In an Island election year tradition, the Shelter Island Women’s Club held it’s “Meet the Candidates” event at Presbyterian Fellowship Hall Tuesday.
There’s only on local election this November for a seat on the Town Board pitting incumbent Democratic Councilwoman Mary Dudley against Republican challenger Amber Brach-Williams.
Ms. Dudley, an Island resident for four years, was chosen by the board to replace Councilman Ed Brown, who resigned in December 2015 with a year to go in his term. She was sworn into office in January.
Ms. Williams, a 23-year resident of the Island, is a co-owner of A & A Williams accountants in the Center.
Ms. Dudley began by saying that she often hears around town the question, “Who is Mary Dudley?” The product of a large family from Syracuse — one of six sisters, her mother “bought shampoo by the gallon” — she learned growing up “to be sensible with what you have.” She recounted her 30 years as a legal secretary and paralegal in upstate New York, “working with bright men and women,” learning “how to be objective” and “do research.”
Ms. Dudley told the assembled women that she’s a member of the Fire Department Auxiliary, and has worked on the Chicken Barbecue and the Country Fair, as well as the Easter Egg Hunt, and is a member of the American Legion Auxiliary. Asked by a club member what the issues in the campaign are, Ms. Dudley said the most important concern before the Town Board and the community is clean surface and ground water and “what can we do to protect it.”
Affordable housing was on her radar as a board member, she said, but “there is no single, easy answer.” As for the short-term rentals controversy, there must be “a formula worked out to protect homeowners and their needs.” A serious problem connected to the issue is a “hotel industry” cropping up in neighborhoods.
Ms. Dudley is in favor of the proposition on this Election Day’s ballot that will allow East End towns to take up to 20 percent of Community Preservation Funds — collected by a 2 percent tax on real estate purchases now used solely for land preservation — for water quality initiatives, including the possibility of septic system upgrades for homeowners.
Ms. Williams then addressed the meeting, noting that she has a degree in accounting, has run a business here for more than 20 years, raised two daughters on the Island, and is “committed to community service.”
She had been a school board member for five years, was a trustee of Our Lady of the Isle, a member of the Chamber of Commerce’s board, volunteered for the Island’s chapter of the American Red Cross and has worked as a volunteer in politics for the past 15 years. Recently she said she asked herself, “Why am I always promoting other candidates when I have a lot to say?”
She would bring a “strong financial background to the Town Board,” Ms. Williams said. She will know “where money is coming from and how it should be spent.”
“I’m a reasonable person,” she added. “If I can read tax codes, the town code will be no stretch.”
Water issues are a real priority she said, noting that she’s in favor of restrictions if well levels are low. “Grass will grow green again,” regardless of restrictions, she said.
Infrastructure maintenance is another important concern that she would focus on if elected, Ms. Williams said, mentioning that grant money can only go so far and reserve funds should be in place to rebuild decaying roads and other essential infrastructure.
Asked by a member what the Building Department was doing about certain unsightly spots along Route 114, especially the storage facility going up at 18 North Ferry Road, Ms. Williams said one reason that and other structures just suddenly appear is there is no site plan review on the Island.
She noted that the idea was discussed in the spring at work sessions, but the board has been consumed by short-term rental legislation all summer, and suggested that site plan review should be back on the board’s agenda.
Both candidates received applause when they finished their presentations.