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Shelter Island Town Board bids farewell to Gerth and Shepherd

The final Town Board meeting of 2019 was a tribute to outgoing Supervisor Gary Gerth and Councilman Paul Shepherd, who were defeated in their re-election bids in November.

Mr. Gerth told his colleagues that issues with his eyesight resulted in reaching out to his colleagues to assist with public meetings. 

“People think I’m quiet,” he said about his management style during his term, but he characterized his time in office as “a great two years” in which he accomplished many goals and laid the groundwork for others his successor will finish.

Among his accomplishments is what he called “a tumultuous six months” of negotiating with Stony Brook University Hospital to operate the front office at the Medical Center.

That effort had many challenges, he said, initially frustrating the long-serving Dr. Peter Kelt who thought he was being bounced from the office, until finally learning he would have office space at the rear of the building for his practice.

A late press release from Town Hall indicated that Dr. Kelt will be transitioning his practice to ProHealth of Lake Success. It was one of two groups with which he negotiated to provide the support he would need to continue serving patients, many of whom he has been treating for the nearly four decades he’s been providing medical care on the Island.

When it appeared Dr. Kelt might lose space at the Medical Center, residents rallied to push for a solution to keep the popular doctor here. 

Town officials have signed a five-year contract with Dr. Kelt to ensure he could continue his practice, paying no rent. 

Settling that issue created a crisis for Dr. Nathanael Desire, who had been using the back office where Dr. Kelt is expected to begin seeing patients on Feb. 3.

Dr. Desire is seeking space off-Island at a site yet to be determined. Although Dr. Anthonette Desire — Dr. Nathanael Desire’s wife — had signed a contract with the town in 2014, once that contract expired, Dr. Nathanael Desire, who had been seeing patients at the Medical Center, was allowed to continue without payment of rent.

While Stony Brook has identified only one of its doctors who will be practicing at the Medical Center as of next spring, the hospital is expected to have staffing established by the beginning of February.

Councilman Albert Dickson thanked Mr. Gerth for bringing “a breath of fresh air” to Town Hall. 

“Your accomplishments were many,” Mr. Dickson said.

He said of Mr. Shepherd that the councilman always had the best interests of the town at heart. Issues had to pass the “Shepherd scrutiny test,” Mr. Dickson said. “This board was profoundly better” for Mr. Shepherd’s input.

Mr. Gerth has said he hoped to take on new challenges in the future that could include serving as an interim minister at area churches. Mr. Shepherd said people shouldn’t be surprised if they found him attending some Town Board meetings and speaking his mind.

“Much of the time, it was my pleasure,” he said of his time on the Town Board.