Hard-won campaigns embracing technology and traditional methods have put two political newcomers in mayor’s seats on the South Fork, including Southampton’s youngest-ever mayor.
Jesse Warren, 37, used social media, a canvassing tracking app and old-fashioned door knocking to wage a successful campaign against first-term incumbent Michael Irving, 65. Warren was sworn in July 1 and became the youngest mayor of Southampton — which as of 2017 had a median age of 56.9, according to Census data — since the village incorporated in 1894.
Warren is a 2004 graduate of Brown University and the owner of three boutiques across the South Fork. He ran on messages of revitalizing Southampton’s downtown, bringing better wastewater treatment to the village and working on solutions for the polluted Lake Agawam.
“There is just so much that can be done, not just through legislative action but also through some of the soft powers of the mayor that do exist,” Warren said in an interview at his office, where a wall bears portraits of his predecessors. “That ability to connect with everyone.”
Warren's ideas range from seeking grant money to fund sewers, installing recycling bins on village streets and partnering with the nonprofit Southampton Arts Center to host exhibits in vacant storefronts.
Southampton’s Main Street, mostly a mix of high-end boutiques, real estate offices and restaurants, was bustling on a recent July afternoon. Warren pointed to a handful of empty storefronts on nearby Jobs Lane and noted that foot traffic lags in the off season.
“We would like the village to be vibrant more than 10 weeks out of the year,” he said.
Mark Epley, who was mayor from 2005 until he decided not to seek re-election in 2017, said Warren is hardworking and energetic but will face challenges in tackling key issues. Epley noted the board had commissioned a sewer district study in 2015 that determined it would cost more than $30 million to install sewers in the village, which would be necessary to increase the number of restaurants.
“There’s grant money out there, but it wouldn’t offset the significant impact to the taxpayers,” Epley said.
In Sag Harbor, Kathleen Mulcahy, 60, a marketing executive and a real estate agent, had a decisive victory over two-term incumbent Sandra Schroeder, defeating her 489-197. Like Warren, she used technology to reach voters.
Mulcahy posted photos, links to local newspaper endorsements and notices of upcoming debates on her Facebook page, Mulcahy for Mayor. She laid out her bio and goals for the village on her website, mulcahyformayor.com, which was maintained by her daughter Kerrie.
During campaigning, Mulcahy said she would like to hold at least one board meeting per month on Friday evening or Saturday and has already added a public comment portion to the beginning of board meetings. She also advocates for hiring a village manager, in part to oversee upcoming projects like the rehabilitations of Long Wharf Village Pier and the construction of the long-planned John Steinbeck Waterfront Park.
“I think the idea of communication [led to the election win],” Mulcahy said. “I went out there and I talked to a lot of people. I was very surprised by the margins.”
Population: Estimated 2,284
Median age: 48.3
Mayoral vote: 489 Mulcahy, 197 Schroeder
Population: Estimated 3,301
Median age: 56.9
Mayoral vote: 450 Warren, 405 Irving