Former village clerk Sandra Schroeder and local businessman and Harbor Committee chairman Bruce Tait have announced they will run for mayor in this summer’s village election.
By Kathryn G. Menu
The stage is set for what could become one of the most contentious political seasons in recent memory for Sag Harbor Village. The mayoral race is now four candidates strong and there’s still over a month before nominating petitions are due in the village clerk’s office.
This week, village Harbor Committee chairman Bruce Tait and former village clerk Sandra Schroeder both announced they would run for the mayor’s seat this June.
Incumbent mayor Brian Gilbride announced last week he will seek a third term at the helm of the village board, with former rival and former mayor Peirce Hance also declaring his candidacy.
The race for two trustee seats also appears to be contested this year. On Monday, former mayor and trustee Ed Deyermond said he will seek a new term on the board. On Tuesday, local businessman and political newcomer Ken O’Donnell said he also intends to run for village board. Incumbent trustee Ed Gregory said last week he would join Gilbride on the Sag Harbor Party ticket.
In addition to chairing the Harbor Committee, Tait, 61, is the owner of Bruce Tait & Associates, a yacht brokerage firm on Bay Street.
“I think Sag Harbor needs some fresh, forward thinking and planning in terms of the changes that are going to happen in the village, instead of us being a village reacting to changes,” said Tait.
Tait added he believes it would be positive to see a business owner in Sag Harbor have representation on the village board.
Reaching out to the community to develop a comprehensive, long-term plan for Long Wharf — recently given to the village by Suffolk County — has been an initiative Tait has championed on the Harbor Committee level and one of his first priorities if elected, he said this week.
“As our newest, and best asset, it needs to be thought out and planned for in terms of what we want to do down there,” he said. “And we need the public’s input on this.”
Traffic calming in the village and looking at long term plans for contending with stormwater runoff are also issues Tait said he would like to explore if elected mayor. He applauded the current board of trustees for getting the approvals in place to begin a remediation project at Havens Beach this spring and added that looking at similar solutions for other points of runoff into the Peconic Estuary may need to be explored in the future.
“But I think we need to look for state and federal funding for these issues,” he said, “and I think that may be out there given the Peconic Estuary is one of the five estuary systems recognized by the federal government.”
For Schroeder, 56, who will run under the Citizens Party banner, deciding to seek the mayor’s office was something she had been considering since retiring from her position as village clerk in 2010. Schroeder began working for the village in the late 1980s as a receptionist, and was appointed village clerk in October of 2002.
Schroeder said after deciding to run, she reached out to Gilbride, who was supportive. When Gilbride decided to seek a third term, Schroeder said he still encouraged her to run.
“I think it’s important that more people get involved in local government,” she said. “But people don’t always have the ability to get to meetings, and I think there are ways we can get more information out to residents about what we are doing and what some of the issues are.”
Schroeder said she is concerned about the impact the state mandated tax levy cap will have on a small village like Sag Harbor, pointing to a budget hearing last month where both the police and public works departments were informed they would be losing staff in the current budget. With the limitations of the tax cap, said Schroeder, the village has very little money to play with in terms of addressing infrastructure issues.
“We have to find some new ways of increasing revenues,” she said.
She added she believes Long Wharf — a piece of the village’s history, she said — should also be improved.
Schroeder and Tait join Hance, 68, who will seek office under the Economy Banner party — the same party the financial consultant ran under when he was elected mayor in 1993. He served as mayor until 1999 and said last week he is concerned about the management of the village, the state of ongoing police contract negotiations and transparency.
For Gilbride, 65, the idea of a contested race is something he views as a good thing for Sag Harbor Village. A long time member of the village board, he was elected in 1994 and is a member of the Sag Harbor Volunteer Fire Department.
“I am a guy who believes in the system,” said Gilbride on Wednesday. “For me, it would be easy to walk away but there is a lot we want to finish up.”
Gilbride, who works for Emil Norsic & Sons, said he would like to see projects like the Havens Beach remediation and the ongoing contract negotiation with the PBA finished before he steps down from public service.
Gilbride is joined under the Sag Harbor Party banner by Ed Gregory, 67, the owner of Gregory Electric in Bridgehampton, who will seek his 13th term on the board.
And it appears the race for two trustee seats — for Gregory’s seat and for the vacated seat left when former trustee Tim Culver moved out of the village — will be a contest.
This week, O’Donnell, 44, who like all of the candidates besides Gilbride and Gregory is running on his own, said he intends to run for office. He cited his desire to give back to a community that has supported him as a business owner of La Superica.
“Sag Harbor has been very good to me over the course of the last 18 years and while I have been involved in local fundraisers and organizations, I feel like it is time for me to roll up my sleeves and really get involved,” he said. “It seems like we live in an era where we talk a lot about what government can do for us, and I want to break that cycle and start talking about what we can do to give back to the community.
As a business owner, O’Donnell said he wished the police contract could have been solved before it went to arbitration and said the timing of the recent announcement the village board may lay off an officer under its proposed village budget was concerning.
“What concerns me is if we are in such a budget crisis and they are talking about getting rid of another officer, I think the matter should have been addressed in the fall,” he said. “Now this is happening as we are going into what we expect to be one of the busier summer seasons in recent memory.”
The floating docks which were damaged during Superstorm Sandy and are just now being repaired is also an issue for O’Donnell, who wondered why they were not removed before the storm made landfall.
“If we had been more proactive, the village and the federal government would not have to pay for those repairs and we would be ready for the boating season,” he said.
Mostly, said O’Donnell, he believes having a Main Street, Sag Harbor business owner elected will bring a new perspective to the village board.
For Deyermond, 60, returning to public service is something he has thought about since Culver’s resignation, when he threw his hat into the ring to serve as his interim replacement, although the village board chose to wait until this election to fill that seat.
Deyermond is running independently as a member of the Progressive Party. He was mayor from 2003 to 2006 and also served as a village board member in the 1990s, elected with Gilbride in 1994. He also was the Southampton Town Assessor and formally served as North Haven village clerk.
On Tuesday, Deyermond said he was focused on the budget constraints the village faces under the two percent tax cap, and would like to be on the board to follow ongoing projects like the construction of condominiums at the former Bulova Watchcase Factory, the remediation of Havens Beach and the PBA contract negotiations.
“I would like to us use more CPF (Community Preservation Fund) monies,” said Deyermond. “We haven’t done much with that and we contribute a lot to that fund. There are other things besides open space preservation we can do with it.”
Deyermond said the waterfront was another focus for him, and specifically said he would like to look at the wastewater treatment plant and what efficiencies and technologies can be revisited to improve that facility.
“I’ve been away from it for awhile, but I think I have something to offer still,” he said.