From the Kardashians to club life to the daily issues facing the year-round population, outgoing Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley said his time presiding over the small, affluent East End village for 12 years was a hectic, but satisfying ride.
Being a mayor in the Hamptons put Epley in the thick of an unusual variety of challenges. He dealt with celebrities, packed beaches and other seasonal tourism issues, but also faced heated debates among full-time village residents over residential zoning and immigration.
Epley said he welcomed those challenges.
“I always wanted to give back to the community,” said Epley, who first ran for office in 2005.
Epley, the village’s longest-serving mayor, announced earlier this month he would not seek re-election for a sixth term this June.
His other job as president and CEO of the Seafield Center, a Westhampton Beach-based drug and alcohol treatment facility, and his family life drove his decision not to seek a sixth term, he said in an interview Friday.
“With business having expanded in the last year and now having four grandkids, I felt my demands on my personal life have increased and I personally didn’t feel like I was able to devote the amount of time the job needs,” Epley said.
A Navy veteran who was with the Submarine Force for nine years, Epley decided to run for office more than a decade ago after talking with former Southampton Village Mayor Joseph Romanosky Jr.
Epley said helping create the Southampton Arts Center, updating the village business district’s master plan and changing community zoning regulations were among his proudest accomplishments. He also highlighted his environmental efforts to expand local parks and clean up waterways.
But he also managed more contentious issues through the years, such as residential zoning laws, usually dealing with construction proposals for large houses on small village lots.
In 2007, Epley received significant backlash for a plan to create a meeting ground for day laborers in an empty lot on Aldrich Lane. Epley said the move aimed to centralize day laborers into one area and reduce any potential safety hazards since workers typically spread out along the heavily trafficked North Sea Road.
“It wasn’t easy, but in my mind it was the right thing to do,” Epley said.
Protesters picketed outside his house over the issue, and he and his family also were harassed because of the lot, he said, calling it “a tough time.”
In the remainder of his term, Epley said he plans to work on a village sidewalk restoration program and to continue working on residential zoning issues.
“It’s been fun, it’s been challenging, and it’s been stressful,” said Epley, “but I wouldn’t change a thing.”