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Salary central in bid to lead Huntington Bay

Betty Wood is running for Huntington Bay Mayor

Betty Wood is running for Huntington Bay Mayor against current mayor Herb Morrow.

A move to pay volunteer board members in Huntington Bay has spurred at least one resident to run for village mayor.

Elizabeth "Betty" Wood, an 18-year resident, said the compensation plan would make the village government more politicized.

"The big issue at this point is the salary issue that I equate to a tax increase," Wood, 58, said. "It's imposing a cost to residents that is never going to disappear, and it's never going to go down."

But 10-term Mayor Herb Morrow, 63, who has tried for two years to get pay for the mayor, trustees, the police and road commissioners, and the zoning board members, says the jobs are considerable and time-consuming.

"Mayors throughout the state have acknowledged this is not a voluntary position; it requires an enormous amount of work and time in terms of understanding documents and laws and mandates from the state," he said.

In April, the village board voted to create a local law that defines compensation for the mayor, the four trustees, two commissioners and the five zoning board of appeals members. If adopted, the law would be subject to a referendum that would require a petition from residents.

The board also placed $43,000 in a contingency fund in case residents support a salary of $1,500 a month for the mayor; $250 a month for trustees; $250 a month for the police and road commissioner; and $125 per meeting for ZBA members.

Wood said the village of 1,620 residents, and 14 road and beach associations is not big enough to warrant paid boards and should try to seek more volunteers for newly created committees and perhaps create a planning board to help current volunteers.

"They are putting a cost in place that many of us have said we don't agree with, yet we have to pay for it," Wood said.

Morrow said roughly 4 percent of residents attended two meetings this spring where the compensation issue was on the agenda, and not all of them opposed the idea.

"Just because the loudest people are against it doesn't mean the majority of the people are against it," Morrow said. "Clearly I took a risk bringing compensation up, but I really believe it should be discussed."

Wood, a middle-school aide, retired in 2002 from a 25-year career in finance, including management jobs at Bank of America, Schroders and Deutsche Bank. She has been a member of her beach association in the village for 12 years and is in her fourth year as president. This is her first run for office.

Morrow touts his record of financial stewardship, including the village having no debt, no tax rate increase for 2013, 2014, 2015 and projected 2016, and getting the village police department accredited with the state division of criminal justice.

"If the compensation issue is the only thing Betty is running on, that says a lot," Morrow said. "I think I'm producing really positive results."

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