Outgoing Greenport Village Mayor David Nyce recites the Pledge of Allegiance at Monday’s Village Board meeting. It would be his last as mayor. (Credit: Paul Squire)
David Nyce was surprised when his last meeting as Greenport Village’s mayor on Monday night began with a proclamation.
Read aloud by Mayor-elect George Hubbard, the notice from the Village Board praised Mr. Nyce for his service to the village. Mr. Hubbard also handed him a brass key to the village.
In a speech to the crowd, Mr. Nyce fought back tears as he talked about his tenure working in government. He thanked the Village Board and village staffers for their support, saying it was “second to none.”
“I would also like to thank the public for entrusting me with an awesome responsibility, one that I never expected to have,” he said. “As I said before being elected, there were three things I promised. I would tell the truth, I would work hard and I would work hard. And I’ve done all three.”
He also thanked his wife, Jennifer Benton, for standing by his side throughout his eight-year term, which will officially comes to an end April 6.
Mr. Nyce was first elected as Greenport Mayor in 2007, filling the position left vacant by Dave Kapell, and then was re-elected in 2011 after running unopposed.
“Holy s—,” was Mr. Nyce’s reaction after winning, according to an article in the March 22, 2007, issue of The Suffolk Times. A photo in the article shows Mr. Nyce, dressed in an egg-shell knitted sweater with a mustache framing his big smile as he’s congratulated by challenger Jamie Mills on election night.
Mr. Mills was considered to be the successor to Mr. Kapell and even earned the former mayor’s endorsement, but he lost the election by 55 votes.
During that election, Mr. Nyce had campaigned on a platform of responsiveness to village residents’ needs.
“The voice of the people is shut out,” he said in a March 13, 2007, debate, adding it’s “time to open the curtains around Village Hall.”
Reflecting Monday night, Mr. Nyce said he never expected to win.
“I didn’t even run [for student government] in high school,” Mr. Nyce said after his last meeting. “This was just something that came up. I started coming to meetings and shooting my mouth off. My parents raised me that if you shoot your mouth off, do something. So I did.”
It didn’t take long for the self-proclaimed outsider to shake up the Village Board. Upon taking office, Mr. Nyce replaced his predecessor’s appointments to the board.
Mr. Nyce cited legal opinions that he claimed would show that Mr. Kapell’s appointments expired when he left office.
The reshuffling wasn’t opposed. However, that very night, other complaints arose. Then-Village Trustee Valerie Shelby accused Mr. Nyce of meeting with the other board members and shutting her out. Mr. Nyce said he was meeting as a citizen, as he hadn’t been sworn in yet.
But before ending his mayoral career Monday night, Mr. Nyce had to endure one more Village Board meeting and face questions from vocal critics demanding more transparency about the village’s finances.
It seemed not even Mr. Nyce’s last meeting as mayor could end without some kind of commotion.
Mr. Nyce had found a frequent foil at meetings throughout his tenure: former Village Trustee and outspoken Village Board critic William Swiskey. The mayor had even gone as far as to have Mr. Swiskey removed from meetings for being disruptive.
While unsuccessfully running for office a few times after briefly serving on the Village Board, Mr. Swiskey has been a regular at Village Board meetings where he’s usually found at the podium criticizing Mr. Nyce’s administration.
The public comment portion of Monday night’s meeting was no different. Mr. Swiskey accused the board of hiding the village’s debt issues.
“Bill, it’s okay for you to be wrong,” Mr. Nyce said.
“Oh yeah, I understand,” Mr. Swiskey replied sarcastically. “I’m always wrong, David.”
“Not always,” Mr. Nyce responded coolly.
After Mr. Swiskey pressed him about finances for the upcoming Tall Ships event, Mr. Nyce said the numbers were readily available and had been discussed. Following the mayor’s response, Mr. Swiskey sighed.
“I’m not going to argue with you, David,” he said. “Not on your last night.”
“You usually do,” Mr. Nyce replied. “Why would tonight be any different?”
Village resident John Saladino asked for more information about expenses for the upcoming Tall Ships festival. Mr. Nyce watched with his hand over his mouth.
Sensing a smile, Mr. Saladino stopped mid-sentence.
“Is that funny?” he asked. Mr. Nyce shook his head no.
“He thinks it is,” called out Mr. Swiskey.
Mr. Hubbard quickly jumped in, saying he’d ask the Greenport Business Improvement District president Peter Clarke to come to an upcoming meeting, which seemed to diffuse the situation.
While some criticized the mayor, others commended him.
After the meeting, village business owner Marc LaMaina posted a message on Facebook praising Mr. Nyce’s efforts.
“Thanks for all you have done as mayor and proud to call you a friend,” Mr. LaMaina wrote.
Some who have opposed Mr. Nyce also wished him well.
Wrapping up a code committee meeting last week, Zoning Board of Appeals member David Corwin, a longtime critic of Mr. Nyce’s administration, bid the outgoing mayor a fond farewell.
“Before you’re done, I want to thank you for your service Mr. Mayor,” he said. “I don’t always agree with you, but I appreciate what you do.”
Mr. Nyce responded by expressing his thanks to Mr. Corwin and fellow board members.
“I am pleased with the progress the village has made,” Mr. Nyce said.
Mr. Nyce attended his last meeting like he had for many others: dressed in a button-down shirt (half-buttoned revealing the T-shirt underneath) along with jeans.
He joked before the meeting that he considered wearing a sports jacket for a change, but decided against it.
“I haven’t worn a sports jacket for eight years,” he said.
As for his tenure as mayor, Mr. Nyce described it as an “awesome experience.”
He cited the upgrades at the village sewer and electrical plants, as well as new bathrooms built around the village, as accomplishments. Most importantly, he said, the Village Board acted professionally under his watch.
“There was no structure in Village Hall,” Mr. Nyce said. “We rebuilt the entire village.”
It’s those successes that Mr. Hubbard and other board members said they’ll seek to continue with the new administration, which features two new trustees — Jack Martilotta and Douglas Roberts.
After praising the mayor’s work, Mr. Hubbard, who was appointed as deputy mayor in 2007, said he and Mr. Nyce would disagree sometimes and plans to run future meetings differently.
“He’s hands-on; I’m hands-on,” Mr. Hubbard said of Mr. Nyce. “We had the hurricanes, Irene and Sandy, and we were here all night. He was at the electric plant and I was at the fire department.
“Everything we’ve got right now is good. I just want to try to improve it all.”
Mr. Nyce, who plans to grow his carpentry business, said he has no regrets about his tenure as mayor.
“I’m really proud of everything we did — the good and the bad,” Mr. Nyce said. “Nobody’s ever going to get it perfect.”
As for attending future village meetings, the man who went from a seat in the crowd to the mayor’s chair said it’s unlikely he’ll return for a while.
“They don’t need me in the back of the room,” Mr. Nyce said. “They don’t need me telling them what to do.”
“These guy will be fine,” he continued. “They’re going to find their own way.”