Next year will be completely different for Pete Hammerle, a four-term East Hampton Town Councilman who last week withdrew his name from consideration for a slot on the Democratic ticket in November.
Mr. Hammerle, who is 58 and has been in public service nonstop since being appointed to the town planning board in 1992, served as a councilman for four terms of four years each. He said he would spend some time over the coming months to “explore the possibilities” as to what comes next. But, he said, he has no thoughts of leaving East Hampton. “I love it here,” he said. “I can’t think of another place I’d rather live.”
Mr. Hammerle was living in Montauk in the early 1980s, and, during contentious discussions about the future of East Hampton taking place during the development of the 1984 town comprehensive plan, stood up at the Montauk School to make points about the importance of open space preservation.
They were well received, he said, and shortly after, he got a call from Judith Hope, a Democratic Town Supervisor, who asked if he’d consider running for office.
He did so, in 1985, but lost by a small margin. In January, 1986, he was appointed to the town board, for the one-year remainder of a term held by Tony Bullock, a councilman at the time, who had been elected to the county legislature.
After an unsuccessful run the next fall for a full term on the board, Mr. Hammerle spent four years on the town planning board, serving as its chairman from 1993 to 1995.
He won his race for town councilman in 1995, and has held the position ever since. Upon reflection, Mr. Hammerle said yesterday, he believes “my presence on the board had a positive effect on how this town is today.”
“I’m kind of proud of that,” he said. During his tenure, he said, he had worked with his town board colleagues to create the town open space plan, institute the community preservation fund, protect residential zoning, and preserve hundreds of acres of land.
Collaborating with the public on community projects has been a hallmark, Mr. Hammerle said. “People would come to me with ideas; I would gauge the support for them, and move forward.”
Some of those projects, he said, are the Montauk Playhouse community center; the recreational center at Stephen Hand’s Path; and affordable housing projects, from the Windmill and Accabonac apartment complexes to more recent developments, such as the Green Hollow subdivision and Springs-Fireplace Road Apartments.
Before he leaves office, he said, he will present a proposal for a “carry in, carry out” program to the board, through which refuse-removal services and the town’s associated costs could be reduced by inducing the public to take their own trash away from public sites, including road-end beaches. The goal is to help “protect everything that’s been done that’s been good for this town over the years, and lend my historical perspective.”
Although he could have pressed for the opportunity to run on another line — likely securing the backing of the town Independence Party — or sought a primary to determine who got the Democratic nod, Mr. Hammerle, a longtime member of that party, said, “I don’t want to be a spoiler.”
A meeting with the Democratic Committee’s candidate screening committee some time ago left him feeling that he might not have the group’s full support, Mr. Hammerle said. And so he withdrew from consideration on April 17.
Mr. Hammerle was a member of the board during the tenure of former Town Supervisor Bill McGintee, whose financial mismanagement resulted in charges against the onetime town budget officer, Ted Hults, in Mr. McGintee’s resignation, and in an internal town fund deficit that was just recently tallied at $27 million. With these negative associations still attached to his name, Mr. Hammerle’s presence on the new ticket would by some be considered a potential liability for the Democrats.
“I realized that it’s time for me to move on, and time for the Democratic Party to have a fresh start. I certainly didn’t want to cause any problems. I’m grateful for their support over the years. How many people get to serve four terms?”
Of the future, he said, “I certainly hope that the Democrats will take back the majority in this election, because I think they would be the best protectors for the good things that have been done for this town over the years.”