policy, sea level rise and how we can plan to deal with that better in the future. The Army Corps of Engineers will likely be doing a beach rebuilding project in downtown Montauk. There’s also a desire in the community for the town to better enforce local codes and laws when it comes to quality of life issues — both year around and seasonally — including things like noise from night clubs. And certainly town finances will be in the forefront and we’ll continue to progress financially.
The airport’s been such a contentious issue in recent years — so what do you see as the next step?
I think the new town board has a direction they want to go in — essentially it’s parallel tracks — funding and putting restrictions in place. The first task is doing a real financial analysis of airport expenses and revenues in a way that allows us to operate the airport and provide the funding for critical safety improvements. I think that financial analysis will go a long way toward realizing how much existing funding can support improvements going forward. At the same time we want to complete a noise analysis to enforce any restrictions the town wants to put in place.
The East Hampton Town Board meetings have been a bit contentious as of late. With the new board in January, do you see an opportunity to start with a clean slate so to speak?
If nothing else I’d like to get the town board and the community on a constructive path to solving problems. There’s been a certain level of frustration in the community that these issues are not being addressed. We need to be constructive and not partisan — not trying to win points but trying to collaborate.
As supervisor, you’ll be moving to town government from East Hampton Village where you were village administrator for 30 years. Is there a big learning curve ahead for you?
Fortunately I have a long standing relationship with many people in town government. I was on the town planning board and a member of the town board 35 years ago. I have some sense of the people who work there, their duties and responsibilities. Since November, every day I’ve been meeting with community groups and individuals who have issues or concerns, getting advice, listening to people’s point of view and I hope to hit the ground running.
Have you already decided on some changes?
We wanted to reorganize the town attorney’s office and I’m very comfortable with the experience we’re going to get with the people we’ve appointed. [Elizabeth Vail, Beth Baldwin and Michael Sendlenski] have a collective of expertise that will serve the town well. I’m going to reappoint Len Bernard as budget officer. [Former town clerk and town councilman-elect] Fred Overton is also an integral part of the transition in preparations for the first of the year.
What are some of the matters that will be coming up before the board early on?
Obviously there’s some left over legislation — the noise law had been discussed, the lighting law and the taxi law, the [proposed] 555 [senior citizen housing project in Amagansett] and the Talmage property rezoning. All those will have to be dealt with early on. We will pay particular attention to finding better ways to enforce our local codes. There could be some reorganization there. These are the major issues certainly while we’re settling in and we’ll have to evaluate them going forward.
Are you ready to jump into your new job?
I’m very comfortable coming in as town supervisor. There’s a major list of tasks ahead and we’re going to take them one at a time. We’re not going to solve every problem in two years, but we look to make some of them a priority.
I’m looking forward to it and looking forward to making a significant contribution to the town.
Have you been eyeing this position for a while?
A year ago I had just come off announcing I was going to retire as village administrator. One thing led to another. People asked me to consider running for town supervisor.
If you had asked me a year ago, I said that wouldn’t happen.
But life has it’s twist and turns.