With less than a week before nominating petitions are due to run for office in Sag Harbor Village, it is already contest in the races for mayor and two trustee seats, with a handful of candidates emerging this week.
Mayor Sandra Schroeder confirmed Wednesday that she will seek a third term at the helm of the Sag Harbor Village Board. She will face at least one challenger in Kathleen Mulcahy, an 18- year resident of the village.
With two seats on the board of trustees also up for election on June 18, three candidates as of Wednesday had announced their intention to run including incumbent Aidan Corish, who will seek his second term in office. Bob Plumb, a member of the Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals, and Jennifer Ponzini, a former member of the ZBA and past president of the Sag Harbor Elementary School Parent Teacher Association, are both throwing their hats in the ring for a two-year term on the village board.
All five candidates said they are running independently.
Incumbent Ken O’Donnell on Wednesday said he would not seek a fourth term as trustee.
“It was a good run,” said Mr. O’Donnell. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I was able to accomplish a lot of what I set out to do and I hope the village is in a better place six years after I started. Taking a step back, I think we can say that is the case.”
In 2013, Mr. O’Donnell ran on a platform of trying to peacefully settle contract negotiations that had stalled between village officials and the Sag Harbor Police Benevolent Association (PBA) and to ensure the longevity of the department. In his tenure, both the PBA and CSEA contracts were settled, the latter just beginning renegotiation now. Mr. O’Donnell also worked on a number of projects including the replacement of “B Dock” on West Water Street, ensuring a long term lease for the Breakwater Yacht Club, bringing the village’s salt storage into compliance, gross floor area restrictions on residential development, redevelopment plans for Long Wharf and concepts to purchase and create the John Steinbeck Waterfront Park.
“I think things are going in the right direction,” he said.
Ms. Schroeder, who worked as village clerk and administrator for over two decades, ran an unsuccessful campaign for mayor in 2013. She was elected trustee in 2014, and then mayor in 2015 and 2017. She cited some of those ongoing projects as the reason she would like to see another term as mayor.
“I want to get Long Wharf done and I want to make sure we get the Steinbeck Park done,” she said. Ms. Schroeder also said the village board was working toward the creation of a parking district to aid village businesses and said the water testing program, launched in 2018 with support from neighboring municipalities, waterfront businesses and local organizations, was another program she was pleased to see continue. “Water quality is very important to me,” said Ms. Schroeder, adding the village is working on ways to encourage landscaping that prevents runoff.
Ms. Mulcahy, a marketing executive who managed Pepsi-Cola and Frito-Lay’s retail marketing, moved to Sag Harbor in 1995, becoming a full-time resident in 2001, just a week before September 11, 2001. Her children, Colman and Kerrie, are both Pierson High School graduates.
Managing $200 million in retail marketing budgets with a creative and managerial team of roughly 250 is the kind of experience she believes would aid her if elected mayor in Sag Harbor.
“It was strategic planning, it was long-term planning,” she said in an interview this week. “We always had a 10-year, five-year and two-year plan and we used them — they were the road maps for how we got to where we wanted to go.”
“I think one of the biggest issues Sag Harbor is facing is a lack of strategic planning,” said. Ms. Mulcahy. “We are good at the details, but we need vision. Looking at the changes in the last two years, it has been hugely dramatic, in both good and bad ways, so let’s try and plan for this and control this impact.”
She said she would also like to see the village collaborate more with neighboring municipalities and community members. “Just communicating openly and honestly on all the different issues and how decisions on the board level affect them negatively and positively is important to me,” said Ms. Mulcahy. “Not all decisions will be popular, but let’s have the conversation before the decisions are made.”
Mr. Corish, a founding partner in the branding firm, Tangram, has been a Sag Harbor resident since 1995. He was elected to the village board in 2017.
If re-elected, Mr. Corish said expanding the use of the village’s existing wastewater treatment plant is one of the water quality initiatives — including expanded water quality testing to incorporate Otter Pond — that he would like to see through. “The idea of water quality and the impact it can have on our lives and health has become very important to me,” said Mr. Corish. “We have a sacred trust to take care of our waters and we are lucky in Sag Harbor to have a wastewater treatment plant.”
Mr. Corish said he would also like to see the village board consider more work sessions, and schedule some of those in the late afternoon on Fridays, where residents who commute to and from Sag Harbor may have an opportunity to participate more. Reintroducing public input at the beginning of the village board meeting is another priority, said Mr. Corish, to improve communication.
Both Mr. Corish and Ms. Mulcahy in separate interviews said the village should explore the benefits of hiring a professional village manager, leaving the mayor and village board to work on legislative priorities and planning.
“We have an amazing village office — they are unbelievably devoted and hard working,” he said. “We are also about to have a number of big projects — Long Wharf, Steinbeck Park, the wastewater treatment plant. I have a concern that we don’t have the infrastructure to handle all of that.”
Mr. Plumb, the President of Salt Construction Corp., who has lived in Sag Harbor for more than 40 years, agreed that looking into a professional village manager was worthwhile. A member of the ZBA, Mr. Plumb said he decided to run after seeing a number of issues arise that he felt should be addressed by the village board of trustees.
“One of those is SANS,” said Mr. Plumb, referring to the Sag Harbor Hills, Azurest and Ninevah neighborhoods that were recently designated as landmarks on the New York State Register of Historic Places. “Now that they have state designation, it is challenging because they are not neighborhoods made up of historic buildings.” He said the village board should work with those communities to see what guidelines can be put in place to protect the character of those landmark neighborhoods.
“Affordable housing is not something we can ignore,” said Mr. Plumb. “I don’t know if Sag Harbor Village has the room or is the right place to try and implement that. There is talk about allowing cottages in backyards but we are pretty densely populated. East Hampton and Southampton towns have the same issue and we should all get together and talk about it. Can we contribute in some way?”
Ms. Ponzini, a former ZBA member who is a licensed associate real estate broker with Compass and an attorney who specializes in residential and commercial real estate closings, said she was drawn to run for the board of trustees out of a desire to serve her community.
“I feel like it is a part of my civic responsibility in a community,” she said.
Ms. Ponzini has lived in Sag Harbor since 2010 and is raising three children in the Sag Harbor School District. “My children asked me, ‘What are you doing now?’ And I said to them that it is important to do community service. I grew up with that, my husband grew up with that and it is something we want to instill in our children.”
If elected, Ms. Ponzini said she would like to work on updating the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP). Looking at rental legislation — with the goal of striking a balance between those who depend on rental income and protecting neighborhoods — is another priority. “Some people in the community feel when the summer comes it is no longer our community with some of the rentals,” she said. “People are making an income on this and we have to try and come up with some plan together.”
Protecting year-round Main Street businesses that and getting involved in the development of the John Steinbeck Waterfront Park are other goals, Ms. Ponzini said.
“I want to keep Sag Harbor’s Main Street for Sag Harbor,” she said.