For North Haven Mayor - 27 East

For North Haven Mayor

authorStaff Writer on Jun 14, 2022

Elections bring surprises, and perhaps this season’s biggest shocker was that the most hotly contested race among the South Fork’s villages would be in tiny North Haven Village, with fewer than 900 residents and less than 3 square miles.

Mayor Jeff Sander decided not to seek reelection, which very quickly sparked a battle between two members of the Village Board, Terie Diat and Chris Fiore, to succeed him. Before long, a third candidate, Jack Reiser, who had served in the mayor’s post in the late 1980s and early 1990s, joined the fray. A village that had not had a single contested race for mayor in three decades suddenly had a three-way fight.

And a fight it has been, particularly between Diat and Fiore, who had cross-endorsed each other when they ran for Village Board. Both will keep their seats on the board if they lose the mayor’s race, but both have gone for the mayor’s post like it’s the brass ring from the moment Diat declared her candidacy — and Fiore said she’d overshadowed Sander’s retirement in doing so.

Diat raised the stakes by pointing out two key errors by Fiore, a missed deadline for financial disclosures and a continued presence on the local radio station as an on-air personality, which brings into play a federal law allowing equal time to the other candidates. Fiore called those complaints “nasty” — but, quite clearly, they were not just in bounds, they were both absolutely correct. There’s nothing “nasty” about expecting everyone to follow the rules, and to point out when they don’t: Carelessness with paperwork and deadlines can be a lot more damaging to the village if it happens in the mayor’s office.

That said, Diat leaned a little hard on the significance, extracting conclusions about “character” that were heavy-handed. Meanwhile, Reiser mostly sat out the fray, barely running an active campaign, but making clear he’d be happy to serve if elected.

When the dust settles, there are three candidates for mayor who have served the village, two for less than two years in village government, and the third not since the 1990s. How do voters decide?

Speaking frankly, most voters seem to have already made up their minds — the campaign for mayor has largely been about personalities, and how individual voters react to them.

In a short period in village government, Diat has been active and productive. Her pet causes, including the village newsletter, have generally been exactly what a constituency looks for in a mayor. She’s extremely hardworking, gets the details right, and was willing to tackle a difficult and controversial rewrite of the village’s shoreline management code, for better or worse. Her efforts on the 4-poster program are laudable, and while the cellphone tower work has drawn criticism, it’s a necessary discussion she hasn’t shied away from.

Fiore, too, has taken on the Lovelady Powell park project with enthusiasm, but his commitment to other controversial positions he’s taken in the past seems transactional rather than principled. Both Fiore and Diat have made a case to serve as mayor, though Diat’s case is much stronger.

But our endorsement goes to Jack Reiser — with a very big asterisk.

Reiser, with his experience, would make a perfect caretaker mayor for one term: He can take over where Sander left off, but only to give Diat and Fiore a little more time to show voters which one emerges as the better leader, the better listener, the better partner to work with on projects to benefit North Haven’s residents. Neither has been on the board long enough to truly seize the top post with any confidence. But another term could allow an obvious choice to naturally emerge.

Ironically, this might be the rare time when the best candidate is the one who seems to want the job the least intensely. At least for now.