Over the last several years, it’s become a ritual that politicians and the press bow to every November — proclaiming that the upcoming election is a crossroads, an inflection point, a decision that will either take us to the sunlit uplands of democracy or into the dark wilderness of autocracy.
On a national level, there is something to say for this rhetoric, but when it’s used on a local level, the kindest thing to say is that it’s hyperbole.
This election season on Shelter Island has been noteworthy for the (mostly) level-headedness and comity shown by the candidates. There have been exceptions, but by and large, Islanders will go to the polls with no intention of voting against a candidate, but in the hope to support someone who will lead. Almost all candidates have campaigned on the same issues — affordable housing, a clean aquifer and surface waters and crafting a responsible Comprehensive Plan.
And, for the most part, any new supervisor or Town Board members sworn in on Jan. 1, 2024, will be careful stewards of a future Shelter Island.
Here then, are our endorsements of candidates.
Amber Brach-Williams for supervisor
Gordon Gooding has been an exemplary public servant, a clear-eyed, intelligent person who has dedicated his career here to preserve Shelter Island’s open spaces. We all owe Mr. Gooding a debt for his conscientious work, and for stepping up when some would infringe on the task of taking tax money and buying land that will be undeveloped forever, and owned by all Islanders. Mr. Gooding has run a smart and honest campaign on all fronts, especially calling for more transparency in public policy making, and we agree with him wholeheartedly on that score.
Mike Gaynor, who launched a write-in campaign for supervisor, seems to be running on a central issue, a charge of corruption in Town Hall; he has pledged to impose “prison time” if elected.
Our choice is Councilwoman and Deputy Supervisor Amber Brach-Williams. An accountant and local businesswoman, she has brought her financial expertise to the Board. She is hardworking and committed to making the Island a better place. She has been a consistent voice on the board calling for action on a wide range of issues. Her ever-calm demeanor has drawn criticism (which says more about her critics than Ms. Brach-William’s style of public discourse). Ms. Brach-Williams has pledged to hear all voices and consider all points of view. Her reasoned, logical voice and a steady hand on the tiller of town government will be welcome. We heartily endorse Amber Brach-Williams for supervisor.
Paul Shepherd and Albert Dickson for Town Board
Three veterans of Island politics and government are competing for votes to sit on the Town Board, with two newcomers joining the field.
Ben Dyett is making his first foray into asking voters for their endorsement, and brings many gifts to consider. He has a background in law, business and entrepreneurship and said he wants to see affordable housing here to build a community where young families can live and enroll their children in school on the Island.
He also wants greater protection of wetlands, and his time on the Sylvester Manor Board has shown his dedication to an Island institution that benefits everyone. Mr. Dyett has also seen Island life from many perspectives, including as summer renter, part-time resident and a full time homeowner.
Former Shelter Island Police officer and local businessman Tom Cronin has proved he is committed to making Shelter Island a better place, and in all his endeavors has brought energy, passion and dedication. He has said he wants to pitch in and address local housing concerns, water quality issues, environmental impact issues and the quality of our surface waters.
Art Williams, a former supervisor with many accomplishments during his tenure, has thrown his hat in the ring for a seat on the Town Board. Art has been a steadfast and clear voice for business on Shelter Island, not only as head of the Chamber of Commerce, but in his past as supervisor and working with groups to help people in business not only survive, but thrive here. Art’s voice is one of hope and ideas for Shelter Island’s future.
The Reporter endorses two veterans of Island government, Paul Shepherd and Albert Dickson. Mr. Shepherd, who is mounting a write-in campaign, has never faltered from raising issues, giving his opinions and trying to build consensus.
As we have said previously, Mr. Shepherd is most interesting in his contradictions. As a member of the Town Board during particularly fractious times, he was a free thinker who could plunge into the minutiae of aquifer-related topics and then, practically in the next breath, ask larger-themed questions about where the Island’s values are headed.
He was, during his time on the Board, the most involved member when engaging with his colleagues, speakers before the Board and the issues. Although he is the first to concede that he likes the sound of his own voice, he’s no blowhard. One example of his homework and dedication is that he knew what nitrates were before his colleagues could pronounce the word. He took his post seriously and with passion.
We endorse Mr. Shepherd because he is a gifted, hard-working and faithful champion of all Islanders, no matter their income level.
For us, to endorse Albert Dickson is an easy pick. Mr. Dickson has always been up to speed on all issues facing the Island and has had sound ideas to improve the lives of all residents. When he was Town Board liaison to the Water Advisory Committee, and during his service on the Board, Mr. Dickson knew water issues were much more than pollution plaguing drinking water, but all aspects of the topic, from overuse by some residents to keeping our bays and creeks thriving.
He brought another dimension to his campaign and time in office that other public officials have not explored — the need for all officials to inspire their constituents. Mr. Dickson has said: “I want to engage you. I want to encourage your participation.”
Speaking of participation, don’t forget to vote, and urge your friends and family to do the same.
Annmarie Seddio for Receiver of Taxes, Ken Lewis for Highway Superintendent, and Amber Wilson for Town Clerk
Ms. Seddio is endorsed by the Democrats and Republicans, as is Mr. Lewis. Ms. Wilson is endorsed by the Republicans, but the Democrats decided not to field a challenger against her. The Reporter endorses all three of these fine candidates.
Vote yes on state propositions
Two statewide propositions appear on the ballot this year, although one doesn’t apparently apply to the Shelter Island School District, according to Superintendent Brian Doelger, Ed.D.
Proposition One removes small city school districts from the special constitutional debt limitation placed on those districts, allowing them to be treated the same as all other school districts.
Mr. Doelger said Shelter Island is not considered a small city district. For those areas affected by the proposition, the Reporter recommends passage of the proposition.
The second proposition would extend sewage project debt exclusion from the debt limit for another 10 years, enabling counties, cities, towns and villages to exclude debt for construction of sewage facilities. Given the expense involved and the need to treat wastewater contaminating drinking water in many areas, continuing to relieve debt involved in financing such projects is a wise move that the Reporter endorses.