Three-way race for Mineola trustee seats
For the first time in 10 years, Larry Werther was a man without a party.
Mineola's New Line Party, his longtime political home, selected in December a slate of candidates for this month's village elections that did not include him. Now the Mineola trustee is waging an independent bid of his own. He's created a new party and a website, and is going door-to-door, even setting up coffee meetings with residents. He promises to make chocolate cake.
Werther, 60, a vice president at financial services firm J.P. Morgan, is running for one of two open seats against his former party mates: George Durham, 49, a data communications manager for the Nassau Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., who is running for his second term; and newcomer Dennis Walsh, 62, a retired New York City police officer.
Village officials say a rift between Werther and Mayor Scott Strauss, who is unopposed for his second term, began shortly after Strauss took office two years ago.
After former Mayor Jack Martins was elected to the State Senate and stepped down, Werther filled in for several months. One of his first acts was to appoint Strauss as a trustee.
Strauss ran uncontested for mayor in the next election. Werther said he did not challenge Strauss because of the demands of his job.
One spat revolved around Werther's opposition to what he termed "massive" tax breaks given to two apartment buildings to be added to the downtown corridor.
Werther criticized Strauss for conducting "backroom" deals and said, "I wouldn't rubber-stamp what the mayor did."
Strauss said he briefed trustees about conversations with prospective developers and gave trustees contact information. He said he did not resort to "backroom meetings."
"I meet with people all the time," he said. "Everyone wants to talk to the mayor. No one wants to talk to the trustee."
After Werther was removed from the New Line slate, Strauss said the party looked to Walsh, a party volunteer and active participant at village board meetings.
"Dennis has been a member of the New Line Party for a while, and he's always coming down to meetings. He wanted to take a different role," Strauss said.
"To be a candidate and not a campaign worker is quite different," Walsh said. "I feel different, people walk around with me and for me. It's kind of humbling that people do that."
Of Werther, Walsh said, "These jobs are not meant for these people to keep forever."
Each of the three trustee contenders acknowledges the importance of drawing new businesses to Mineola's downtown.
Werther said he would challenge developers to agree to five-year payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreements instead of longer deals that mean reduced tax revenue for the village.
Walsh noted that approving tax breaks is often up to the county development agency, but in some cases he would favor them depending on what the developer was offering in return.
Durham said he did not favor tax breaks for all businesses, but said they are vital to drawing in large, multimillion-dollar companies that will increase foot traffic and provide stable tax revenue.
Voting is March 19 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Mineola Village Hall Community Center, 155 Washington Ave.