“I really feel that we did a good job,” Supervisor Gary Gerth said, summing up his two years in office that will come to an end Jan. 1.
The Republican attributes his loss to incoming supervisor Gerry Siller to two factors. There are 400 more Democrats than Republicans registered on Shelter Island, and many are part-time residents who simply vote the party line, he said. In addition, speaking with other Republican supervisors from East End towns who either lost their seats or were re-elected by narrow margins, they thought the “Trump factor” — an unpopular Republican president — tarnished the ticket in down-ballot elections, he said.
Contrasting styles might also have played a part, he acknowledged. He believes in quiet negotiations and listening to the experts he appointed to guide him on the technicalities of various initiatives. Mr. Siller has described himself as more hands-on.
On the housing front, he said he was instrumental in getting several projects started and planted the seeds for more that will happen. Darren and Susan Binder have begun their Happy Groundhog development off Manwaring Road, which originally were expected to produce seven affordable houses. It now appears three or four of those will be affordable, Mr. Gerth said.
Sylvester Manor has plans to build seven or eight houses, four of which will be for its farm workers, with the others characterized as affordable.
Dan Calabro has 16 acres of land he has told Mr. Gerth he would like to be developed into affordable housing.
The outgoing supervisor is confident many of these projects will be completed.
With quiet persistence, Mr. Gerth said, he has succeeded in moving an Army Corps of Engineers project to shore up Reel Point to the point where it has been approved pending congressional budget action. In addition to that work, the Army Corps said it would look at shoring up both the first and second causeways, which have been breached by rising waters, leading Mr. Gerth to say that what started as a single project when he took office will end up with three projects being tackled by the federal government.
At this writing, the future of the Medical Center is partially secured with Stony Brook University Hospital signing an agreement to manage the front office; Dr. Josh Potter signing an agreement to come on full time in July after his residency ends; and Dr. Peter Kelt signing an agreement to occupy the rear office.
The Town Board was expecting to meet in executive session with Dr. Nathanael Desire and Dr. Anthonette Desire to try to rectify a lack of communication. Dr. Anthonette Desire had originally leased the office in 2014 and her husband has carried the practice for the past few years.
Mr. Gerth said all along, Stony Brook was open to bringing in Dr. Nathanael Desire, but his wife said that was never confirmed with her husband, who prefers to work two days a week at the Medical Center.
Mr. Gerth said he hoped the problem would be resolved this week to keep Dr. Desire onboard.
Another achievement Mr. Gerth cites is reinstating burning on private properties to control ticks.
About 20 and 30 property owners will have an opportunity to use burning in 2020 in a pilot project.
He hopes the efforts undertaken to deal with water quality problems will be addressed, but said in addition to exploration of a septic system that could serve several buildings in the Center, a similar project could be in the works in the future if the various housing projects get underway.
He has also negotiated contracts with Police Chief Jim Read, members of the Police Department, Highway Department employees and Town Hall union employees.
What he would have liked to do if he had another term would be to improve the look of Route 114 and complete changes to the Town Hall complex.
He isn’t mourning his loss, saying experience has taught him when one opportunity ends, something engrossing fills the void.
Reaching back to one of his previous experiences, he’s been asked by a North Fork church to consider acting as an interim pastor. That’s appealing because it makes use of his counseling abilities, he said.
“I’ve just had a ball here,” he said. “I’m more than satisfied.”