Craig Rhodes has been admittedly immersed in his position as a board member with the John Jermain Memorial Library over the last few years. He has pored over architectural renderings of the library’s renovation and expansion, keeping a close eye on the village’s review and eventual approval of that project, as well as the library board’s books, which he manages as the board’s treasurer.
Rhodes was so busy, in fact, that he says he did not realize he had served almost three years on the board, and — believing he had another year left in his three-year-term — failed to hand in his petition for a position on the ballot later this September.
“It was a total surprise,” said Rhodes on Tuesday. “I am really caught up in this whole project and I would hate to not be involved in what is going on as we are finally moving forward, in getting this building built and creating a great library for Sag Harbor.”
“I want another term to be able to see this through,” he added.
This is why Rhodes, an architect, is vying for his second term with the JJML Board of Trustees as a write-in candidate in what has emerged as a four-person race for three board seats.
The trustee election and budget vote will be held on September 27 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The library will host a special budget hearing and meet the candidate’s forum on Wednesday, September 21 at 5:15 p.m. before the library board holds its monthly meeting at 6 p.m.
In addition to Rhodes, incumbent trustee Jackie Brody, who was elected last year to fill the last remaining year of Tippy Ameres’ term after her resignation from the library board, will also seek a second term.
A Fulbright scholar, writer and editor, Brody said on Wednesday that her commitment to staying with the library board stems from her desire to continue her work on the fundraising committee. That group, said Brody, is critical to the overall success of the building project as the library attempts to raise millions of dollars beyond the public approved $10 million bond that will fund the restoration and expansion of JJML’s historic Main Street library.
Originally, noted Brody, the library’s fundraising committee set a goal of $2 million in additional funds to be raised over the bond. But after a lengthy, and expensive, review process to gain approval for the library project, Brody said the committee would likely seek $3 million in additional funds for the project.
JJML board member Christiane Nueville has reached her term limit with the board, and cannot seek another term. Therefore, joining Brody and Rhodes in the election contest will be Custom House administrator Ann Lieber. Lieber first began using the library as a two year old when her family visited the area each summer.
A member of the Friends of the John Jermain Memorial Library, Lieber has helped the library with the Friends’ annual House Tour to support the library’s programming, and will host the Friends’ benefit “One for the Books” this year as well. Lieber has also been involved in helping people gain their citizenship through tutorial classes at JJML.
A substitute teacher in the Sag Harbor Union Free School District, Lieber said while living in Indianapolis, she worked as a librarian for two religious institutions, which like JJML, were in the process of expansion.
“So I think I bring some expertise that would be important to the library at this stage,” said Lieber on Wednesday.
Toby Spitz is the fourth candidate on the slate, and is hoping to be elected to the board alongside her good friend, Lieber.
A graduate of the Columbia University School of Library Service, Spitz worked for the New York Public Library for a number of years before opening her own executive search firm for placing attorneys in corporations and law firms.
Spitz moved to Sag Harbor full-time to retire after summering in the village for seven years, and her first stop was the library where she was thrilled to offer her services as a volunteer. She took over running the library’s English as a Second Language (ESL) program after program director Martha Potter retired last year.
On Wednesday, Spitz said she would like to see the library expand its bi-lingual programming. Having grown up in Florida, Spitz said she has always had an affinity for the Latin communities. Recognizing that they are very much a part of the year round East End fabric, she feels libraries need to find ways to better serve that population.
On Tuesday, JJML Director Catherine Creedon said that she was excited to see such interest in the board, particularly as the library moves forward with its building project. She added that each candidate brings strong skills to the table that will no doubt benefit the library.
Creedon said Rhodes has been “instrumental” in moving the building project forward and with his architectural background has become a mentor to the director as the library worked on the design of the new library and waded through the approval process.
Rhodes, who first fell in love with JJML at the age of five, said he would like to continue his work with the library architects as building commences later next year.
Brody’s fundraising efforts have been critical, added Creedon. Lieber’s work on the library’s centennial, among other efforts similar to Spitz’s volunteer work with the ESL program at the library, is a prime example of the kind of people that make Sag Harbor the special community it is, said Creedon.
“We have four very strong candidates,” she said.