The traditionally unchallenged process of selecting candidates for mayor and trustees in Garden City Village has produced this year three runoff elections -- after two residents and a current trustee challenged three of the four selections made by the property owners associations' nominating committees.
The village has an unusual method of choosing its officials: The four associations select nominees who usually are unopposed then and in the March election. Each association has two representatives on the eight-member board. The mayor, one of those representatives, rotates by agreement between the associations.
For mayor this year, Western Property Owners' Association pick trustee John J. Watras will face off with trustee Laurence J. Quinn in Tuesday's special election. Gregory R. Blair is challenging trustee John A. DeMaro, nominated by the Garden City Estates Property Owners' Association. Francine Ryan is running against trustee Dennis C. Donnelly, the Eastern Property Owners' Association choice. Names of the runoff winners will appear on the official ballot on March 19.
Watras, 58, a partner with a brokerage firm and 10-year trustee, said he plans to find ways to streamline village finances, add revenue and improve services.
"As a businessman with a professional skill set, you can be assured that I will bring a businesslike approach to village concerns," Watras said.
Watras, a 19-year village resident, said he enacted the plan for expansion of the Senior Citizen Center, proposed creation of the Citizens Budget Review Committee and spearheaded the roller rink project at Community Park.
Quinn, 55, a trustee for four years, said he wants to keep the historic St. Paul's School's facade and construct a structure behind it to turn it into a community center.
"This is a fiscally viable solution," Quinn said. "Twenty years of no action is just poor planning and a reflection of the no-compromise attitude of those who profess commitment to saving the building."
Quinn, an 18-year resident, has been a science teacher at Sewanhaka High School for 27 years and a volunteer firefighter for 20 years. Quinn said he will continue to work to improve municipal services and pinpoint cost savings options. He has also represented the village on issues regarding aircraft noise, safety, water quality and development.
DeMaro, 45, an intellectual property attorney finishing his first term as trustee, said he wants to cut village costs while improving quality of life, and maintaining amenities and infrastructure in the village. DeMaro, a seven-year resident, is past chairman of the Joint Conference Committee of the four property owners' associations.
Blair, 55, a 15-year resident, is founder and president of National Public Energy Inc. He said he would use his professional background -- including contract negotiations, cost analyses and strategic planning -- to the village's advantage. He wants to reduce the size of the village budget by cutting "excess high seniority staff" through early retirement offers.
Donnelly, 66, a 45-year resident and former director of government affairs for Verizon, said he is running for a third term to continue maintaining village services while keeping taxes low. He also served as chairman of the Joint Conference Committee and liaison to the business community and local board of education.
Francine Ryan, 65, a 27-year resident, is co-founder of The Ryan Group, an advertising and marketing agency based in the village. Ryan, a member of Garden City Historical Society, said she would work to create new revenue sources and reduce spending without cutting essential services. She also proposes improving communication with residents. She criticized the board for eliminating night staffing at the firehouse on Clinton Road in the East.
To be considered for mayor, Watras resigned from his position as trustee. Robert Bolebruch was nominated by the Western association to serve out the remaining one year on Watras' term.
Voting will be from 4:30 to 9 p.m. at Homestead School in the Western section, Stratford School in the Estates and Stewart School in the Eastern section.