By Tessa Raebeck
The leaders of the Town of Southampton trumpeted collaboration across party lines Monday as town officials, including new councilmen Brad Bender and Stanley Glinka, were officially sworn in to office.
The meeting room at Southampton Town Hall was filled to capacity with over 70 friends, family and staff members in attendance, with still others watching through a live video stream in an adjacent room.
Representatives from the Shinnecock Indian Nation Tribal Council were in attendance, as were county and state officials. Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman sat in the third row while Congressman Tim Bishop presided over the event.
Following a procession with bagpipes, Father Michael Vetrano of the Basilica of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary opened the annual ceremony with a simple prayer, “God help us,” asking that the elected officials have the “courage and integrity to always stand up for the truth.”
After being sworn in, Bender waited for Glinka and the pair — a Democrat and Republican, respectively — made consecutive and similar speeches.
“I think,” said Bender, “we’re turning a new page here in the Town of Southampton. I think we’re going to do a lot of good things for the town.”
Glinka thanked his friends, family and co-workers at Bridgehampton National Bank, where he serves as vice president, and said he looked forward to working for Southampton, his hometown.
In a longer speech than those given by her colleagues, re-elected Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst — an Independence Party member — emphasized the commitment to collaboration in coming years and outlined several areas where the new board is hopeful it will instill progress through a bi-partisan effort.
“I know we all recognize how privileged we are,” said Throne-Holst, “to not only live and work in this wonderful town, but to have been bestowed the even larger privilege — rather, the trust — to serve and safeguard what makes our town so special and that is, most of all, the wonderful people and constituents who make our community and our precious environment.”
“I think,” continued Throne-Holst, “we all share a painful awareness of the conspicuous and poor example of gridlock, partisan and narrow-minded government that has plagued our country over the last several years and where true public service has been too often stymied.”
The supervisor said the history and tradition of American government was “built by healthy discourse” and “joint commitment to serving the people.”
She said with this legacy in mind, members of the new town board have met and discussed a joint vision on how to best serve Southampton residents moving forward.
Throne-Holst outlined five areas of priority the town board has already decided on for 2014: water quality; affordable housing; police, public safety and code enforcement; addressing the needs of “aging and increasingly inefficient” infrastructure (a list she said is “dizzyingly long”); and having conversations with neighboring governments to “explore efficiency and cost savings to possible shared services, joint projects, emergency management,” among other initiatives.
Throne-Holst said Larry Cantwell, the newly elected East Hampton Town supervisor, has already expressed his interest in such a “two town initiative.”
Throne-Holst underscored the new town government has “a commitment to representing in a cohesive and productive way where we will strive to exemplify government the way we believe it should be.”
“We have together,” she added, “stated a commitment to working together to see our goals move forward, with each of us focusing on several specific projects or areas as part of seeing them all done.”
Throne-Holst asked for the public’s involvement in outlining goals and moving forward, as well as holding the elected officials accountable in their commitment to put party and individual interests aside.
“Hold our feet to the fire,” she said.
Also taking the oath of office Monday were four Southampton Town Trustees, incumbents William Pell IV and Eric Schultz, who were sworn in together by Justice Steven Lynch, as were newcomers Scott Horowitz and Raymond Overton. Trustee Edward Warner, Jr. could not attend the ceremony but took his oath beforehand.
Entering her third term as town clerk, Sundy Schermeyer, accompanied by her grandfather, who turned 95 on Saturday, was sworn in by Councilwoman Christine Scalera.
Southampton Town Justices Deborah Kooperstein and Barbara Wilson also took the oath of office Monday and re-elected Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor was sworn in to his second term.
“We’re no supermen or superwomen,” Gregor said to the room of elected officials, “we’re just men and women — part of our community that want to help it.”
“I love the people of Southampton,” he continued, “because they have no problem telling me what they think at any time…To our fellow elected officials, we’re all stuck with each other, so maybe we oughta [sic] try to make it work.”