If the criteria for selecting a candidate in this year’s race for supervisor were limited to a strong work ethic, love of community and a record of public service, the choice between incumbent Republican Scott Russell and Democratic challenger Bob Meguin might be difficult.
But it’s not, for one reason above all others. Mr. Meguin, a self-acknowledged “reluctant candidate,” has demonstrated all too clearly during the run-up to Election Day that he lacks the temperament to hold the town’s highest office.
Perhaps it’s a response to Mr. Russell’s laid-back style, perhaps its simply his own personality, but during the times the candidates met, Mr. Meguin displayed a combative, confrontational style. A defense attorney by profession, he gave the impression that he was making an impassioned opening statement or closing remarks.
All the skills that obviously served him well during a distinguished legal career seemed to drag down his efforts to gain Southold’s top elected position. As he accurately pointed out, the supervisor is one of but six members of the Town Board. Whoever sits in that seat serves both as the town’s CEO — the person in charge of the day-to-day operations of a $40 million corporation — and chairman of the board. We’ve no doubt Mr. Meguin is quite capable of the first job but would be an utter failure at the second. Dictatorial supervisors have a short shelf life in Southold.
If his effort to oust the incumbent falls short, he can look back at his performance during the candidates debate in Orient last month. Believing himself the victim of a personal attack by Mr. Russell, Mr. Meguin — to use the vernacular — lost it and was gaveled down by the moderator several times. Later he said, “Obviously, I’m not here to be liked.”
Of course not, but his task that day was to show voters why they’d be wise to choose him over the incumbent. If anything, he proved the opposite, and in the heart of one of the town’s strongest Democratic enclaves to boot.
Mr. Meguin didn’t seem to be familiar with aspects of his own party’s posted platform, and he also wouldn’t rule out the possibility of continuing his legal work in some capacity were he elected. Adding that income to the salary he’d receive as supervisor and his pension — unquestionably much-deserved as the result of decades of dedicated public service — it seems quite hypocritical for Mr. Meguin to chide the supervisor for seeking a modest salary increase, a budget item he later withdrew in response to public opposition.
Mr. Russell, on the other hand, is a quiet, effective leader. By building consensus, both inside and out of Town Hall, he has so far successfully shepherded the town through a bleak and dangerous financial climate. That he is not beholden to any one group or political philosophy has earned him bipartisan support. Democratic Councilman Al Krupski’s silence during the campaign speaks volumes.
If anyone deserves to be returned to office, it’s Mr. Russell. He is one of those rare public officials whose only agenda is to work in the public’s best interest. Southolders are fortunate to have a man of his caliber looking out for them. His exceptional work in an often thankless job earned him The Suffolk Times’ “Person of the Year” honors a year ago, In the ensuing months he has more than proven that choice was no mistake. He’s also shown that the lopsided nature of his last election victory — he finished with an unheard of 83 percent of the vote — was no fluke.
We enthusiastically endorse Mr. Russell in his bid for another four-year term.