By Claire Walla
He’s led white-water-rafting expeditions in Alaska, taught sailing while dressed as a pirate in Chicago and lived abroad in Japan. And now, 31-year-old Judah Mahay is on his way to becoming the new chairman of the Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) to the Town of Southampton.
“I love different cultures and I love different places,” said Mahay, who was born and raised in Alaska and lived near Stony Brook before moving to the Sag Harbor area about a year-and-a-half ago when his wife was hired to work at the Water Mill Center.
When asked how his experience on the East End has been thus far, Mahay submitted to a wide grin.
“It’s been interesting,” he said. “There’s a large population of Latino cultures, then there’s the juxtaposition between the people who are farmers and the individuals who use this as a second home, and those who have retired out here. It makes for a very interesting dynamic.”
Of his new role with the CAC, he said, “I’ve always kind of had that approach of bringing people together to inspire some type of community interaction.”
Back in high school, Mahay noted this knack was manifested in his single-handedly forming a competitive hockey team. Although, he added, “As I’ve gotten older, it’s been less along the lines of entertainment and more along the lines of political issues.”
Recently, Mahay said he’s focused his attention on grass-roots organizing efforts like No Label and Americans Elected.
Mahay has thus far participated in local politics from the sidelines, attending a smattering of both CAC and Southampton Town board meetings in the past year. This is his first full-blown foray into the local political scene.
Mahay’s new role was officially announced at the CAC’s first meeting of the New Year last Sunday, January 12, when current chair John Linder explained his reasons for passing on the torch.
“I’ve done it for a long time,” said Linder, who has been at the helm of the organization for five years, even though he lives full-time in Manhattan. “It was always kind of ridiculous, because I’m not here during the week.”
The two men will officially serve as co-chairs for the remainder of 2012 while Linder shows his successor the ropes. Already, Mahay is looking forward to his new role.
“I would love to see the Sag Harbor CAC [evolve] in the fashion of what it is now: representative of the community’s voice,” he explained. “But, certain actions need to be taken in order to gauge the community’s voice. And that involves outreach.”
Sitting at a small round table inside the John Jermain Library’s temporary space on West Water Street, Mahay and Linder discussed the need to grow the CAC with the only other CAC member in attendance that day, Valerie Justin.
“I think people know we exist, but they just don’t know what we do,” Linder said.
To try to increase participation, he suggested setting up tables where CAC members would be stationed, ready to initiate one-on-one conversations with people interested in joining, or even learning more about the CAC.
Justin suggested the group reach out to Moveon.org, a politically motivated grassroots organization that — despite having national influence — has a strong presence in local communities.
“I think it’s a goldmine!” she stated. “These people [Moveon.org members] are used to being politically active.”
Mahay said he would look into forging a connection with the organization. And, in the vein of digital endeavors, he expressed an interest in creating a website for the Sag Harbor CAC, which currently has no online presence, and putting together an up-to-date (electronic) mailing list. He even spoke of activating a Twitter account for the local organization.
At the request of both Linder and Justin, Mahay will present a model of this proposed website at the CAC’s next meeting: Sunday, March 11 at 1:30 p.m.
“My long-term goals are to be as engaged in the community as I can,” Mahay continued. “Maybe 10 years down the road I’ll run for public office and make that my full time job [Mahay currently works at Chase Bank in East Hampton] — I can’t imagine a better thing to do with my time.”
“I always knew that I wanted to make my primary function in life to help people,” he added. “And whether it’s trying to help someone reduce their mortgage payments, or it’s public office, it’s the same root aspiration. It’s just that in one scenario you’re doing more to affect change.”