The political wisdom that election season begins after Labor Day is not quite true for Shelter Island — the kick off is always a bit later than the first Monday in September.
There have been “meet the candidate” functions, fundraisers and a sprinkling of yard signs here and there, but things are not supposed to heat up until around Columbus Day weekend. That’s when office seekers will square off at the League of Women Voters candidate’s forum on Sunday, October 8.
There’s been only one rhetorical shot fired across the bow, when political newcomer Marcus Kaasik, a Republican running for Town Board, unloaded on two incumbent
Democrats, Supervisor Jim Dougherty and Councilman Jim Colligan.
In an interview with the Reporter’s Charity Robey, Mr. Kaasik said, “Jim Dougherty is very divisive. I see him playing both ends of it. He tries to cozy up to the new people saying the local people are a bunch of buffoons and he tries to cozy up to the local people saying we have to keep things low key. I see Jimmy Colligan doing the same thing. They say things that curdle my soul. This is Shelter Island, this is not the Bronx. We don’t need all this heavy-duty regulation.”
Mr. Colligan and Mr. Dougherty have so far held their fire, probably because Mr. Kaasik is not running against either of the two Democrats, but challenging for an open seat left vacant by Councilwoman Chris Lewis, who is retiring.
With two town board seats up in the at-large style of election, the Democrats have chosen to name only one candidate. Albert Dickson will run for either the open seat or to unseat incumbent Republican Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams.
Some observers have said the Democrats, realizing Ms. Brach-Williams is too strong a candidate to pick off in 2017, feel they have a stronger chance running one candidate to bag the open seat.
Both parties have endorsed Highway Superintendent and Commissioner of Public Works Jay Card Jr., Town Clerk Dorothy Ogar and Assessors Craig Wood and Patricia Castoldi.
The Island Republicans have nominated Gary Gerth, who has never run for office, to challenge Mr. Dougherty, a Democrat seeking his sixth term as supervisor.
Mr. Gerth, 75, has been an Island resident for 45 years. No stranger to politics and public service, he’s been executive assistant to the Hempstead supervisor and legislative adviser to the presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature. He was also director of the Long Island Veterans Service Agency.
His decision to challenge Mr. Dougherty is not motivated, he told the Reporter, by any dislike of the supervisor. “I’m not outraged at anything that Jim has done,” he added. “I don’t comment on other people’s values or morals or sense of humor. I have no enmity toward him. I would just do things a little better.”
Compared to Mr. Dougherty, Mr. Gerth described his approach on issues such as water and the aquifer as “more prudent” and on control of the deer and tick problem, more aggressive. He feels the short-term rental regulations were hastily crafted and should be reviewed from the perspective of enforcement, constitutionality and the effect on young homeowners.
The failure of the town to preserve the St. Gabriel’s site from development is a sore spot with him. “I was hoping the town would come out to save the place,” Mr. Gerth said. “I felt like this was a rare parcel and it was such a blessing. Eleven million [dollars] could have saved it.”
Mr. Dickson, 64, who is the appointed chairman of the town’s Water Advisory Committee, said his family roots go back generations to when his great grandparents settled here in 1860. Water — both quality and quantity — is an issue Mr. Dickson hopes to focus on if he wins a Town Board seat.
“I hope to bring some clarity to things and to start to mitigate issues we have developing on the Island,” he told the Reporter. “I think everyone expresses a concern, but we need to start to break the inertia to address it and start to plan.”
Mr. Kaasik, 48, a lifelong resident of the Island, has operated a carpentry business on the Island for more than 20 years.
“Shelter Island needs somebody local, who is open to the new people, realizing their value and their contributions,” the candidate said. “Otherwise we get broken up into two camps.”
Next week — the incumbents