By Stephen J. Kotz
East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell announced on Friday, January 13, that he would not seek a third term this November.
“It’s a personal choice, frankly, to spend more time with family and friends and enjoy what life has to offer me,” Mr. Cantwell, who is 66, told local reporters at a private briefing at Goldberg’s Deli next to East Hampton Town Hall.
“I’ve always believed as a public official you put the public interest first. My personal and private interests have always taken a back seat to that,” he said. “I want my family interests and my interests to get up in the driver’s seat.”
His fellow Democrats on the town board members heaped praise on Mr. Cantwell.
“He’s such a professional. It’s been a tremendous experience to work with him,” said Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez. “I think he has done an excellent job and has that ability to balance tough issues with a smile on his face,” said Councilwoman Sylvia Overby. “He’s brought back civility to town board meetings,” added Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc, referring to the often divisive tone of the administration of previous Supervisor Bill Wilkinson. “It’s really a pleasure to be in a situation where you enjoy working with other board members.”
Mr. Cantwell declined to speculate on who the East Hampton Democrats might nominate to replace him. “I’m confident the Democrats are going to come up with a good candidate and a good team to run for the town board,” he said.
Although both Mr. Van Scoyoc and Ms. Overby said they would be open to considering a run for Mr. Cantwell’s job, both said it was far too early make a decision. “I think everyone has just gotten through a very long national election. There’s no hurry,” said Mr. Van Scoyoc. Ms. Overby agreed, saying the town Democratic Committee would meet in early February to review the situation and begin reaching out to potential candidates.
Ms. Burke-Gonzalez, who was elected in 2013, said she was not interested in running for the supervisor’s job. “The time is not right for my family right now,” she said.
The board will be losing another veteran of local civic affairs, Fred Overton, who was elected with Republican and Independence Party backing in 2013, after serving for many years as a trustee and town clerk, announced at the beginning of the year that he would not seek another term.
Mr. Overton, who is 70, said he had no intention of running for supervisor. “I’ll be finishing 30 years. I think I’ve done enough,” he said. “But I’d do it all over again. Despite being a minority of one on the current town board, he said he has enjoyed working with his colleagues. “The last three years has been a pleasure working with the Democratic majority,” he said. “Not that we didn’t have disagreements, but we were pretty much on the same page.”
Mr. Cantwell stopped short of saying he would retire. “I’m going to take time off and enjoy myself,” he said, later adding, “I want to get up in the morning and not have something to do.” The supervisor said he had worked since he was 14 years old when he got his commercial shellfish license and harvested clams to sell to Stuart’s Seafood Market.
He was elected bay constable in 1975 — the first Democrat in 42 years to be elected to the position, which is now a Civil Service job — and ran for town board a year later. He was reelected, but resigned to become East Hampton Village administrator, a job he held until stepping down to run for supervisor in 2013.
Mr. Cantwell said 2017 promised to be a busy year for the board and stressed there were a number of initiatives he wanted to complete or make good headway on before leaving office.
Among them, he said, is for the town to put in plan a program to start replacing aging, and often failing, septic systems and begin the task of reversing ground and surface water pollution.
Mr. Cantwell said he wants to press the Army Corps of Engineers to come up with a plan to restore the beach in Montauk and is awaiting the corps to come up with a new draft plan for that project in the coming months.
The supervisor said he also wanted to see the Long Island Power Authority reach an agreement with Deepwater Wind for a proposed wind farm off Montauk that would help the town reach its goal of providing all its energy through renewable means.
He added that the town would continue its efforts to reduce noise complaints associated with East Hampton Airport. Last year, the town imposed curfews on the airport, but those restrictions were thrown out by a federal appeals court after aviation groups sued. Mr. Cantwell said the town would try to hash out voluntary agreements with pilots groups but would pursue federal legislation allowing it to reinstate curfews, if necessary.
Supervisor Cantwell said in looking back he was proud that as the town’s top elected official he had helped establish “a constructive dialogue among the town board members and members of the public, which was something that was especially needed after the prior town board.”
“I think the town board is focused on the problem as opposed to political gamesmanship and I think the public respects that and is more engaged,” he said.