To the question why they were running, all three candidates relied on time-honored and safety-tested answers.
Jim Colligan and Emory Breiner, both challenging for a Town Board seat on November 3, said they’re seeking election because they were asked to run.
Councilman Paul Shepherd, the incumbent whose hat is in the ring for another term on the board, said he’s in the race because there is still work to complete.
The three candidates are vying for two seats, so the top two vote getters will be sworn in January 1, 2016.
Mr. Colligan, 67, said the Democratic Party, along with many Islanders he’s spoken with, had asked him to run for Town Board. “I want to be part of the solution to the problems,” Mr. Colligan added.
A retired educator and Viet Nam veteran, currently president of the Silver Beach Association and vice president of the Shelter Island Association, Mr. Colligan is a member of the town’s Deer and Tick Committee.
“It’s known that Peter Reich asked me to run,” Mr. Breiner, 52, said about his bid for a board seat on the Republican line. “I consider that flattering. I do know the stuff,” he added, referring to his work as a Planning Board member.
Stepping up to the Town Board seemed a natural progression, Mr. Breiner said, In a recent profile in the Reporter he noted that, as for employment past or present, “there is no work history here.”
Mr. Shepherd, 59, is running for a second term on the Republican line, because there’s unfinished work the board is involved with, he said, and “I feel I’m one of the better people to do it.”
A self-employed carpenter, he was elected in 2011 and is an active liaison for the board to the Conservation Advisory Council. He also took the lead as the board’s representative on hammering out an irrigation law and is one of the leaders on the board’s efforts to reduce the size of new houses on the Island.
When it comes to changing how the board conducts business, the challengers differed sharply from the incumbent. Mr. Colligan and Mr. Breiner emphasized that too much focus is placed on ephemeral issues at work sessions, burning valuable time better used, they said, solving critical problems facing the Island.
Mr. Colligan noted that the recent time spent at two work sessions listening to a resident and her representative asking permission to put on a private fireworks show celebrating her birthday was “ludicrous. In 30 seconds you wish her a happy birthday and don’t even entertain the idea anymore.”
Mr. Breiner agreed, and said he would bring the idea of being “more concise. Sometimes people from the audience are allowed to talk too long.”
He mentioned resident Vincent Novak’s appearance at a recent work session where he brought a sample of Fresh Pond’s water to the board to sample.
“I’ve heard about Fresh Pond so long I really don’t want to hear about it anymore,” Mr. Breiner said. “No matter how clean it is, there is one individual who wants it not clean, for God knows whatever reason.”
But Mr. Shepherd defended his and his colleagues’ conduct. As for criticisms that the board allows too much time to people addressing the board, Mr. Shepherd said, “Neither one of those guys wants us to hurry when they’re talking.”
As for the fireworks show, which was eventually denied, Mr. Shepherd said that it takes time to make a determination. “Ultimately, you have to have a reason to say ‘no,’” he said. “If you have time, you have to give fair consideration. I don’t like to say ‘no’ out of hand.”
The board has actually speeded up the process of late, Mr. Shepherd said.
“There’s an intensity up there, with a lot of issues rolling around and it cycles through pretty quickly. Could it be faster? Yes.”
With the announcement recently that Councilman Ed Brown will resign effective December 31, leaving two years remaining on his term, it seems probable the newly elected board, after November 3, will interview candidates and decide on one to fill Mr. Brown’s seat until November 2017.
Asked if they would place their names before the board to fill out Mr. Brown’s term if they lose in November, only Mr. Colligan answered in the affirmative.
“I certainly would,” he said.
Mr. Breiner wasn’t sure. “That’s a minefield to answer that question,” he said, adding he wasn’t thinking of losing the election, but concentrating on winning it. “I’ll have to wait until the election results are in,” he said.
The incumbent said he would have to listen to the voice of the people expressed at the polls.
“If I’m no longer wanted, I don’t think I’d put my name in there,” Mr. Shepherd said. “It would be contrary to what the electorate had indicated they wanted.”