While the Southampton Town Board is considering making more changes to the stringent green energy legislation they adopted in July, Republican councilperson Dan Russo is campaigning in a special election this fall to keep his seat against Democratic nominee, Sally Pope.
This was Russo’s first year as a councilman on the town board, and this will be Pope’s first run at a political position.
Earlier this year, Russo was appointed to the board to fill a vacancy left by Linda Kabot when she was elected as the town’s supervisor. Members of the board interviewed candidates from all parties before settling on an applicant. Russo says his appointment went across party lines because he even received a vote from the Democratic party’s endorsed candidate, Anna Throne-Holst.
“At the time it was really not a concern to me what they wanted to do; an appointment or wait for a special election,” says Russo.Â
The board chose to appoint Russo to the position in a 3-1 vote. Nancy Grabowski did not vote for Russo because she believed the board should wait for a special election. Throne-Holst says if they waited for a special election for six months or longer it would be problematic in that there could be numerous four way ties on votes and that each board member already had a slew of legislation assignments. Without a person in that seat, the workload for each trustee would have increased significantly.
Russo says the appointment has given him a few months to tackle things that he wanted to as well as the opportunity to show voters what he is capable of doing. But he says, “As confident as I am I don’t take anything for granted.”
Pope says her biggest concern is the financial situation of the town. She says she can see “that there is a large deficit with the majority falling into two categories; the Police Department and Waste Management.”
“We have only hit the tip of the iceberg [within the town’s financial situation],” she says.
Pope was nominated by the Democratic Party and is endorsed by the Independence Party, Working Families and Integrity Parties. She has never run for a political position but says her past experience has prepared her for this opportunity.
Pope began her career as a corporate attorney on Wall Street and then moved into her own private practice. She taught mediation for the New York City Bar Association and in corporate settings and law schools. She says she believes her work in mediation has helped her understand people on a local level.
Pope has lived in Remsenburg for 25 years and commuted into New York City where she worked closely with the community groups and police officers to help improve community relations.
Pope believes that board reform is also very important to her.
“I hope to reform the various boards within the town,” Pope said on Wednesday, “like the planning board and the zoning board of appeals that make critical decisions and are caving into major developers,” Pope says her campaign plans will include meeting as many people as she can.
“I hope to understand the concerns of the citizens of my town.”
Russo lives in East Quogue and is a partner in a private practice law firm there. His family has also been residents of the Town of Southampton for 25 years. His work practice includes experience in the Major Crime Bureau of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office handling cases from arrest to trial. He is also a former U.S. Naval Reserve member.
Russo says he has spent a lot of time working on affordable housing for young families and says that voters will see some changes before the November elections.
“The major issues are the same as this past year,” says Russo. He believes that code enforcement was specifically important over the summer months while they were tackling the summer share houses. “It became a quality of life issue, and there are still a number of places that are overcrowded,” says Russo. “Being responsive to the community is important also, and we have made great strides here but we have more work to do.”