Head of the Harbor to have rare contested election

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A rare contested election in Head of the Harbor was prompted by the small village's struggles to clear roads following last month's blizzard.

Box Party candidate Daniel White said the village's response to the Feb. 8 storm led him to challenge incumbent Village Party trustees Douglas Dahlgard and J. Ted Naughton for one of two open seats on the village board. The top two vote-getters will win seats that carry two-year terms.

"The last storm got a number of village residents very upset," said White, 58, an attorney making his first run for elected office. "Let's examine the highway department. Let's see if we can do better."

Naughton, 79, a trustee since 2005 who is the village highway commissioner, said a plow broke down in the first hour of the storm. He added that the highway department workforce had been reduced to three workers from four.

"It was an extraordinary storm, and like almost everyone else we suffered for it," he said.

Dahlgard, 68, a financial manager who was appointed to the village board on Jan. 16, acknowledged that the storm response was "less than satisfactory." He blamed recent belt-tightening.

"As a small village, we are struggling, similar to a small church or a not-for-profit art gallery, with costs rising faster than revenue," he said in an email. "At the same time, we have to be able to respond to overwhelming situations like the Sandy and Nemo storms."

Contested elections are rare in Head of the Harbor, a village of about 2,500 people in the Town of Smithtown. The last ballot with more candidates than open seats was in 2001, said Village Clerk Margaret O'Keefe. In that campaign, Glenn D. Williams and Natale Tartamella defeated Vincent Pizzulli and Kathleen Diana for two open trustee seats. Tartamella is now the mayor.

Write-in trustee candidate Judith C. Ogden won in 2010. She was re-elected last year.

The village has a $1.63 million annual budget and employs about 30 people. The village board in December approved an 18 percent tax increase.

Naughton said the tax hike was necessary because reserves were depleted, "and yet our expenses are up from salaries and benefits and so forth."

White said the tax hikes also led him to run.

"I felt that with taxes going up and with roads being in poor shape, I felt something wasn't right," he said.

Dahlgard, who previously had served on the village's planning board and its Joint Coastal Commission, said village officials "are focused on improving emergency planning as well as communication with residents and services [and developing] more involvement and resource sharing with the county, town and other villages."

Voting is March 19 from noon to 9:30 p.m. at Village Hall, 500 N. Country Rd.

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