Carl Vail elected commissioner for Cutchogue-New Suffolk parks district

After being encouraged to run for Cutchogue-New Suffolk parks commissioner, longtime Cutchogue resident Carl Vail didn’t know what to expect, since it was his first time running for public office.

He won the election in a landslide on the night of Dec. 13. Mr. Vail got 231 votes while his opponent, Dave Howe, got 53.

Mr. Vail will be taking over from the previous park district chairman, John Gardner. Mr. Vail has worked as a car salesman for about 50 years. He said his experience in that business has helped him foster a connection with people of the community, which helped him during this election.

“This is the community I’ve lived in 40 years, and I love it,” he said. “So, I’m very happy to serve it and I’ve had such a positive experience meeting people in my business life that I just enjoy doing it.

As the Cutchogue-New Suffolk parks commissioner, Mr. Vail’s term will last three years. Along with Artie Picchione, the current treasurer, and Dave Bergen, the current secretary, he will oversee the functions of Nassau Point Beach and Dave Allison Park.

The election came in the wake of some Cutchogue residents protesting and petitioning last summer when the commissioners decided to lock the gates at the entrance of Dave Allison Park, which traditionally allowed access to parking on site.

Residents were against the decision because it made it difcult for the elderly and people with mobility issues to access the park, protesters said. Mr. Vail addressed the issue in a letter to the editor printed in The Suffolk Times in November.

“Parking was an important feature at the park, but it was taken away by the present commissioners. This made many people angry and was personally upsetting for me. My wife, Liz, and I liked to go to the park to watch the moon rise, but when she was in a wheelchair dying of cancer, I could no longer bring her there.”

On an undated statement on the Cutchogue-New Suffolk Park District website that is signed by the commissioners, they stated that, “this decision was made out of concern for the safety of the children and all park users, to allow for additional green space, and for environmental concerns.”

Besides restoring parking, some of the goals Mr. Vail hopes to achieve during his tenure include restoring parking attendants, adding updated playground equipment and child-safe fencing with latched gates.

Although he said this can “be easily achieved” in his letter to the editor, he did say that implementing his goals will take time.

“I must tell you, this may take a while to implement, because I do have two other parks commissioners,” he said.

“And I would hope that they would work with me, I intend to work with them … We might have to have another election before I can implement things, it depends on how well we can all work together.”

Mr. Picchione’s term is scheduled to end in 2023, according to the park district’s website.

Mr. Vail said he hopes to strengthen transparency in the park district. He hopes to implement that by setting a solid time and date for public meetings so the public can attend and publishing the minutes of the meetings as well.

“I’m thinking of having a vote on the budget every year, so that our actions are transparent to the community, and we can engage the community in helping and assisting us.”

Mr. Vail said he is grateful for the community’s support.

“A lot of people are encouraging me,” he said. “And I’m humbled by their support and I want to do my best, so I hope to do a good job for them.