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Jan 6, 2010 12:06 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Public service, not politics, will be focus of Anna Throne-Holst's first term as town supervisor

Jan 6, 2010 12:06 PM

The day after she was elected Southampton Town supervisor, Anna Throne-Holst left her Sag Harbor home well before dawn to help shuttle her three sons back to the schools that they attend.

“We got in the car at 4:30 the next morning,” said Ms. Throne-Holst, who was sworn in as the 78th town supervisor on Friday, January 1. “Which is great—we had fun.”

The entire time it took her to drop off Nic, 22, at Islip’s MacArthur Airport so he could catch a flight to Washington, D.C., drive to Penn Station so Max, 21, could board a train to Philadelphia, and, finally, head upstate to where Sebastian, 17, attends high school, the four were discussing her successful campaign, sharing jokes and being silly.

After dropping Nic off, Ms. Throne-Holst bought three cups of hot chocolate in the city and then continued to Penn Station.

“[Max] put his cup of hot chocolate on the roof of the car and went to get his luggage and forgot that the cup of hot chocolate was on the car. And, bye-bye, we drove away. And then we get to the next red light and all these people were like ‘ahh!’” she said, pretending to point to the roof of her car. “We were laughing, driving with hot chocolate on the roof.”

She explained that despite all of those hours together with her three sons, the significance of her election win did not sink in until she began the long, solitary drive home.

“It was great to spend the day just with the three of them and away from the hoopla,” she said. “Then I drove back, and it all started to sink in a little bit then.”

Ms. Throne-Holst, 49, took her oath of office last week to become the first Democratic-supported female supervisor to lead the town in two decades. Mardythe DiPirro was the last Democratic supervisor to lead the municipality, and she took office in 1988.

Even though she will be presiding over a Republican-dominated Town Board, Ms. Throne-Holst—herself an unaffiliated voter—explained that party affiliation does not concern her.

“I was never looking for a political career, and I don’t see it as a political career. I see it as a public service career,” she said of her new post. “Of course, it’s different to be elected into your job rather than hired into a job. But I appreciate the democratic process.”

There will be one person on Ms. Throne-Holst’s mind during her two-year stint as supervisor: her late father, Johan Throne-Holst. He died when he was 51, when Ms. Throne-Holst was 16.

Ms. Throne-Holst said she has dedicated her career to public service, and that path closely follows in the footsteps taken by her father, an industrialist who founded factories in Scandinavia. She explained that his factories were not ordinary factories; art was featured on the walls, recreational facilities were open to workers, and onsite medical care and wholesale food stores were available to employees.

She explained that her father was interested in developing food products that could feed starving people, and he eventually developed a close working relationship with the Harvard University School of Public Health.

“The way he led his life and his work, he’s been a role model for me all my life,” she said. “He was a man who cared about every single person who worked for him.”

Working Together

Consensus building will be Ms. Throne-Holst’s main goal during her two-year tenure. She said she wants to prove to the citizens of Southampton Town that town government can be proactive and not just reactive.

“I’d like us to show the Town of Southampton that your town government can be a cooperative, cohesive and joint-purpose Town Board,” she said.

Even though she could be the only elected official backed by Democrats sitting on the Town Board this year—her old council seat will remain vacant until a special election in March—Ms. Throne-Holst remains optimistic that she’ll attain her goals.

“I want to try to get everyone on the same page as much as possible, where we work in a very proactive and cohesive way in our decision-making process,” she said. “And I feel that’s my leadership challenge.”

Ms. Throne-Holst was an attractive candidate for town supervisor because she is less polarizing than Linda Kabot, the Republican incumbent whom Ms. Throne-Holst defeated and who left office on December 31, said Richard Schaffer, the chairman of the Suffolk County Democratic Committee. Ms. Throne-Holst convinced party leaders that she could bring a non-partisan approach to the way things are run in Southampton Town Hall, he said.

“She proved that she could be the person that could shepherd all of the board members together and clean up the mess from the past, especially the financial issues,” he said.

Most important, Ms. Throne-Holst is willing to listen, and is not someone who comes into things thinking that she has all the answers, according to Mr. Schaffer. “That’s probably one of the most important things you need as a supervisor,” said Mr. Schaffer, who previously served as supervisor of Babylon Town.

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