Election 2011: Four for two in Southold trustee race

10/28/2011 6:00 PM |
Southold Town

Steven Brautigam

Four candidates are vying for two seats this year on the Southold Town Trustees, a government body that oversees water-related issues throughout town.

The two Republican incumbents, Jim King of Mattituck and Bob Ghosio of Greenport, boast of the work they’ve done to protect the bays, creeks and freshwater wetlands. Their Democratic challengers, Lynn Summers of Mattituck and Steve Brautigam of Laurel, boast other civic and government involvement with trustee issues.

Mr. Brautigam worked for 20 years for the Village of Greenport as both clerk/treasurer and head of utilities. He also served as Southampton Town comptroller before taking his current position as village administrator for Ocean Beach on Fire Island.

Ms. Summers is a teacher who has been involved in local causes, including the construction of a playground behind Cutchogue East School and the preservation of Wolf Pit Lake in Mattituck.

Mr. King, a commercial lobsterman who lives on Mattituck Creek, has been a trustee for 16 years. During that time, he has focused on water quality, shellfish and fishing issues. He recently began fishing for conch instead of lobster, due to a sharp decline in the number of lobsters in Long Island Sound.

Mr. Ghosio became a trustee five years ago in a special election to fill a vacant seat. He holds a degree in zoology and previously worked in behavioral ecology and served as a member and chairman of the town’s Conservation Advisory Council. He’s now the manager at Burt’s Reliable in Southold.

Southold Town

Bob Ghosio

The Trustees’ current vice president, Mr. Ghosio is working with the county to dredge Gull Pond in Greenport, where so much sand has built up on the beach that it’s nearly impossible to swim there. He also hopes to work on a study of Hashamomuck Cove on Long Island Sound in Southold, which is facing severe erosion that threatens homes and Route 48.

He says he’s opposed to “preservation by procrastination,” a term he uses to describe the manner in which property owners are told different things by different agencies in their attempts to obtain permits for shoreline structures.

The trustees are at work on another in a series of wetland code revisions, which include some streamlining of the application process. For example, he said, trustees must currently sign off on plans to put solar panels on the roofs of houses within 100 feet of wetlands.

“Do I really need to see that?” he asked. “No. If you want to plant a petunia in a non-turf buffer, do we really want you to come in for an application? … There are those kinds of things that have been written in.”

Steve Brautigam says his work on Fire Island has put him in close touch with DEC officials and that would serve him well.

Fire Island officials are working with the DEC to create “engineered beaches,” which involves measuring and monitoring existing beaches year to year for signs of erosion or accretion, the process of widening. Where necessary, the village tries to maintain the beach in line with the original measurements.

Once a beach is established, property owners have an obligation to maintain it, he said.

Groins and jetties “don’t work,” Mr. Brautigam said. They might help accrete sand at one property, but cause erosion elsewhere.

He sees the trustees’ job as ensuring that decisions adhere to the town’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan and says he understands the need to balance property rights with environmental concerns. Trustees must work with homeowners to achieve that balance.

Mr. Brautigam worries about problems such as the Nassau Point causeway washing out at certain times of year and says he wants to streamline the application process and work with the planning department and Town Board without usurping their responsibilities.

Southold Town

Lynn Summers

Ms. Summers, who has taught every age range at schools across the North Fork, holds a bachelor’s degree in art education and a master’s in science education from Southampton College.

She helped to set up a marine science program for juniors and seniors at Mattituck High School, in which she worked with marine educators and researchers throughout the East End.

As a Trustee, she said, she hopes to involve the Conservation Advisory Council, a community advisory group to the Trustees, in more decisions.

“They bring a lot to the table, a lot of education and leadership,” she said. “They’re not always utilized.”

Ms. Summers said her career as a substitute teacher has been a lot like being an ER doctor, as she must quickly assess the situation in a classroom, from student personalities to lesson plans, and then teach.

“The kids say I should have been a judge,” she said. “They say, ‘Mrs. Summers, you’ve always been fair.’ ”

Mr. King was born in Rhode Island and served in the U.S. Navy on the submarine U.S.S. Sailfish out of New London.

He worked as a lobsterman in Connecticut before moving to Mattituck to fish New York waters.

Southold Town

Jim King

He has focused his energy on water quality and gave up his shellfishing license to be able to take water samples of the creeks that the DEC would accept for analysis.

Just this past year, the northern portion of Mattituck Inlet was opened to shellfishing due to his monitoring efforts.

“I don’t have a lot of book knowledge, but I have a lot of field experience,” he said.

He sees the near build-out of the marine environment as one of the biggest issues facing the town’s waterways. “We’re close to build-out as far as new docks go,” he said. “Almost every waterfront property has a dock.”

Mr. King said the Trustees have paid particular attention in recent years to encouraging applicants to use environmentally sensitive dock materials and decking that lets the light through.

“I try to keep politics out of the Trustee job,” he said. “I treat everyone the same and I do what I think is right.”

[email protected]