The majority of East End residents will have a new town supervisor next year as a rare political sea change is on the horizon with no incumbents on ballots in four of the region’s five top elected town seats — something that hasn’t happened in 30 years.
Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar, a Republican, announced February 3 that she would not seek a third term. Her decision came after East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, a Democrat, announced January 13 his decision not to run for a fourth term.
Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell, a Republican, said after his last election that this term would be his last after nearly two decades on the job. And Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, a Democrat, is term-limited from seeking a fifth term.
“It has been an incredible journey for me, and I thank all my supporters who re-elected me,” Aguiar said in a statement declaring she won’t run again. “Please be assured in the next 11 months, I am committed to continue building our future foundation. I will leave you then with a deep-rooted foundation for progress, which will afford all our residents to prosper, with an enhanced quality of life for many years to come.”
The last time there was only one incumbent East End town supervisor on ballots among the five Twin Forks towns was in 1993, when then-Shelter Island Town Supervisor Hoot Sherman, a Democrat, won a second term, according to the Suffolk County Board of Elections.
This coming Election Day, Shelter Island Town Supervisor Gerry Siller, also a Democrat, appears to be the lone incumbent town leader who will be running for re-election. Although Siller — who leads the least populous town on Long Island — reportedly stated his intent to only serve two terms, he is now on the fence about running for a third.
“I am currently considering all options,” Siller told Dan’s Papers.
The turnover in the other four East End towns comes in the same election cycle in which Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, a Democrat who has led the county since 2012, is also term-limited from seeking a fourth four-year term.
Democrat David Calone, a former federal prosecutor and ex-chairman of the Suffolk County Planning Commission from East Setauket, is the lone candidate to have declared plans to run for that office so far. Schneiderman had mulled a run for county exec but ultimately opted out. Potential candidates are still jockeying to get on ballots to run for the four open town supervisor seats.
Van Scoyoc issued a statement saying that he won’t seek re-election to the post he’s held since 2018 after careful consideration with his family over the holidays.
“As I move on to other endeavors, I will always be grateful to the people of East Hampton for the faith and confidence they have placed in me to lead the town over these many years,” he said. “I am blessed to have had the opportunity to serve the town I love, to work with dedicated and intelligent town board colleagues and staff, and to have met so many interesting and talented residents and individuals during my tenure.”
His tenure was arguably the most turbulent of the current crop of town supervisors in the Hamptons or on the North Fork.
Recent years have drawn headlines for his administration’s role in the debate over the placement of offshore wind farm cables in Wainscott, losing the latest rounds of legal disputes in the protracted litigation over public access to Truck Beach in Napeague and being sued by multiple organizations for trying to enact new rules restricting flights in and out of East Hampton Airport to assuage neighbors’ noise complaints. A recent proposal to build a wastewater treatment facility in Montauk also stirred debate.
“This time has been marked by daunting challenges but also by many successes,” he said in his statement. “I am proud of the work that has been accomplished by the town board under my leadership and I feel that the town is currently on solid footing.”
Russell noted that the biennial election cycle for town supervisors is exhausting, making his tenure of 18 years at the helm of his North Fork municipality all the more notable.
“Expecting a supervisor to run every two years is absurd,” Russell told Dan’s Papers. “Focusing on the business of the town, the budget and re-election is daunting and asking too much.”
“Part of the problem is … you are always running,” she said.
The first Latina elected to lead the town, Aguiar had unseated her Democratic predecessor Laura Jens-Smith. Then two months after taking office, the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Later, although her Republican colleagues voted against her bid to opt out of allowing legalized recreational marijuana retail sales in the town — making Riverhead one of four out of 13 towns on Long Island to do so — her administration did make progress on downtown revitalization efforts, most recently winning $10 million in New York State grants to advance relate projects.
“The pandemic did not prevent me from securing our town and overcoming the challenges we faced,” she said in her statement. “We worked simultaneously to create a new Town Square, the key component for revitalizing our downtown and our train station area. Subsequently we demolished two blighted properties on Main Street and purchased a complex which will soon become our new Town Hall. Other initiatives are well on their way.”
Russell offered this bit of advice to whoever is elected among the next group of East End town supervisors.
“The supervisors for the 10 towns (in Suffolk County) are nonpartisan, have a very good working relationship and rely on each other a great deal for information and advice,” he said. “If those who come next follow that tradition, they’ll be fine. If they don’t, they’ll be doomed.”