For perhaps the last time, East Hampton voters will face a large and tangled field of options when they reach the far righthand side of their ballot and the choice for the nine seats on the East Hampton Town Trustees.
After many years of spitballing and wrestling with voting laws, this will be the final year in which the entire nine-member board is on a ballot together. Starting in 2023, the Trustees’ terms will begin the shift to 4-year terms and staggered bi-annual elections in which only half the board will be on the ballot each cycle.
But for this final year, there are a couple additional twists to complicate figuring out the options.
The Democrats, who currently have an absolute majority on the board, have a full nine-person slate on their line.
But that slate does not represent all the incumbents. One newcomer, David Cataletto, was nominated by the party over incumbent Rick Drew, a registered Democrat who had earned the party’s nomination in his previous three elections.
Mr. Drew, however, is seeking a fourth term on the board and is on the East Hampton Independence Party and Working Families Party lines.
The Republican slate is even more confusing. There are eight names on the line, but only a couple have actively campaigned, and at least three this week — Manny Vilar, Al Schaffer and Deborah Ann Schwartz — say they have dropped out of the race.
One Republican, incumbent Trustee James Grimes, also appears on the Democratic Party — as well as Conservative Party — line, having been cross-endorsed, as he was in 2019.
John Aldred, is the former longtime director of the town’s shellfish hatchery in Montauk and was previously a fisheries biologist and researcher with the New York Ocean Science Laboratory as well as an environmental analyst with the town’s Natural Resources Department. During his two terms on the Trustees he has been champion of projects to improve shellfish habitat and seeding efforts and the protection of local fisheries. He was recently led the crafting of new regulations on the “powering” of soft-clams in local bays.
Francis Bock, is the Trustees’ “clerk,” a salaried role similar to the president or chairman on other boards, and steered the board through the sometimes heated discussions over the Trustees granting of a lease of Wainscott beach to the South Fork Wind Farm for the landing of the power cable. He works in the town’s Housing Department and is seeking re-election to a sixth overall term on the board (he served two terms, from 2006 to 2009 before losing a re-election bid and then running again successfully in 2015).
David Cataletto is the lone newcomer to the Democratic slate in this year’s election. He is an East Hampton native and works as a sixth grade teacher in the East Hampton Middle School. He is a founding member of the board of trustees of the Amagansett Life Saving Station and a member of the East Hampton Historical Society, where he helped created a virtual historical lecture series for local students. A surfer and sailor, he has said he will be a champion for wetlands protection and beach access rights. This is his first run for elected office.
Reginald Cornelia is a former chairman of the East Hampton Town Republican Party, a retired Suffolk County Board of Elections employee and a longtime member of the Springs Citizens Advisory Committee.
Ben Dollinger is an East Hampton native seeking re-election to a second term on the Trustees. He is a former town lifeguard and works as an insurance agent in East Hampton. During his term as a Trustee, he has worked on the board’s horseshoe crab surveys and mosquito larvae monitoring program, advocated for the town ban on helium balloon releases and supported the South Fork Wind Farm agreement.
Rick Drew is an avid outdoorsman who works for Seacoast Enterprises, owners of several marinas in Three Mile Harbor. During his three terms on the Trustees he has been an advocate for protecting town bottomlands and fisheries and spearheaded the Trustees representation in the negotiations for the lease agreement with the South Fork Wind Farm. A skeptic of the wind farm plans from the beginning, he has said that he thinks the agreement negotiated warranted the Trustees’ support, though he has since criticized the project’s siting plans on Cox Ledge and the failure of Ørsted to get a fisheries monitoring program up and running prior to the 2021 spring fish migrations.
Tim Garneau is a resident of Northwest seeking re-election to a second term on the Trustees. Along with his role with the Trustees, Garneau is a member of the board of directors and a coach for the East Hampton Little League, and a member of the East Hampton Town Anti-Bias Task Force, the Surfrider Foundation, the Citizens for Access Rights, and the Accabonac Harbor Protection Committee. He has helped spearhead the Trustees horseshoe crab monitoring program each spring, and has said he would like to help establish a “junior Trustee program” to engage youth in environmental work of the Trustees.
Jim Grimes is the lone registered Republican on the Trustees board, but has earned the cross-endorsement of the Democrats in the last two elections and was appointed deputy clerk by the board. He has spearheaded a number of the Trustees’ environmental and regulatory initiatives and he is an advocate for a dredging of Napeague Harbor and the re-establishing of the eastern inlet to improve water quality. A landscaper, he is a longtime member of the Montauk Fire Department and troop leader for the Boy Scouts of America, who named him Distinguished Citizen of the Year in 2018. He serves on the town’s Nature Preserve Committee and is co-chairman of the town Harbor Management Committee.
Susan McGraw-Keber is running for a third term on the Trustees. During her tenure on the board, she has led the Trustees’ mosquito larvae monitoring program, and the effort to ban the release of helium balloons, which has been adopted by the town and is being considered by the state, as well as a champion of the total ban on the sale of helium balloons that East Hampton Town is considering. She was also instrumental in advancing the initiative to get the Trustees’ staggered terms approved by the state and serves as the Trustee liaison to the town’s Water Quality Technical Advisory Committee, which reviews water quality improvement projects for funding through the Community Preservation Fund.
Mike Martinesen is a professional oyster farmer from Montauk who was elected to the Trustees in 2019 and is seeking reelection to a second term. He has touted his intimate connection to the town’s waters through his company, Montauk Pearl Oyster Farm, based in Lake Montauk, and has been an advocate for improving shellfish habitat and water quality. He is a volunteer with the Montauk Fire Department and was named Firefighter of the Year in 2017.
Lona Rubenstein is a writer, political strategist and former East Hampton Town Tax Assessor from Amagansett.
David Talmage is a former East Hampton Town Trustee who served two terms, including one as deputy clerk, in the late 1980s and early 1990s before moving out of East Hampton for several years. He is a U.S. Army veteran who earned the rank of captain before being injured in a training accident. He holds a master’s degree from C.W. Post and is a former member of the Springs School Board.
Bill Taylor has been a on the Trustees since 2014. He is a former chief harbor master and waterways management supervisor, a town role from which he recently retired. He is a U.S. Army veteran and served in Vietnam and was at one time the chairman of the East Hampton Democratic Party. In his years of service with the town, he helped draft the town’s Local Waterways Revitalization Plan, a blueprint for regulating development that would impact the town’s tidal waters and waterfront areas, and spearheaded getting town waters designated a federal No Discharge Zone. He is the Trustees historian.
Willy Wolter is making his second bid for a seat on the Trustees, after falling short in the 2017 election. A former textile industry executive, he has said he is an advocate for beach access and the dredging of Napeague Harbor. He is a longtime member of the EECO Farm board of directors.