By Claire Walla
On Monday, May 16 members of the Democratic Party of Southampton Town gathered to announce the names of the candidates it would endorse for the 2011-2012 election this November.
Current Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst (Ind.) will seek her second term, and current board member Bridget Fleming (Dem.) who was voted into office mid-election cycle last June, will seek her first full-term in office. Added to the mix will be newcomer Brad Bender (Ind.) who has his sights on the third seat that will open up on the board.
Nancy Graboski (Rep.) has announced she will retire from Southampton Town Council when her term is up in November. So, should Throne-Holst and Fleming maintain hold of their seats, and should Bender secure a seat in his first official foray into town politics, this would shift the dynamics of the now-republican-majority board.
Since being elected to a town board position in 2008, Throne-Holst has made the town’s finances her main focus. Then a board member, she initiated efforts to bring on a forensic audit, which ultimately revealed overspending within the town, which had resulted in multi-million dollar deficits.
Throne-Holst, who was elected supervisor in 2009, has called herself a “natural consensus-builder” who is “committed to working transparently.”
Most significantly, she points to her effort to transform Planned Development District (PDD) legislation, a process she referred to in a press release as “easily the most significant planning initiative from a town-wide perspective.”
The supervisor also highlights her efforts to instigate a planning study for County Road 39, and says she remains committed to reevaluating the current system for evaluating tax assessments, a process that, she noted, could save tax payers money in the long run.
Overall, Throne-Holst highlights her “determination to put public service over politics,” which has “fueled her many accomplishments and won her public praise, despite being a minority leader on a politically divided town board.”
A Noyac resident who owns a private law practice next to Provisions on Main Street in Sag Harbor, Fleming joined the Southampton Town Board in March of last year, during a special, mid-term election.
“I’m happy to say I feel as though I’ve gotten a lot done in a short time,” she said. “And I’m in the minority, I’m the only Democrat on the board.”
(Though Throne-Holst has garnered support from the Democratic Party, she is a registered Independent.)
Briefly listing what she’s accomplished in the past year, Fleming mentioned four main initiatives: adopting legislation to remove all damaged double utility poles from the town’s roadways, legislation to provide health insurance for volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers, a project called Farm Fresh Foods (which would start-up a farmers market in Riverhead) and her efforts to create a Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan for the town.
“What I would like to continue to focus on is three main priorities: economic opportunities for everyone, environmental stewardship, and continued efforts to achieve financial responsibility,” Fleming said.
Though new to politics at the town-wide level, Brad Bender a resident of Northampton (an area near Riverhead) has been active on the local level for the past five years as a board member, vice president and now president of the Flanders/Riverside/Northampton Community Association.
“We’re kind of a drive-by community,” Bender said. In an effort to build the community’s aesthetic appeal, Bender headed two major beautification projects. With help from the county and the town, he replanted the flowerbeds and restored the flagpole at the traffic circle at the end of Route 24, and recently spearheaded an effort to post “Welcome To” signs throughout the community to orient unknown passersby and give the community a sense of place.
“My whole campaign is to continue to bring open and transparent government to the town of Southampton, in order to protect the small-town, rural feel” he said. “The big thing is to bring responsibility [to the town board].”