As Southampton's new Town Board held its organizational meeting Friday morning, the empty chair next to Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst became very important.

The board passed dozens of routine resolutions - such things as setting salaries, authorizing the highway superintendent to plow private roads in snow emergencies and approving maximum equipment rental rates.

But Town Board assignments - which elected official is to deal with each department - were not made because there are now only four members on the board.

Some other key decisions were also put off because one of the five seats is vacant.

The board membership has already changed this year. Along with a new supervisor taking office, James W. Malone took his seat on the board for the first time. And Councilwoman Nancy Graboski said she has only two years left to her term and cannot run again because of term limits.

The Town Board fell short a member Jan. 1, when Throne-Holst stepped up from board member to supervisor. The board voted Friday to hold a special election March 9 to fill her seat.

Republicans and Democrats in Southampton held meetings earlier this week to pick their candidates. No choices were made because election law forbids that until an election date is set.

The four GOP candidates seeking nomination are Tod Granger of Noyack, Scott Horowitz of East Quogue, William Hughes of Hampton Bays and Rebecca Milinaro of Remsenburg.

The Democratic Party appears to be putting its support behind Bridget Fleming, who ran unsuccessfully for the board in November.

One key to possible victory for either party is getting support from the town's Independence Party, which provided enough votes in November to tilt the Town Board race to the two Republican candidates.

In a departure from routine business, the Southampton Town Board made no appointments or reappointments to nine of its key advisory boards and committees. Instead, the board is asking anyone interested in serving on them to submit resumes and be interviewed over the next few weeks.

Those include the Architectural Review Board, Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, Conservation Board, Licensing Board, Landmarks and Historic Districts Board, Audit Committee, Education and Government Access Committee (which deals with cable TV coverage of town activities) and the Biking Citizens Advisory Committee.

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