Ed Haye, the newest member of the Sag Harbor Village Board, was not exactly looking for an opportunity to serve in local government when new Mayor James Larocca came calling after the June election. After all, he already has a full-time job as vice president and chief rates and regulatory counsel for American Water, the largest private water utility in the country, which is based in Camden, New Jersey.
But Mr. Haye, who has been working from his Sag Harbor home since the coronavirus pandemic descended in March 2020, had been introduced to the mayor by a mutual friend and agreed with many of his positions “like wanting to maintain as much as possible of the waterfront for the community and the need to improve housing opportunities for people who aren’t wealthy, especially people who grew up here and want to stay here and want their kids to be able stay here.”
The deal for Mr. Haye to serve the final year of the mayor’s trustee term was sealed when he discussed serving the village with Trustee Tom Gardella, the deputy mayor, and was struck by Mr. Gardella’s dedication to the village.
“One of the things I’ve always liked about Sag Harbor is that there is a shared appreciation for this village, for the people of this village,” he said. “If someone was in trouble or needed help, the people of Sag Harbor would help. That to me is the essence of the best part of small town America.”
Mr. Haye was born in Queens, but moved to Sag Harbor with his parents, Earl and Augusta Haye, and his four brothers when he was 5. The family first lived in an uncle’s summer house in Ninevah before eventually settling into their own house on Eastville Avenue in 1967.
“This community absolutely raised me,” he said. “Sure, there was some racial tension, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. This town was a great place to grow up.”
At Pierson High School, Mr. Haye was both an excellent student and gifted athlete, who played point guard on the basketball team and was captain of the baseball and soccer teams. After graduating in 1977, he attended Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, where he also played on the freshman basketball team.
Although he was passing his classes, Mr. Haye, who would later earn a philosophy degree from Dartmouth, decided he was not ready for college, and dropped out of school, much to his parents’ chagrin, for two years before returning to graduate in January 1983. After a short stint teaching and coaching basketball at a boarding school, Mr. Haye returned to Sag Harbor to be with his mother after his father’s death and prepared for law school.
Thanks to connections forged at the Wainscott Association, where he worked the summer at the gate of the private community, Mr. Haye landed a job with Con Edison in New York and began attending classes at Fordham Law School in the evening.
He was soon promoted to work in the office of the company’s president, Gene McGrath, who was not shy about sending a young Mr. Haye undercover into the field to help troubleshoot problems. His instructions —“Either they followed procedure or they didn’t.” — were easy to follow for someone who had majored in philosophy.
After receiving his law degree, Mr. Haye, with a solid base in utilities, moved on to other jobs, including a stint as general counsel to Jamaica Water Supply, a private company that served Queens and Nassau County and was later sold to the city, before moving onto American Water.
While working with Jamaica Water Supply, Mr. Haye became an early telecommuter, working from home in Sag Harbor, while he renovated the family house, which he had purchased from his parents, and helped care for his aging mother.
Mr. Haye, who is divorced and has no children, began spending more time in Sag Harbor around 2000 and ran for Sag Harbor School Board in 2003. His interest in the School Board was not piqued by a grand plan to improve education, he admitted with a smile, but because “I wanted to use the gym.”
Mr. Haye, who had maintained his love for basketball over the years and played in leagues in the city over the years, began running open gyms for Pierson students while serving on the board.
“It was a different school than the one I went to,” he said. “Academically, it was stronger. It was a wealthier district than the one I had grown up in, and the focus had changed. This used to be a ‘Hoosiers’ town, and sports were a big part of it.”
During his tenure on the School Board, Mr. Haye said he learned a valuable lesson about the village that he thinks will serve him well on the Village Board. “This village has a lot of passionate people,” he said. “It’s a very engaged and opinionated community, and people are very comfortable expressing themselves as they see fit.”