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Outgoing Democrats make Huntington town board appointment

Huntington Town Councilwoman Susan Berland officially resigns her

Huntington Town Councilwoman Susan Berland officially resigns her post at the town board meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. She was elected to serve on the Suffolk Legislature. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

The majority Democratic — and outgoing — Huntington Town Board installed one of its own in its last act as a group Wednesday night.

Joan Cergol, a Democrat, was appointed to the town board after longtime town board member Susan Berland, also a Democrat, officially resigned at the end of Wednesday night’s board meeting.

Berland’s resignation cleared the way for the five-member Democratic-majority board to appoint Cergol, who currently serves as director of the Huntington Community Development Agency, executive director of the town’s Economic Development Corp. and executive director of the town’s Local Development Corp.

“I have been serving the residents of our town for 16 years with commitment, dedication, compassion and enthusiasm, and I think this is a fantastic opportunity for me to take that to a new level,” said Cergol, of Huntington.

Democrats Town Supervisor Frank P. Petrone, Mark Cuthbertson and Tracey Edwards all voted for her appointment. Independence Party member Gene Cook voted no.

“I absolutely think this is the wrong thing to do,” Cook said. “Voters for the Town of Huntington went out and voted for a new direction and you’re taking that away from them.”

Cergol will serve one year as an appointee and then would have to run for election for the final year of the four-year term.

Berland, who was elected last month to represent the 16th District in the Suffolk Legislature, said at the beginning of Wednesday night’s meeting that she would be resigning effective at the end of the meeting.

Because Wednesday’s meeting was the last of the current board, a vote would have had to be taken at the end of the meeting or a special town board meeting held to appoint someone to the seat. At the end of the four-hour meeting Berland resigned and a resolution for Cergol’s appointment was added to the agenda and she was sworn in.

On Jan. 1, a Republican majority would have taken control of the board, led by Assemb. Chad Lupinacci, who won the supervisor seat last month, along with his running mate for town board, attorney Edmund Smyth. Remaining from the current board will be Cuthbertson and Cook.

Earlier in the evening, Lupinacci had said he was surprised by Berland’s resignation.

“I think the electorate was thinking that someone was going to fulfill their duties until their new job came about,” Lupinacci said.

The meeting was the final one over which Petrone presided. It started off filled with laughter, memories and proclamations.

He was presented with — and donned — the town’s famous “chain of office,” a 1-pound, 11-ounce necklace featuring several medallions; he had an alley named for him and even had his wife attend a town meeting for the first time. He also got a standing ovation in honor of his more than two decades in office.

“I choked up earlier, and I’m choking up now,” Petrone said before the start of the meeting. “I have mixed feelings but it’s time to move on and look ahead.”

Also at the meeting, just as a vote was to be called on a Cook-sponsored resolution to approve term limits for town supervisor, town board members, town clerk, receiver of taxes and highway superintendent, Cook pulled it saying “it’s something the new administration should vote on.”

The resolution would have barred those officials from serving more than three consecutive four-year terms in the same office.

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