Pictured is Southampton Town Hall, where legislators are considering a...

Pictured is Southampton Town Hall, where legislators are considering a proposal to extend the term limits for the supervisor's office and council seats from eight to 12 years. Credit: Randee Daddona

Jay Schneiderman will exit elected office this month following an eight-year tenure as Southampton Town supervisor after reaching his legal term limit. He hopes his successors might have a longer stay.

Schneiderman recently proposed extending term limits for supervisor and town council offices from eight to 12 years, which he said more closely aligns with other New York municipalities.

But at a public hearing last week, about a dozen residents and some council members objected to the proposed change.

"This is a broader conversation that we need to have as a group, not in the eleventh hour of you guys leaving office," said town resident Gayle Lombardi, 63, of Hampton Bays. 

Besides Schneiderman, Councilman John Bouvier, a Democrat, is term-limited and will leave office at year's end, along with Councilman Rick Martel, a Republican who recently lost a re-election bid.

Schneiderman, a Democrat, argued at the hearing that longer terms enhance institutional knowledge and provide continuity in local government. He also said frequent turnover of elected officials leads to more of a "bureaucracy" where town management falls more to department heads.

Opponents countered that the status quo has worked since 1994, when voters approved a referendum setting the eight-year term limit. They also said an extension of time in office for legislators could lessen the power of residents’ votes.

Legislators voted to continue the public hearing on Dec. 12 after a 3-1 board vote, with Councilwoman Cyndi McNamara casting the only vote in favor of closing the proceeding.

Besides Schneiderman, Tommy John Schiavoni, a Democrat, and Martel, a Republican, voted to continue the public hearing. 

But Martel said he would abstain from voting on the actual measure if it came up for a vote, explaining he would do so out of fairness because he plans to run for office again in the future.

Bouvier wasn't at the meeting.

McNamara, a Republican who just ran unsuccessfully for supervisor but will keep her council seat, vowed that in 2024 she would work to roll back any term limit changes the current town board might pass. 

“I haven’t heard from a single resident who supports it,” she added

Two incoming council members, Democrats Bill Pell and Michael Iasilli, also spoke at the hearing and said they were in favor of keeping the current term limits in place.

Several residents urged the board to issue a public referendum to let residents decide the issue. But Deputy Town Attorney Kathleen Murray said changing term limits isn't subject to a mandatory referendum. 

About 1% of 932 towns in New York impose term limits for the offices of supervisor and town council, according to a notice Southampton released to advertise the public hearing.

It also said the towns of Brookhaven, Huntington, Islip and Riverhead impose 12-year term limits on those offices but nearby East Hampton Town has no term limits.

In Southampton, there are no term limits for other elected positions, such as superintendent of highways, town clerk and tax receiver.

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