More than 80 minutes into a Greenport Village candidate forum Monday night at Floyd Memorial Library, a resident prefaced a question by saying: “I wish we had four spots for trustee.”
The standing-room-only audience applauded. It was easy to see why.
During the two-hour forum, the four candidates presented their case for why residents should choose them for one of two open seats on the Village Board. The three challengers — Devin McMahon, Lily Dougherty-Johnson and Peter Clarke — and incumbent Jack Martilotta all came across as well-informed, well-intentioned and ready to serve the community. Mr. McMahon and Ms. Dougherty-Johnson are both Greenport High School graduates; Mr. Clarke moved to the village in 1998 and became a full-time resident in 2010.
For a village board that has experienced its share of fireworks in the past, the most recent years have been relatively smooth, with trustees who work together without unnecessary drama and are focused on listening to the residents’ needs. The current board has accomplished several goals, from passing a short-term rental law that aligned with Southold Town, to increasing parking enforcement and adding 72-hour parking limits to the Fourth Street lot owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Agency.
All of the new candidates — along with Mr. Martilotta, who was first elected to the position four years ago — appear capable of stepping in and working with fellow trustees in a civil manner. Mr. McMahon’s prior experience on the village Planning Board is a plus. Ms. Dougherty-Johnson has contributed in several ways, such as volunteering with the Dances in the Park committee, and works with CAST. And Mr. Clarke brings business expertise and prior service as president of the Greenport BID.
At Monday’s forum, there wasn’t a whole lot of disagreement among them on a vision for Greenport or on assessing the work done by the current board. Communication was a key topic, as it has often been. None of the newcomers could point out a “glaring” shortcoming of the current board. And no new ideas were presented that necessarily jumped off the page. When an incumbent seeks re-election, it’s up the challengers to make compelling arguments for why they should replace that person. We didn’t hear a convincing reason for Mr. Martilotta to lose his position. His commitment to the village is well documented. He’s a teacher, varsity football coach, veteran and reservist in the Army National Guard. He’s done the job as a trustee for four years and deserves another term.
That leaves one other seat up for grabs, left open by Doug Roberts’ decision not to run again. Mr. Roberts, never reluctant to stand up for what he believes, played an important role on the board and will be missed. Whoever replaces him will have big shoes to fill. It will be no simple task for residents to sort through the challengers to determine which one they believe can do the job best.
In our opinion, however, that position should go to Mr. Clarke, who knows the village well from his business and prior experience as president of the BID. He presented himself as an effective communicator and his willingness to hold open office hours as a way to interact with residents was a smart idea. He clearly outlined many of his goals. He would blend seamlessly into the board and add a new voice toward making the village a better place than it already is.
Village residents should be careful to note that one candidate on the ballot, Cynthia Roe, has announced she is no longer in the running for trustee. Mayor George Hubbard Jr. is running unopposed.
The Suffolk Times endorses Mr. Martilotta and Mr. Clarke for village trustee.
Photo caption: Peter Clarke (left) and Jack Martilotta are running for village trustee. (Joe Werkmeister photos)