We Mark Our Ballot: Southampton Town - 27 East


We Mark Our Ballot: Southampton Town

authorStaff Writer on Oct 26, 2021

Southampton Town

Several readers eloquently make the same point in the Letters section this week, but it bears repeating: While the turnout for local elections is often a fraction of national races, that makes no sense — next week’s town elections have the most direct effect on voters’ lives, and the low number of votes means every vote cast is valuable and powerful.

What’s better, again this year, the ballot in Southampton Town is loaded with good, solid, qualified candidates — your neighbors, all willing to step up and be public servants. You literally cannot choose badly.

But choose you, and we, must.

Democrats have been in the majority on the Southampton Town Board in recent years, and Supervisor Jay Schneiderman’s unchallenged bid for reelection makes the two seats up for grabs important — Republicans can retake the majority by sweeping both seats.

But parties are not nearly so important at the town level; what’s important is choosing the best individual candidates, and let the political chips fall where they may.

As it turns out, we would split our ballot. Incumbent Tommy John Schiavoni passes the ultimate test for someone seeking reelection: Should they be fired? The answer, clearly, is no — Schiavoni is an engaged and active Town Board member, and his commitment should earn him another term in office.

To fill the seat being vacated by Julie Lofstad, there are three strong candidates. Ann Thomas, a Republican, is running for elected office for the first time and made an impression, but perhaps her better path to a Town Board seat should start with some seasoning on a regulatory board.

Democrat Robin Long has put in her time, and she’s more than qualified for the vacant seat — with Democratic enrollment surging, and the party seemingly energized for this race, she’s a favorite to win the seat. She’s more than prepared for the job.

However, our vote goes, by a slim margin, to Republican candidate Cynthia McNamara. That might surprise some people, considering her conservative stance on many issues. But that’s the point: A good local official is someone who believes in open government first and foremost. McNamara, for years, has been an advocate of transparency in government, and she’s demonstrated a commitment to it during her time in elective office at the school district level, and she’s the only candidate to mention it as a priority. Her resume shows a willingness to work for the community, first and foremost.

And she has a contrarian streak that can be a healthy thing at Town Hall. Local government is best when it’s a forge, with just enough energy and friction to create better ideas. That is what McNamara brings to the table, and it gives her the edge.

For highway superintendent, too, there are two well-qualified candidates. The job requires a strong manager, and both Republican Charles McArdle and Democrat Tom Neely have showed aptitude and earned experience, though in very different careers.

We think Tom Neely is the candidate for the job. At times, it seems like the former public transportation and traffic safety director for the town is running for his old job — but he’s not. Both he and McArdle have talked about spearheading efforts to address the region’s traffic woes, but the job is primarily going to be about maintaining the existing road system, collecting leaves and more mundane tasks.

Neely has always been a quiet, calm presence at Town Hall, but an active one, and his low-key demeanor and analytical management style will be an interesting fit for the elected position overseeing the Highway Department. It’s harder to picture him driving a plow — but much easier to see adeptly deploying others who do, and coordinating with other town officials. And that’s really the job.