Three candidates to vie for two Greenport Board seats

02/15/2013 11:00 AM |
BETH YOUNG PHOTO | William Swiskey outside Greenport Village Hall Monday.

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | William Swiskey outside Greenport Village Hall Monday.

Greenport Village will have a field of three candidates for two Village Board seats to be decided in the March 19 elections.

Trustee Mary Bess Phillips, who owns Alice’s Fish Market, is running again, as are Julia Robins, a carpenter and real estate agent, and William Swiskey, a former trustee who previously ran the village’s utilities department.

The three candidates all filed the required nominating petitions prior to Wednesday’s 5 p.m. submission deadline.

Ms. Robins, an agent with Albertson Realty and a member of Greenport’s Planning Board, is making her first bid for a Village Board seat. Mr. Swiskey was appointed to the board in 2008 following the death of George Hubbard Sr, but lost his seat in the 2009 elections.

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | Julia Robins, a carpenter and real estate agent, is one of three people running for the Greenport Village Board.

Ms. Phillips is finishing her first four-year term on the board. She said Wednesday that she wants to complete several major infrastructure projects at the village light plant and wastewater treatment plant in a second term. She also wants to put together a plan of action for improving sidewalks and lighting in residential areas.

“The biggest thing is working on the communication part of things,” she said. “We have a fair amount of critics. We’ve made a lot of upgrades that have helped communication, but some people are not pleased. We as a board have to work as a team to make things happen. The village is changing. Our community is changing. It’s exciting to see how the downtown district wants to reinvent itself.”

Ms. Robins was a contractor for 25 years before becoming a real estate agent four years ago. She was appointed to the Planning Board last fall.

“I’ve lived here for many years. I thought I might have something to bring to the board,” she said. “My son is grown and on his own and I’m making a second career for myself. I’m at the giveback time in my life.”

Ms. Robins said her career as a builder and real estate agent has made her keenly aware of the need for housing for local residents.

“Housing is a basic need. It’s a key issue,” she said. “It always has been, especially for local people and young people who provide the service economy and are part of the village. It’s very difficult for local people to get into the housing market. Even rentals are prohibitive now. I want to see that as part of the discussion on the board.”

Ms. Robins, who collected more than 100 signatures even though she needed only 50 to run, said people she’s spoken with are also concerned that civil discourse has eroded under the current administration.

“I really would hope that everyone is treated with civility and respect,” she said. “That’s very important these days. That issue seems to come up a lot.”

Mr. Swiskey turned in his petition Friday, Feb. 8. He said he’d been on the fence about running until he filed a Freedom of Information request for information on a special meeting held last week about a change order for the village light plant. He said the village told him they wouldn’t give him the information he requested until Feb. 27.

“This is a document they have readily available,” he said. “I don’t think people in the village have been given a fair shake or a voice.”

Mr. Swiskey said he believes the village has devoted too much of its energy in recent years to Mitchell Park and the downtown business community while giving short shrift to residential neighborhoods and outlying parks.

“Look at the condition of some of the side streets,” he said. “They’re just ignoring them.”

He added that the village had never before treated the public as badly as it does now, adding that when he was utilities director anyone could go to Village Hall to speak with him in his office. Now an appointment is needed, he said.

“If you call to complain about your light bill, no one calls back,” he said. “People have forgotten that government works for the people.”

Village residents can register to vote at Village Hall on Thursday, March 7, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturday, March 9, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Voting will take place Tuesday, March 19, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Third Street firehouse.

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