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Long IslandPolitics

Ed Wehrheim’s win means an open seat on Smithtown town council

Smithtown Supervisor-elect Ed Wehrheim, right, celebrates his win

Smithtown Supervisor-elect Ed Wehrheim, right, celebrates his win with Smithtown Republican committee chair Bill Ellis on election night, Nov. 7, 2017. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

When Smithtown supervisor-elect Ed Wehrheim takes over the top town job from 40-year incumbent Patrick Vecchio in January, he’ll be leaving an open town council seat behind.

While the remaining council members were quick to dismiss the possibility of a factionalized board last week, how — or if — the all-Republican board returns the council to its full complement of five members will be an early test of the board’s ability to find consensus.

The council could appoint someone to the board. Voters could then choose a new council member in November, or the appointee could decide to run for the seat, said Tom McKevitt, a municipal law expert and a newly elected Nassau County legislator from East Meadow. Other solutions include holding a special election in early 2018, or just leaving the seat open.

Several council members have said it’s possible they will appoint a new member, but they have not yet publicly named any candidates for Wehrheim’s seat.

“It will be someone who has the same perspective we do and wants to work with us to make this town better,” Wehrheim said. Council member Thomas McCarthy said the matter “hasn’t even been discussed.”

Town GOP chairman Bill Ellis, who backed Wehrheim in his Sept. 12primary against Vecchio, said he would advise the supervisor-elect and had “quite a few” candidates in mind, “but I don’t want to reveal their names.”

Robert Doyle, an unsuccessful candidate for town council on Wehrheim’s slate, said at a debate last month he had heard of a plan to push for Vecchio to be appointed to the seat. McCarthy and council member Lynne C. Nowick said no such plan existed, Wehrheim said he would not accept Vecchio as a council member, and Vecchio said last week he’d never been approached about the job.

While Wehrheim defeated Vecchio, the longest-presiding supervisor in the state, in the GOP primary by 85 votes, by election night, most of the council members seemed eager to put the race behind them.

At the GOP victory party on Tuesday at Napper Tandy’s, a Smithtown pub, Nowick, who ran with McCarthy and Vecchio against Wehrheim’s slate, went so far as to praise her opponents for being “gentlemen” in the primary and general elections.

Vecchio did not attend the party, saying he would look for a football game to watch on television. McCarthy did not attend either, saying later that he was ill.

He and Wehrheim had a heart-to-heart talk the next day about their goals for the town and were eager to work together, McCarthy said.

“I’ve known the man since I was 16,” McCarthy said. “We’ve had our differences of opinion, but that’s what makes the world go round.”

Wehrheim, in a brief interview at the victory party, said he planned no major changes for at least two to three months. Later, taking the microphone, he told the crowd: “We’re going to make Smithtown a better place. I promise you I’m going to go to work and make you proud.”

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