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Former Shelter Island councilman Peter Reich launches write-in campaign for supervisor

Peter Reich’s name won’t appear on the Nov. 2 ballot, but the former Town Board member has launched a write-in campaign for supervisor and he said he’s not trying to throw a monkey wrench into the works, but sees a need for a change. Until now, it looked like incumbent Supervisor Gerry Siller, a Democrat, would be running unopposed.

Rumors of a Reich candidacy began circulating and he has confirmed he’s serious about entering the race even though it’s too late to get his name on the ballot.

Mr. Reich served 12 years as a councilman, from 2003 to 2015. He said he began thinking he didn’t want to cast a ballot for Mr. Siller and thought Republicans should have endorsed a candidate. Because it was too late to seek the party endorsement, he opted for a write-in campaign. In a telephone interview, he said many people have encouraged him to run and some with deep pockets have offered money to help underwrite his campaign.

Initially, he said he would be happy to secure a couple of hundred votes, but admitted that he would hope to win and if that doesn’t happen, he would want to come close enough to force a lengthy recount before a winner could be determined.

“Every vote for me shows that people aren’t happy with the way Siller’s running the town,” Mr. Reich said.

What prompted his thinking, he said, is his belief that Mr. Siller hasn’t been sufficiently transparent about how decisions are made. He also thinks increases in fees for various services pushed by Mr. Siller are not the way to increase revenues. Mr. Siller has maintained many fees have not been increased in years and the fee hikes are based on costs incurred by the Town for various services. Mr. Reich sees the increases as tax hikes and argues some aren’t justified.

Mr. Reich, who was the Town Board liaison to the Waterways Management Advisory Committee for years, would like to see the WMAC eliminated. Instead, he wants a Waterways Board to be appointed that would not have simply an advisory function, but, like the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals, the board should be the final arbiter of applications affecting waterways in and around the town. The Town Board currently makes final decisions on applications, including those affecting moorings and docks. Most Town Board members lack the expertise to make final decisions on a subject with which they’re not versed, he said.

Mr. Siller said he’s “tired of the whole transparency discussion.” He said it’s true that he talks to people prior to meetings to get input to prepare himself to represent their views at meetings, but no decisions are made that aren’t public.

As the race heats up this month, the supervisor said he would be happy to talk about Mr. Reich’s record during the years the Republican served on the Town Board.

Last March when the Republican  Town Committee was choosing its candidates for the 2021 ballot, Mr. Siller’s approval rating was high. That reality was coupled with the fact that Republicans have been anticipating an eventual run for the top job by Deputy Supervisor Amber Brach-Williams and knew she wasn’t willing to make the run yet since it would necessitate her making changes in her life, including scaling back her accounting practice. 

The GOP didn’t want to put anyone else in her path anticipating a possible run in two years, GOP Chairman Gary Blados said in a telephone interview.

Ms. Brach-Williams has been a solid vote-getter in her previous races and this year is running for another four-year term as a councilwoman. Does that mean she would wait four more years before seeking the top job? No one’s saying.

Mr. Blados confirmed he had one conversation with Mr. Reich about the write-in campaign and planned a followup conversation. He said Mr. Reich hasn’t specified any assistance he might want from the party. Mr. Reich said he hadn’t made any plans for advertising and wouldn’t be participating in any debates prior to the election.

Mr. Blados said only that he doesn’t want to see negative campaigning from either side, believing that candidates should run on their individual abilities and experiences.

Mr. Reich won’t be invited to the weekend candidates forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons, Shelter Island & the North Fork and the Shelter Island Association. Lois Morris, who has been president of the Shelter Island League prior to its merger, said only candidates on the ballot are eligible to be included in the forum.

The forum is being taped Sunday and will be shown on Channel 22 as well as accessible on the Town website at shelterislandtown.us on Monday.

The forum will feature incumbent Town Clerk Dorothy Ogar on the Republican line running against Democratic challenger Kristina Martin Majdisova, a clerk for multiple town committees as well as work with the Information Technology team on upgrading Town systems; Ms. Brach-Williams; Republican Meg Larsen and Democrat Brett Surerus making their cases for a full four-year term with the top two vote-getters winning seats; and Democrat Barbara Jean “BJ” Ianfolla, a former tax assessor, running against Republican Marcus Kaasik, a member of the Planning Board and the Baymen and Anglers Committee seeking to finish the final two years of former councilman Mike Bebon’s term. 

Mr. Bebon resigned the seat in July, following controversy over his chairing the Community Housing Board when the Town Code prohibits a Town Board member from serving on that committee. In announcing his resignation, Mr. Bebon said he and his wife would be relocating to South Carolina to be near family members.