Point of View: From Clams to Acclaim

A cool and cogent head at the helm

    I’ve just been afforded a welcome opportunity to listen to a concerned, and perceptive, citizen regarding the recent election — he making a good case that one-party rule, whether Democrat or Republican, often doesn’t make for good governance.

    After he’d delivered himself of his considered opinions, I suggested he put himself up for office some day, but he, as I thought he would, demurred. He was retired, he said, and therefore doing only things he wanted to do. Being baited by the opposition at town board meetings, I gathered, wasn’t one of them.

    At any rate, it’s nice to know that he’s paying attention, and that, in Larry Cantwell, we have a cool and cogent head at the helm, a metaphor that is apt considering that Larry’s father was a commercial fisherman and that he began his political career here at the age of 25 as a bay constable.

    I began an interview I did with him then, in March of 1976, thus: “Put off by the numbers of people who came to East Hampton between 1969 and 1973, Larry Cant­well worked summers in his brother John’s garage, and then, with a knapsack on his back, would go ‘on the road,’ looking for an alternative place to live.”

    “But finally, he decided that East Hampton, despite the influx, still offered enough of what he had always liked to do — one could still hunt and fish and be outdoors. . . . ‘So,’ said Mr. Cantwell one day recently, his left hand cupping a pipe, his right on the wheel of an East Hampton Town Bay Constable car, ‘I decided to stay, and decided that if I stayed, I would help the cause as much as I could.’ ”

    “. . . The last time he knew of that a Democrat had been Bay Constable was 42 years ago. . . .”

    And now that almost another 40 years have passed, the political landscape has been altered to such an extent that, despite their gross fiscal mismanagement of not so long ago, the Democrats reign and Mr. Cantwell has been swept into the supervisor’s seat unopposed . . . from clams to acclaim!

    “When it comes to local politics,” my sage friend said, “the focus here oughtn’t to be the Democrat or the Republican party line, but East Hampton.”

    He was hopeful, he added, an utterly unanimous board — dangerous to his mind, as aforesaid — having been avoided with the election of Fred Overton, and given Mr. Cantwell’s reputation for his thoughtful approach to issues, that things could go well.

    If not, he said, “three Democratic seats will be up for election in two years.”