Stuessi wins Greenport Village mayoral race; Brennan and Dougherty-Johnson prevail in trustees race

In a trio of landslide victories, Kevin Stuessi won the race for mayor of Greenport Village Tuesday, while trustee candidates Patrick Brennan and Lily Dougherty-Johnson won the two open seats on the Village Board.

The winning candidates will each begin four-year terms when they take office April 3.

With all ballots tallied, Mr. Stuessi received 299 votes to current mayor George Hubbard Jr.’s 101 votes and Greenport business improvement district president Richard Vandenburgh’s 91 votes. (Mr. Vandenburgh announced last Thursday that he will be resigning as BID president effective March 31.)

Mr. Brennan and Ms. Dougherty-Johnson crossed the finish line neck and neck, with Mr. Brennan garnering 294 votes to Ms. Dougherty-Johnson’s 290. Candidate Monique Gohorel earned 176 votes and incumbent trustee Jack Martilotta came in last, with 124 votes.

There were 491 votes cast in total in the mayoral race and 884 votes cast in the trustees race.

As soon as it became clear that Mr. Stuessi would prevail, current mayor George Hubbard Jr. approached him at the polling station with a smile and an outstretched hand to congratulate his successor — and the two men shook hands.

“I’m humbled and honored at the same time that the community voted for me at such a wide margin,” Mr. Stuessi said. “I’m thrilled and ready to get to work and serve the community.” The mayor-elect said his first order of business would be to “get to know” the employees at Village Hall.

Ms. Dougherty-Johnson said she was “happy and excited,” yet feels a “lot of responsibility.”

“It’s been a really long road,” she said. “I ran four years ago and lost and I feel like this [campaign] has been an extension of that.”

Asked whether an investigation into the controversy surrounding this election would be launched, she said that “I would hope so [but] that remains to be seen.”

Mr. Brennan said he felt “relieved” that the campaign is over, and acknowledged that “there’s a lot of work to be done.

“I’m looking forward to the next steps.” He called the campaign a “learning experience.”

As he has in the past, Mr. Brennan called for conciliation over the election ballot dispute.

“It’s a small village and we have to work together.”

The election capped a campaign season unlike anything Greenport had seen before. Even in a village with a history of contentious political battles, where a mayor once called police on an unruly resident at a board meeting, the election balloting debacle was an extraordinary political drama that stretched on for more than a week.

Late last month, it appeared that only two of eight candidates running for village office would appear on the ballot — incumbents Mayor George Hubbard Jr. and Trustee Jack Martilotta.

In a letter written at the direction of the village clerk, the village attorney informed the rest of those running that their failure to file letters formally accepting their nominations disqualified them from being on the ballot. The affected candidates said they were never made aware of the requirement and accused the clerk of election interference.

The controversy prompted the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons, Shelter Island and the North Fork to withdraw plans to host a series of mayoral and trustee debates. Those duties fell to local community leaders.  

 What followed was a chaotic village board meeting at which outraged residents, former village officials and the candidates who said they had been disenfranchised took to the podium one after another to castigate the village board for more than 90 minutes.

Former Village Mayor David Nyce called it “unconscionable” that the village clerk didn’t better assist the candidates, most of whom had never before run for village office, with the balloting process. His call for the clerk to be fired was met with loud applause.

By the end of the meeting, all four trustees had disavowed the clerk’s actions and the mayor said he was “distressed” by the controversy. Under significant public pressure, the board voted unanimously to extend the deadline for the paperwork so that all the candidates would appear on the ballot.

While the 5-0 passage of that resolution managed to placate the standing-room-only crowd, it proved to be legally meaningless, since only a state Supreme Court judge is authorized to make the determination as to whether or not the candidates could be listed on the ballot. 

That led the Village Board to file a petition in state Supreme Court challenging its own clerk’s determination that most of the candidates failed to file the appropriate paperwork to get on the ballot.

A stipulation between the village and the affected candidates was submitted to the court and approved by a judge, and five of the six candidates were ultimately placed on the ballot. (One of the trustee candidates chose to mount a write-in campaign instead.)

In the weeks since the balloting issue was settled, candidates for mayor and the two open trustee seats have each participated in two debates.

Key topics at the heart of the mayoral race included the existing administrative moratorium and its potential to generate litigation against the village; the timeframe in which the village’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan can be completed; how to combat illegal short-term rentals; how to raise more revenue; better enforcement of village codes and how to deal with empty storefronts and derelict properties.   

At their debates, the trustee candidates expressed a spectrum of stances on the administrative moratorium, the importance of the village’s waterfront plan and the best approaches to expanding affordable housing and managing development. Yet all five participants agreed that better enforcement of existing codes, a crackdown on illegal short-term rentals, better relationships with Southold Town officials and a clear vision for the town’s future were vital to the success of the next village administration.

Each of the winning candidates are slated to serve four-year terms. The seats held by current trustees Julia Robins and Mary Bess Phillips will up for grabs at the end of their terms in two years.