No Strangers to Sag Village Hall

Two incumbents, an activist, and former clerk running for two seats on board
Four candidates are vying for two seats on the Sag Harbor Village Board, clockwise, John Shaka, Sandra Schroeder, Bruce Stafford, Robby Stein.

Four candidates are vying for two seats on the Sag Harbor Village Board in an election that will be held on Tuesday.

Robby Stein is the only incumbent running for re-election, as Kevin Duchemin is not seeking another term after serving two years on the board. Mr. Stein is joined on the ballot by Sandra Schroeder, John Shaka, and Bruce Stafford. The terms are two years each.

Ms. Schroeder is a familiar face in village government, having worked for the village for 21 years under eight mayors until her retirement in 2010. She was the village clerk and later the clerk administrator. Last year, she ran for mayor, losing by 11 votes to the incumbent, Brian Gilbride.

She had not planned to run again this year because she did not want to run against Mr. Stein or Mr. Duchemin, but when Mr. Duchemin decided not to seek re-election, she said he called her and asked to reconsider.

In her retirement, Ms. Schroeder said, “I started wondering about an awful lot of things — the Havens Beach progress, flooding, the police arbitration.” Many questions she asked at meetings, or answers she was looking for through Freedom of Information Law requests still left her with more questions. For instance, she said, she asked the board if there was any money put aside for when the police contract is settled. The answer she got was that it was “tucked in somewhere” into the budget. “There’s something really wrong going on,” she said.

She wants to see better long-range planning and a capital plan. “We need to be proactive, not reactive,” she said. “I do understand that Brian doesn’t want to finance anything, but you’re never going to get an interest rate thislow,” she said. She would also like to see the village board working more with its advisory boards, like the harbor committee, in case local laws need to be tweaked. “I certainly understand government and the process. I like to work with people. I like to help people. I just want to get in there and work and help.”

Married 38 years to John Schroeder, a former truck driver, she went into municipal work when her children were in school. Having been in the Fire Department’s Ladies Auxiliary for nearly four decades, she is now an honorary member.

Mr. Shaka, a Save Sag Harbor board member, has lived in the village for 15 years. Over the past three years, he worked with others to fight the Harbor Heights gas station and convenience store project on Route 114, which he believed was too large and out of character for the historic district. The current traffic calming project under way in the village started with a meeting in his dining room a year and a half ago, he said.

“Over the past few years, I’ve been working on specific issues in the village, things that really sort of spoke to me. In doing that, I realized, A, I expect other people are taking care of things and they’re not necessarily, and B, you can make a contribution and you can getthings done,” he said. “At some point you realize you can be effective as an advocate but why not be up there being the one making decisions as opposed to trying to convince other people what you’ve just learned? I think I can be more effective if I’m in the place of making the decision instead of trying to continually educate someone else.”

Since announcing his candidacy, Mr. Shaka, a painting contractor who specializes in decorative painting, said he put his work with Save Sag Harbor on hold. His husband, Matthew O’Grady, an executive with the Nielsen Company, introduced him to Sag Harbor nearly two decades ago.

Mr. Stafford is a former member of the village board who was ousted in a three-way race with Mr. Stein and Mr. Duchemin in 2012 after one full term. He said he never stopped attending meetings over the past two years and wants to be back on the dais. “I kind of miss it. There’s a lot of issues that are still here when I was here. I’d like to see if I can be of some help,” he said, specifically naming the police contract, which is still in arbitration, and drainage issues. “With Brian at the helm, I think it’s a great thing. I’m sure they’ve got a lot accomplished, but there’s always something else that can be done.”

While on the board, he said, he helped the village get solar panels for the Fire Department headquarters, implement a false-alarm fee as a revenue source for the village, and secure a used boat for the Fire Department dive team, as well as dry suits, through a grant, among other things.

He shares Mayor Gilbride’s philosophy of “pay as you go, if you can.” A pumper the Fire Department received when he was on the board was purchased with money from a reserve fund for that very reason, he said. Another pumper that was brought previously, he said, will likely have to be replaced before it is paid off.

He is a longtime member of the Fire Department and now sits on the board of wardens. He is also the president of the Sag Harbor Fire Department Benevolent Association and chairman of the board of the Sag Harbor United Methodist Church.

Mr. Stein, a clinical child psychologist, was appointed to the board six years ago to fill a vacancy when Mr. Gilbride, then a board member, was elected mayor. Mr. Stein had just lost a tight race for election to the board. He later won two more elections for full terms.

“The reason I’m running is pretty straightforward — I’m right in the middle of a whole series of projects. This has been a very complicated time in terms of what the board is actually doing in Sag Harbor because of the domination of the last election by the police negotiations. We’re in the midst of a building boom here, and the code has to be revised and relooked at and adjusted,” he said. Also, he is in the midst of proposing some parking re-designs, including attendant parking.

Asked what his greatest accomplishment has been on the board, he said it includes raising awareness about the problems of stormwater runoff. He is the village’s representative to the Peconic Estuary Program. During his first year in office, he helped establish music permits and legalize outdoor dining. The village’s waste management plant is running at a higher level of efficiency, too, he said. But, there is still plenty of work to be done. “I do frankly feel we haven’t been strong enough at really re-looking at the code,” he said.

Mr. Stein is a member of the board of the Bay Street Theater and Mashashimuet Park, and has been working to make the “shoulder seasons” more rich in recreational activities and cultural events. His wife is Alex Mc­Near, a former reporter at The Star.

While all the candidates are running on their own party lines, both Mr. Shaka and Ms. Schroeder said they support Mr. Stein and hope to see him re-elected to the board. “He’s a delight to work with,” Mr. Shaka said. “He’s phenomenal. He cares the same way I do. He has wonderful ideas. He’s a very good asset to that board,” Ms. Schroeder said.

Mr. Stafford said he “likes doing things on my own,” but that he would work with anyone. “I’ve worked with Robbie before, I know Sandra. I’m impressed with John Shaka. I’m impressed how he talks about the village.”

Mr. Stein said Mr. Shaka has shown he can get things done. “I’d love to see him elected. At the same time, I’ve worked with Sandra. When I first got on, I would come to the village every morning at 7 a.m. and she taught me a lot. She’s a wealth of knowledge,” he said.

The election will be held at the Sag Harbor Fire Department headquarters on Brick Kiln Road on Tuesday from noon to 9 p.m.