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Apr 12, 2013 6:30 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton Election 2013: Race For Supervisor Shaping Up

Apr 16, 2013 3:27 PM

Flanked by friends and family, East Hampton Village Administrator Larry Cantwell officially launched his campaign as a Democratic and Independence Party candidate for East Hampton Town supervisor at the Highway Diner and Bar in Wainscott last Friday. With the election still nearly seven months away, Mr. Cantwell’s announcement marks yet another development in an already active campaign season.

Earlier this week, Town Clerk Fred Overton acknowledged that he was not interested in running for supervisor on the Republican ticket, but Planning Board Vice Chairwoman Nancy Keeshan, whose name has been mentioned in political circles, confirmed that she would screen with the GOP for its top spot. That brings the race for supervisor into sharper focus after Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman last month declined the party’s nomination to replace retiring Supervisor Bill Wilkinson.

At Friday’s gathering, Mr. Cantwell addressed a number of town issues he would tackle if elected supervisor, including Montauk’s coastal erosion, noise mitigation at the East Hampton Airport, quality of life-related crowding issues on beaches and businesses during the summer, and the need for a townwide long-term capital plan.

He also said the public is “rightfully disgusted” with a lack of civility among some East Hampton Town Board members.

“We must stop trying to find ways to disagree and start finding ways to agree,” he said, to which his audience broke into applause. “I will treat my colleagues on the Town Board and the public with dignity and respect and I will provide even-handed leadership. A negative cloud hangs over town workers and permeates government. This must change.”

Mr. Cantwell has yet to earn either party’s nomination. The longtime Democrat screened with the East Hampton Town Democratic Committee last month, and is vying for a nomination from the party. He’s not alone—Zachary Cohen, who ran as the party’s candidate for supervisor and fell just short of ousting Mr. Wilkinson, is also seeking the nomination.

Chris Kelley, an East Hampton Town Democratic Committee member, campaign manager and member of the party’s screening committee, came out to support Mr. Cantwell last Friday. He said he feels that Mr. Cantwell is the favored candidate among committee members. Calling him a “dream candidate,” Mr. Kelley said the party has been asking Mr. Cantwell to run “for years.”

“I think Larry’s got the most support,” Mr. Kelley said.

Mr. Cantwell has drawn that support from across all across party lines. Officials such as New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., an Independence Party member, and Republican Town Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman Alex Walter came out to support Mr. Cantwell last Friday.

Mr. Thiele, who has known Mr. Cantwell since high school, touted his friend’s credentials and argued that East Hampton needs “a new leader.”

“East Hampton Town used to have a leadership position on the East End of Long Island,” Mr. Thiele said. “Whether it was land preservation or zoning or the management of government, East Hampton was first, and other towns would look to see what East Hampton was doing. And that’s not the case anymore. That’s not the case at all.”

Mr. Thiele said when he speaks to high school students he tells them that the most important trait of an elected official is the ability to listen. “What I tell them is the most important thing you need to know is not to tell them how smart you are but to listen. To listen to what’s on people’s minds so you can best represent them. And sometimes that’s a bit of a lost art in government, and it’s something that needs to be returned.”

Mr. Walter, who has known Mr. Cantwell since their time on the board of the South Fork Country Club, said he’s “absolutely the best person” for the job.

“Basically, it’s a non-partisan support for a uniquely qualified individual,” Mr. Walter said of his reason for attending. “There’s no politics involved in this.”

This year’s race for seats in East Hampton Town has gotten off to an unusually early start, as local Republicans have screened and nominated candidates already—having picked Councilman Dominick Stanzione and Mr. Overton for seats on the Town Board and Mr. Schneiderman as its candidate for supervisor.

After Mr. Schneiderman declined the party’s nod, it reached out to both Mr. Overton and Mr. Stanzione to run for supervisor, but both said no.

“I decided the supervisor job is a full-time, 60 hour a week job, and I’m not interested in that right now,” Mr. Overton said. “It’s tremendous amount of work and its more than I want to take on at this time.”

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A solid, stand-up guy. I wish Larry all the best.
By eastpoint (4), hb on Apr 12, 13 7:35 PM
1 member liked this comment
I wish Larry all the best. He is an incredibly competent administrator and will do a great job for East Hampton Town!
By Robert I Ross (250), Hampton Bays on Apr 13, 13 4:06 PM

Larry is priofessional. He has done his work with very little to no fanfare and done it well. Repubs & Dems can agree on this: he stands above petty, partisan sniping. It will be a huge positive for EH to have someone who knows what he is doing & who deeply cares about our future.
By mo (89), Sag Harbor on Apr 16, 13 10:10 AM
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