Arthur James Laspesa, Mary Whelan and Jeff Sander are all seeking seats on the North Haven Village Board during this Tuesday’s election
By Kathryn G. Menu
While North Haven Village’s election is not nearly as heated as across the bridge in Sag Harbor Village, it is still a contested race pitting an incumbent trustee and longtime member of the planning board against a longtime resident and attorney hoping to bring new perspective to the board.
There are two, two-year terms at stake in next Tuesday’s village elections in North Haven. Incumbent Jeff Sander is seeking a fourth term on the board alongside planning board chairman and architect Arthur “Jim” Laspesa as members of the North Haven Party. Attorney Mary Whelan is also running for a seat under the Daffodil Party banner.
Longtime board member and current acting mayor Russell “Jim” Smyth has opted not to seek another term with the board.
The North Haven Village Board has decided not to fill the vacant seat left by Mayor Laura Nolan’s resignation in April. A member of the North Haven Party, Nolan resigned from her position as mayor citing personal reasons. She was originally elected in 2002 and served five consecutive terms prior to her resignation.
The board will appoint someone to serve in that position sometime after July following the June elections to fill the remaining year of Nolan’s two-year term as mayor. According to Sander, the appointment could be made from within the board, but a person not currently sitting on the board of trustees could also be considered.
Sander, 71, has lived in North Haven for 14 years and has served three terms on the village board, originally running with Smyth. A retired business executive with IBM and Lucent Technologies, Sander is also a member of the Sag Harbor Yacht Club and the East End Classic Boat Society.
Laspesa, 65, has been a member of the North Haven Village Planning Board since 1987, its chairman since 1992. An architect with A. James Laspesa Architects in Sag Harbor, he is also on the board of directors of the Sag Harbor Yacht Club — serving as commodore on four different occasions — and sits on the board of the Cormaria Retreat House.
Whelan, 56, is new to the political arena. An attorney with a Sag Harbor law practice, Whelan is also a founding member of the Breakwater Yacht Club Community Sailing Center.
The Daffodil Party moniker was chosen as homage to a resilient plant in North Haven that the deer refuse to eat.
For Laspesa, some of the skills he feels he brings to the table are managerial, from his work as a business owner. He added the leadership skills he earned as a member of the United States Air Force would also aid him if elected to the North Haven Village Board.
“I was getting burned out on the planning board and I was looking for something new to take on as a challenge,” said Laspesa. “I was asked to run. It is my first foray into politics, so we will see how it goes.”
His experience as a business executive before retiring about 13 years ago has aided Sander in his three terms on the board, he said.
“In six years I have learned a lot about how things work, how the village is managed, what some of the issues and concerns are and there is, quite frankly a fair amount of work to be done by five part-time people,” said Sander. “I think the thing I bring is the ability to create a team and make sure everyone is a part of that.”
For Whelan, she saw an opportunity to run for trustee after learning Smyth would not be seeking another term.
“I have lived in North Haven for almost 30 years, raised a family, but I have never been active in the government process,” she said. “I have management and administrative skills in that I am a practicing attorney.”
Prior to that, Whelan and her husband developed their own marine construction business, a business they still manage to this day.
“I think that I, too, would be able to work with trustees and keep the symbiotic relationship and continue to move forward to improve North Haven and address the issues,” she added. “Being new to the political arena I think I could add a new perspective and be open to residents and their concerns.”
Sander said what the North Haven Village Board contends with most often is simply trying to maintain the quality of life in the village. Recently, the issue of the deer population — and therefore tick borne illnesses — have been at the forefront of village debate.
As a government, Sander said the board is limited, but will address the deer problem as much as possible. A committee was formed to come up with some recommendations regarding the deer population, he noted. Those recommendations should be delivered to the village board and the public some time in the next month, said Sander.
Dock building and protecting the shoreline through a comprehensive dock plan is another thing the board will address in the next two years, added Sander.
Otherwise, he said, it is ensuring the board continues to pursue open space purchases — it has set aside 26 acres of preserve in the last six years.
Whelan agreed that land planning and open space was a critical issue, but that the deer problem was “prolific.”
“I have spoken to so many people that have been afflicted by this and basically if they are not tramping through your property there is a marked decline in the number of ticks.”
Enforcement issues — for noise ordinances, for example — is another thing Whelan would like to tackle.
“North Haven is a sleepy little village, it’s small, and if things are not going to be enforced why do we have these rules?”
Stormwater runoff is another issue Whelan said the village will have to keep an eye on.
“I am into land preservation, acquiring open space, which is sometimes difficult with trying to keep taxes low, but working with groups like The Nature Conservancy gives us an avenue to do that,” said Laspesa.
Another issue Laspesa is looking at is erosion and excessive clearing on waterfront properties in North Haven — which erodes dunes and shorelines, something he says is already happening as a result of climate change.
Water quality, traffic and speeding on Ferry Road is another concern Laspesa said he would like to address as a member of the North Haven Village Board.
“With my background, I feel I could work very well with members of the planning board, zoning board and architectural review board,” he added.
In terms of deer and tick borne illnesses, likely the most hotly contested issue in North Haven, Whelan noted it was a complicated issue.
“To a certain extent the herd has been reduced through the cull, but I would like to see a greater cull,” said Whelan, adding the village should look at providing refrigeration so hunters are not dissuaded from continuing the cull, fearing they will waste the meat. That meat, she said could be given to local food pantries.
Whelan said she would not discount implementing a 4-Poster program — using a duel feeding station that treats deer with a powerful tickicide — in North Haven. Shelter Island, she noted, has had success with that technology.
For Laspesa, he said he is for a cull of the deer and supported providing refrigeration for hunters as well.
“From what I know, the 4-Poster systems are very expensive,” said Laspesa. “How do we keep our taxes down if we are spending more money? There is no way we can please 100 percent of North Haven residents so I am willing to take a stand that we go for the hunt and keep the budget down.”
Sander said the committee organized by the village — and chaired by Sander — included a cross section of different North Haven residents.
“Really when you study all the literature you come down to two approaches that have had some affect when you look at things like capturing the herd and transporting them somewhere, or operations to make deer sterile or even these devices that have been used for sterility, but the only thing that has been effective in reducing the herd significantly is culling.”
Shelter Island, he noted, has had some success with using the 4-Poster devices, but the committee, he said was more supportive of an aggressive cull.
“Because of the cost of the 4-Poster program and the difficulty administering it,” said Sander explaining why the committee would not likely support using 4-Poster devices in North Haven.
Maintaining the devices, storing the corn for feed, hiring an expert, ensuring setbacks are met are just some of the issues Sander noted arise when the 4-Poster is used in a municipality.
“However, there are some very vocal residents, some from North Haven Manor, that feel 4-Poster has some merit,” he said. “I think we need to have them continue to look at the details for how that is implemented and if it would make sense.”