With eyes on the June election in Sag Harbor, candidates are stepping up to run against Mayor Brian Gilbride, who will seek his third term. So far, it’s Pierce Hance, a former village mayor, Bruce Tait, the chairman of the village’s harbor committee, and Sandra Schroeder, a former village clerk and administrator, who want to challenge Mr. Gilbride.
Mr. Hance, who was mayor from 1993 to 1999, was the first to announce he will run. His reason? “I don’t think that the village is being managed well at the moment.”
His biggest concern, he said on Monday, is the handling of the Police Department, which is facing the loss of another police officer as a result of budget cuts. He’s also concerned that “the village is not as open and forthcoming as it should be.”
While recognizing that negotiations are always difficult, Mr. Hance thinks it’s unacceptable that the mayor has taken such “confrontational and vitriolic” tone with representatives of the Police Department.
“It is an essential service to the village,” Mr. Hance said. “To become antagonistic with the people providing this service” is inappropriate, he said.
Mr. Hance frequently attends village meetings and often speaks out at them. He said Monday he is concerned about meetings that should be public but are not. “That is illegal,” he said. “Three members of the board discussing village business — it has to be public. . . . That’s the law,” he said. “It’s not just a nice thing to do.” Executive, or closed-door, sessions are legal on a limited basis, but in general the public’s business is to be discussed in front of the public.
Mr. Hance questioned how a local law could be proposed at a meeting, already drafted “in a box with bow. . . . When was this proposed, written?” he asked. “A drafted local law with the public’s involvement seems to be perfunctory.”
“The time has come to make changes,” Mr. Hance said. Having already served, “it is not my ambition in life, it is a matter of being a resident who can make a contribution to things being done properly.”
His day job is with the Strategic Advisory Group, his own company, which provides consulting on account management, forecasting, and business modeling, among other services. A village resident for about 30 years, Mr. Hance said that his son went to elementary and middle school in the village, and he wants to contribute to the community, by thinking globally and acting locally.
“I think new life needs to be breathed into the administration,” Mr. Tait said of his decision to run for mayor. Having been chairman of the harbor committee for about four years and a part of it for decades, he used an example he is particularly familiar with — the vision and planning for Long Wharf, which the village now owns. Residents should be involved with “where they want to go with such a huge asset and defining feature of the village,” he said on Tuesday, and he feels village government should be open to new ideas as to its use, design, and creative ways it could be funded.
“We should consult the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program,” he said, “a valuable document for Sag Harbor . . . look at the policies and see what works.”
When people said they wanted to share their input and ideas with the village board, Mr. Tait wrote a letter asking for a public hearing on Long Wharf. The current administration was not receptive, he said, and the polite reply from the mayor said essentially, “we’re doing fine,” he said.
During his years as chairman of the harbor committee, he and the mayor have not once had a conversation about any village issue, Mr. Tait said. He believes the advisory group is underutilized.
“Transparency is important to our village,” Mr. Tait said. “Residents need to know that they are being heard.” The harbor is a huge asset, he said, the docks and moorings, the amount of money generated. “It should be looked at and managed, both for profit and the use of village residents.”
“The next administration needs to look at that as well as Bulova coming in,” Mr. Tait said. Quality of life issues, such as traffic calming, must be looked at. “We can’t stop it, but we can calm it.”
As for the village police, Mr. Tait said that while it is important to be fiscally responsible, “budgetary concerns should not be the driving force behind the number of police officers we have.” Sag Harbor needs enough personnel to do the assigned job, he said. “It is an issue to be negotiated.”
Sandra Schroeder, a retired Sag Harbor Village Clerk administrator, who also worked as secretary to the boards, said Tuesday that she always “thought it was wonderful what the people upstairs did.” Twenty-something years later, she said, “I have been asked by a lot of people to run.”
In her administrative roles, she helped people a lot, and “you feel good when you’re done,” she said. She’s interested particularly in remediation at Haven’s Beach. “It has to be safe for the babies,” she said. Solar power and zoning code matters are also on her agenda, among other things.
“I lived here all my life,” she said. “My grandfather was a police officer.” On that subject she said, “Our police are a wonderful group of people. . . . My concern is the finances,” she said. “We are a very small community.”
“It would be easy to walk away,” Mayor Gilbride said on Tuesday. “I’ve been there for 19 years; I never missed a meeting.” He was a village trustee before becoming mayor. Now, with police budget issues and bids out for remediation at Haven’s Beach, he feels he should stay to see things through.
“I feel real good about some of the things I have accomplished,” he said, citing as examples the village justice court being up and running, repairs to the municipal building and its cupola, and improvements to roads and drainage systems.
Born and raised in Sag Harbor, Mr. Gilbride also served for 44 years as a village fire department volunteer, including being assistant captain, captain, warden, assistant chief, first assistant chief, and chief warden. He is in the fire police now.
“I’m very open to every bit of the process,” Mayor Gilbride said. “I even get in trouble for too much information out there sometimes.” If it were up to him, he would conduct most of the village business in public rather than executive session, he said, but when there is a question, he checks with Fred W. Thiele Jr., the village attorney.
“I look forward to debating these things with Pierce and whoever else,” Mr. Gilbride said.