The field of candidates in the village of Sag Harbor is deep -- four people are running for mayor and four for two seats on the board of trustees.
There is plenty of experience from which to choose. Among the candidates are the incumbent mayor, a former mayor, a former village clerk, an incumbent trustee, a former trustee and another former trustee who previously was a mayor.
At a two-hour debate Sunday, the candidates agreed the environment is a top issue, saying the village should be proactive in dealing with pollution and flooding. And everyone agreed Long Wharf should be improved, if money could be found. They disagreed on whether some parking should be removed.
The biggest recurring debate in Sag Harbor, one of the oldest villages on Long Island, is about the future of its small village police department.
The village, which has a population of 2,169 according to the 2010 census, has been trying to figure out how to keep it at full strength while controlling costs. Staffing is now at 10 officers compared with the original 12.
Two incumbents, Mayor Brian Gilbride and trustee Edward Gregory, are running together on the Sag Harbor Party line. All the other candidates have their own lines.
Gilbride, 65, has been on the village board 19 years and has been mayor for the past four. He says the village's biggest problem is the cost of the police department, which he says accounts for half of a resident's tax bill when one includes retirement funds, equipment costs and the expense of operating a police department building. "If your tax bill is $2,200 -- that's for a house worth $800,000 -- $1,146 goes to support the police department," he said.
"Do we have affluent residents? Certainly," Gilbride said. "But I also see people who struggle between paying taxes and buying fuel oil and medicine."
Pierce W. Hance, 68, was mayor from 1993 to 1999. He says the current board discusses important issues in private, then holds public meetings only when it has to. He complained that Gilbride supported expanding the police department two years ago, and now wants to cut it back to save money. "The confrontation with the police union has been going on for two years . . . It's a ridiculously vitriolic confrontation."
Hance said the village's waterfront revitalization plan is a good document, but needs to be enforced. While he favors improving the business district, Hance says the residential community in Sag Harbor is its most important asset.
Sandra L. Schroeder, 56, a former village clerk, worked in Village Hall for more than 20 years and has lived in Sag Harbor all her life. Her grandfather was a village police officer. As village clerk-administrator for eight years, she says she knows the nuts and bolts of everything from how to get a building permit to what it takes to get a sidewalk repaired.
A first-time candidate, she said it is hard to meet people and ask them to vote for you. But, she added, "I've been seeing a lot of my old friends. It's been fun."
Michael Bruce Tait, 61, is making his first run for public office. Tait, who runs a yacht brokerage firm on Bay Street, said the board should have at least one local business owner on it. He has been on the village's Harbor Committee for more than a dozen years, chairman for the last seven. The committee oversees implementation of the state-mandated Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan.
He said the village has not taken steps to protect the waterfront, such as stopping the use of fertilizer within 200 feet of the shoreline.
Tait said negotiations with the village police union have not been done in good faith, and that traffic through the village must be slowed so Sag Harbor is no longer a bypass for drivers who want to escape traffic on Montauk Highway. He added that while the village has some complex problems -- such as figuring out how to maintain and use Long Wharf -- it also is failing to take simple but important steps such as maintaining storm drains.
BOARD OF TRUSTEES
Edward T. Deyermond, 60, has lived in Sag Harbor for more than 40 years. He was mayor for three years and a village trustee for six, served as town assessor in both East Hampton and Southampton, and was the North Haven village clerk for three years.
He said, "I pretty much know what's happening and how things should go."
He said an improving economy over the next few years should make Sag Harbor's financial problems easier to resolve.
Incumbent Edward Gregory, 67, is seeking his 13th term. The owner of Gregory Electric in Bridgehampton, he is active in the village fire department. Like Gilbride, his running mate, he said he wants to finish work on restoring Havens Beach, settle the village police contract, and come up with a plan for Long Wharf.
Ken O'Donnell, 45, is making his first run for elected office. He sold his Manhattan intellectual property firm, moved to Sag Harbor in 1999, and now runs the La Superica Mexican restaurant on Main Street. He agreed with Tait that the board should have someone with business experience on it.
He said his biggest asset is that he is an independent, adding, "I don't owe anybody anything . . . I have an open mind." He said getting rid of the village police force is a bad idea, and that a new contract could be worked out with more cooperation from both sides.
Bruce A. Stafford, 55, owns a landscaping company, and previously served one term on the village board. He is active in the village fire department. He said village police deserve a raise -- the contract is now in arbitration -- but that they should wait until village residents can better afford to pay for it. He also said last year's trial run of a ferry to Greenport showed there is a demand for the service.
Voting is Tuesday from noon to 9 p.m. in the firehouse on Brick Kiln Road.