Republican Marcus Kaasik entered the race for a Town Board seat hoping to best Democrat Barbara Jean (BJ) Ianfolla for the two years remaining on Mike Bebon’s term. The former councilman announced several weeks ago he and his wife would be leaving the Island to relocate near family members in South Carolina.
This is Mr. Kaasik’s third effort to secure a Town Board seat after losing close races in 2017 and 2019.
But he hasn’t been idle in terms of public service, serving as a member of the Planning Board and on the Baymen and Anglers Committee.
Here are his responses to questions that were put to him and Ms. Ianfolla, with her responses carried in last week’s Reporter:
What prompted your decision to run again?
Mr. Kaasik: I was going to wait another two years to run again, especially since Ms. [Meg] Larsen is such a fine candidate. I’ve said before, its not about me, but getting the right people in there and I believe Ms. Larsen is excellent for the job. But, when the opening came up to finish up Mr. Bebon’s two-year term, something seemed right about it. I had a lot of people — even people inside the town asking me to go for that seat. I felt the community was in need and it was my duty to step up to the plate. I genuinely have the Island’s best interests at heart. I hope my supporters come out again with a few more friends and get me over the finish line on November 2.
How many years have you served on the Planning Board and what can you carry over from that experience if you win election?
Mr. Kaasik: This is my fourth year on the Planning Board. We serve as an advisory group to the Town Board and to property owners who wish to subdivide land, do lot line modifications, and review all wetlands applications. I’ve always made an effort to set a tone to the applicants that we’re in service for you, to get you where you want to go with your dreams and rights, while also being in compliance with the code.
What specific issues are paramount to you?
Mr. Kaasik: I also serve on the Baymen and Anglers Committee where we see water quality as paramount. The use of pesticides and over-use of fertilizers is what’s killing our bays. The sad memory of the brown tide of 1985 that wiped out all the shellfish is still fresh in our minds. Now we have a parasite that is reeking havoc on our scallop population. Baymen’s meetings have been infrequent since the pandemic. But members do text and talk over the phone frequently about issues of concern.
Are there any new issues you believe need attention?
Mr. Kaasik: What’s new on the radar is a new way of re-stocking oysters. Currently, when we re-seed oysters, we broadcast spat [baby oysters] into the bays. Studies say 98% don’t survive. A theory I’ve been working on with the baymen is the reason they don’t survive is because they have nothing to cling to. When you walk into a creek with bare feet you feel a sliminess to everything and that sliminess is caused by the runoff. When I was a kid that sliminess was not so prevalent. By combining the spat with dried shells first, then depositing them into the bay, they may have a better chance at survival.
What activities since your last run for the Town Board have consumed your time?
Mr. Kaasik: Since my run in 2019 it’s been an unsettling time just as its been for all of us dealing with life in a pandemic. My biggest fear was someone in my family getting sick and also the effects of the lockdown on my daughter’s developing mind. I encouraged her to take long walks, think positive uplifting thoughts and take time to observe nature on this beautiful island. The surge of people coming here has brought tremendous demand for my carpentry services. I’ve met some nice new people.
Is there anything you want to add?
Mr. Kaasik: Although I’m a lifelong resident of Shelter Island, I describes myself as an “illegal Harelegger,” having been born in Greenport at Eastern Long Island Hospital where I spent the first five days of my life. Despite the limits the pandemic posed, I’ve attended every Planning Board meetings via Zoom and most Town Board meetings in the same way.