Contentious Southampton Village Vote Highlights 2023 Local Elections
Local East End village elections are poised to be relatively uneventful affairs this year — with one notable exception. In Southampton Village, embattled two-term incumbent Mayor Jesse Warren is facing a serious challenge from Village Trustee Bill Manger. Two of the four seats on the Southampton Village board are also being contested.
In the election scheduled for June 16, a total of four board candidates, two aligned with Warren and two aligned with Manger, are vying for two open seats in 2023. In an unusual twist, Warren, the incumbent mayor, is paired with Greg Centeno and Palmer A. Hudson, both of whom would be serving their first term as board members if elected. Manger, the mayoral challenger, is running with a slate that includes two sitting board members, Roy Stevenson and Robin Brown.
The fact that Stevenson and Brown have chosen to align with Manger rather than the incumbent Warren speaks to a rift between the mayor and several members of the board, including Manger himself.
The most high-profile conflict between Warren and the board occurred late last year, when the mayor cast the lone vote against hiring Suffolk Deputy Police Commissioner Anthony Carter as the village’s chief of police. Carter was appointed by the board over the objections of the mayor, but ultimately declined to take the position, citing comments the mayor made about Carter’s qualifications and the terms of his hiring agreement. When asked to cite some of the biggest challenges he has faced as mayor, Warren addresses the conflict between himself and Manger.
“One of the biggest mistakes that I made was that I didn’t vet a particular trustee that I had brought on,” Warren says, speaking about Manger. “This trustee approached me, he wanted to join the team and I helped him get elected. And very shortly after he was elected, he was running against me for mayor. It was a challenge having to work in a framework where someone who was just elected was quickly turning around and running against me and obstructing and trying to make the job tougher than it already was.”
Manger said that was not his intention.
“I did not go into the job thinking that I was going to run for mayor against him right away. That’s absolutely false,” Manger responds. “In fact, we worked together for the first several months that I served on the board with him. But I would say the turning point occurred when I voted my conscience and I voted differently than the mayor wanted me to vote — but that’s the way democracy works.”
In press materials distributed when he announced his candidacy for mayor as well as in one-on-one interviews with this newspaper, Manger has stressed conflict mitigation and a ratcheting-down of tensions as key planks of his campaign.
“I’ve been pounding the pavement in the village, knocking on a lot of doors and speaking to people,” he says. “And what I’ve been hearing from a lot of folks is that they want the village to return to civility and stability. Things have not been that way for a while now.”
For his part, Warren is campaigning on what he argues are a series of positive accomplishments in Southampton Village under his watch.
“I think a lot of residents are happy with the overall state of the village right now,” he says. “I’ve led the update of the village’s comprehensive master plan. We’ve completed a map and plan for the sewer district; we’re continuing the efforts to beautify and revitalize our downtown and to keep the beaches clean and the village safe. I’ve lowered property taxes over the last three years; we’ve created an arts and culture overlay district, which will help save the movie theater. We’ve made sure that our police department, fire department and EMS are in good shape. I think that things are going very well right now, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to finish what we started and see a lot of these projects to the finish line.”
Manger also cites his work on the village’s master plan — both past and present — as part of his roster of qualifications to serve as mayor. Though he had served less than a year as a trustee before announcing his candidacy for mayor, Manger is no stranger to village politics. He was first elected to the village board a quarter of a century ago, serving two terms from 1997 to 2001 under mayors Doug Murtha and Joseph Romanosky, respectively.
“I was responsible for the original village master plan more than 20 years ago,” Manger says. “And I was also the chair of the update of the master plan for 2021 and 2022. I want to see that through to completion.”
Both mayoral candidates have had their share of negative press coverage. In addition to his conflicts with the board, Warren was named in a lawsuit brought by Charlene Kagel-Betts, the Southampton Village administrator, in January of this year. The suit alleged age and gender discrimination, a hostile work environment, retaliation and slander — allegations Warren denies.
Manger was appointed by former President Donald Trump’s administration to chief of staff at the U.S. Small Business Administration, where he oversaw the agency’s implementation of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
According to the Miami Herald and other sources, when he left the SBA, Manger allegedly went to work as an expert witness for a company called Womply, a technology firm later identified by congressional investigators as a provider of fraudulent third-party PPP procurement services.
Manger denies working as a consultant or expert witness for Womply, but says he was paid by a law firm to be a “testifying expert” in arbitration between Womply and one of its partner lenders. Manger admits to saying he consulted for Womply’s parent company on his financial disclosure forms, but said he has already amended the forms to more accurately reflect the work he did as a testifying expert.
If past turnout trends hold, on June 16, upwards of 1,200 Southampton Village voters will sift through the competing aspirations and allegations to render a decision on the mayor and two board seats — a result that will go a long way toward deciding the tone and tenor of village politics for the next two years.
OTHER EAST END VILLAGE RACES
In Sag Harbor, village trustee and deputy mayor Tom Gardella is running for mayor after Jim Larocca, the incumbent mayor, announced that he would not seek a second two-year term. Gardella is running unopposed. At press time, Hilary Thayer Hamann, an alternate member of the Harbor Committee, filed an 11th-hour bid to run for village trustee along with incumbents Bob Plumb and Aidan Corish, who are seeking their third and fourth terms, respectively, on the Sag Harbor Village board. The election is scheduled for June 20.
In Sagaponack, a total of three candidates are vying for two open board seats. Challenger David McMullen is running against incumbents William Barbour and Carrie Thayer Crowley. The election is scheduled for June 16.
In Westhampton Beach, Mayor Maria Moore has announced her bid for Southampton Town supervisor. Moore’s mayoral term does not expire until next year, and she does not have to resign as mayor to run for supervisor. Two of four trustee seats are up for election in Westhampton Beach as well, with sitting board members Rob Rubio and Brian Tymann running unopposed for re-election. The election is scheduled for June 16.
In North Haven, Terie Diat is running unopposed for a second full term on the North Haven Village board. Peter Boody, who was appointed to complete the term of mayor Chris Fiore after Fiore’s election last year, is running unopposed for a full two-year term. The election is scheduled for June 20.
In Quogue, village trustees Randy Cardo and Ted Necarsulmer are running unopposed for re-election. The election is scheduled for June 16.
In Greenport, the lone incorporated village on the North Fork held its election on March 21. Kevin Steussi unseated Mayor George Hubbard, and a pair of challengers, Patrick Brennan and Lily Dougherty-Johnson, ousted Deputy Mayor Jack Martilotta, and won an open seat vacated by Trustee Peter Clarke, who declined to seek re-election.
And in Dering Harbor on Shelter Island, elections were held on May 26. Village Trustee Ari Benacerraf was re-elected and Patrick Parcells won a second vacant seat as a write-in candidate when no other candidates appeared on ballots in that race.