Editorial: An appointment that speaks volumes

Last week, the Southold Town Board made two routine appointments to fill vacancies on the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals.

What made the Town Board’s choice for the Planning Board remarkable — particularly given the national political climate we now find ourselves in — is who they selected to fill the vacancy.

The all-Republican Town Board voted unanimously to place Mary Eisenstein of Mattituck on the Planning Board. Ms. Eisenstein has run twice for Town Board on the Democratic line, first in 2013, when she lost by 513 votes, and again last year, when she lost by just 34 votes.

Town Board members, in other words, did not appoint a qualified member of their own party, but rather named someone from the opposing party who twice sought to replace one of them. They should be commended for this.

In an email, Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said of Ms. Eisenstein: “She ran a very competitive race. That told us that the public wants to see her involved in town hall decision making. We agreed.”

Mr. Russell said he was proud of running a board that “isn’t set on appointing the party faithful. We thought she earned the right to a seat.”

Indeed she did. 

Ms. Eisenstein has been active in local politics and helped found the Mattituck-Laurel Civic Association. She has been a solid voice for smart planning, preservation of open space and our creeks and bay, and getting ahead of problems while they are manageable. She has focused on the question of what Southold wants to be moving forward, and what it wants to look like. 

The Town Board, under Mr. Russell’s leadership, has pushed for the very same things. In many ways, when Ms. Eisenstein ran for the second time last November, it was difficult to see what major issues separated the candidates. She stood out for her smarts, work ethic and dedication to the town.

Surely, at least in this one instance, the Town Board went against the nation’s prevailing dark political climate. Both parties complain that they can’t work together in Washington and nothing is getting done on a bipartisan level.

At the county level, last week’s decision by Suffolk Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., which has been in bankruptcy for seven years, to hand out more than $500,000 in raises to some employees reinforces, once again, that many politicians are surely not working for our best interest. OTB president Phil Nolan gave himself a $45,000 raise — a reward for running an entity that has failed and should have been shut down or privatized years ago.

Yes, here in Southold, a Planning Board appointment is a routine decision that, in most cases, would hardly garner more than a paragraph in our pages. But this appointment was different, and signals something larger, more meaningful and, we would argue, more important and in the best interest of the town rather than party.

Mr. Russell and the Town Board deserve praise for choosing Ms. Eisenstein.