Just one incumbent is in the running for a seat on the Southold Town Board next week, but a full slate of candidates is nevertheless vying for the two available seats.
The lone incumbent is Republican Bill Ruland, a farmer who has been on the board since 2007. He previously served for 24 years as a member of the Mattituck School Board 13 years as president. Mr. Ruland has also served as director and vice president of the Long Island Farm Bureau.
With incumbent Republican Vincent Orlando’s decision against seeking a second term, the party nominated Jill Doherty, current president of the Town Trustees. Ms. Doherty is also a member and past president of the Mattituck Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary.
On the Democratic ticket are two Mattituck residents with long histories of community involvement.
Marie Domenici is a former manager of technology at American Express who also worked as a legislative aide to former state Assemblyman Marc Alessi. In addition, she served for two years as chairwoman of the town’s renewable energy committee. She’s been an outspoken opponent of high taxes at both the Mattituck-Cutchogue School District and Town Hall.
Nicholas Deegan, a carpenter by trade, has been active on the Southold Town parks and recreation committee and serves as a Mattituck Park District commissioner. He coached soccer and baseball for 14 years and was also active in the Mattituck Soccer Club.
This year the Democrats have been on the offensive, charging Republicans are guilty of dragging their feet on protecting Mattituck’s business district from overdevelopment and attempting to dismantle environmental laws.
In particular, Ms. Doherty has come under attack for her proposed changes to the wetland code, which are currently being reviewed by the town’s code committee.
“I believe that things were really twisted,” she said in an interview with The Suffolk Times’ editorial board last week. She took issue with Democrats’ charge that she wanted to eliminate the need for vegetative buffers between shoreline structures and wetlands.
“That’s not what proposed changes implied, that’s not what we meant,” she said. “There’s no way we’ll say you don’t have to have a buffer.”
Ms. Doherty said that half of the houses the Trustees are looking at are very old and are closer than 30 feet from the wetlands.
There’s no way those homeowners could comply with current laws. Her changes, she said, would help them mitigate any potential harm to the environment.
Ms. Domenici charged that some of the changes, including a provision to allow snow fences on beaches, would inhibit public access to the shore. Ms. Doherty said that, as the code is currently drafted, people would be able to go through marshes to get to beaches.
“It doesn’t make sense because there’s no way to get there,” said Ms. Doherty.
She added that snow fences can’t impede foot traffic.
“It doesn’t mean everybody is going to have a snow fence down to mean high water,” she said.
Ms. Doherty said she’s no stranger to taking a tough stance in protecting the environment, and pointed to her board’s vote last year to prevent the Suffolk County Water Authority from building a pipeline to Orient.
“As a Trustee, I have said no many times,” she said at a debate at Peconic Landing last Thursday. “You have to balance property rights, the environment and laws.”
Ms. Domenici has touted her commitment to the environment in her campaign, and said that she wants to help improve air quality in Southold and reduce helicopter traffic. She also says she wants to prevent “the insidious infiltration of corporate America” into Southold Town, particularly in Mattituck.
“We want to preserve keeping mom and pop working,” she said.
Ms. Domenici also takes a hard line on taxes and insists that there are many ways the town can do more with less. She’s said often on the campaign trail that “I want to live in Southold for the rest of my life. The way taxes are going I should be dead in three weeks.”
Her running mate, Mr. Deegan, has worked toward slowing development in Mattituck. He told The Suffolk Times this week that he believes the Town Board should have enacted a development moratorium while it put together the Mattituck corridor study last year.
“If we don’t address and get a good balance on what’s going on on the western edge of town, people aren’t going to want to come out here,” he said at the Peconic Landing debate.
Mr. Deegan also said he hopes the town does not allow the new 7-Eleven in Mattituck to open until roadwork scheduled by the state Department of Transportation for next spring is complete.
Mr. Deegan, who lives on Marlene Drive, was also involved in the effort to keep the entrances to the CVS in Mattituck on the side roads and off Route 25.
The business community and environmentalists must come together to do what’s best for the community, he said. Mr. Deegan describes himself as a fiscal conservative, a philosophy developed by spending 25 years as a small business owner.
Mr. Deegan also favors the idea of creating a new local new sports complex, perhaps run by a private nonprofit group in conjunction with the town. He said he’d like to get young people more involved in town government.
“People value the quality of life here. I want to preserve the agricultural quality of life and embrace the youth of the town,” he said at Thursday’s debate.
Mr. Ruland has run a low-key campaign, focusing on his record of public service, a great deal of which he has done without compensation as a school board member.
“I’ve lived in my community all my life. I’ve seen a lot of change,” he said at last Thursday’s debate. “When we say we want no change, we’re being naive. I’m a visionary and a conservative at the same time.”
Mr. Ruland has also touted the civility of the current Town Board in his campaign, and has said that he wants to continue to be part of a team that works well together.
“When you’re impulsive, it really gets you in trouble,” Mr. Ruland told the Suffolk Times editorial board last week. “Being informed has two sides … Usually there’s a conflict and you’ve been placed in the middle.”
He said that he makes his decision based on the question “What do you think is solely in the best interest of the people of Southold?”
Voters, he said are far more informed than they’re given credit for.
“I just leave it in the hands of the voters,” he said. “The voters’ will is absolute.”