This election year, Bill Mott is trying to ascend the political ladder he’s been poised on for a long time.
A 28-year volunteer fireman with the Bridgehampton Fire Department, Mr. Mott has served for 12 years as an East Hampton Town trustee and made a go at the Republican nomination for town board once before.
He was drawn into local government 14 years ago by the late Jim McCaffrey, a town trustee who became his “political stepping stone.”
Mr. Mott, a former Republican, explained that he was going to run for town board a few years back when Bill Gardiner headed the local Republican Party. Instead, he said, “it didn’t work out because they went in another direction.” Passed over for a spot at the top of the ticket, he tried but failed to petition for a primary. “I was upset about it, so I changed parties.” He joined the Independence Party about four years ago.
This year, Mr. Mott was screened by all three parties, twice with the Republicans. “I think they wanted Republicans only,” he said. “When I screened with the Independence Party, they asked if I was willing to run just on the Independence ticket and I said yes right away.”
Mr. Mott described the campaigning process as “pretty hectic,” explaining that trying to juggle political, professional, and personal lives is difficult.
“I don’t mind the campaigning part, but with all the other outside activities that I have, I haven’t been door to door as often as I’d like. I think I’m at a bit of a disadvantage. I put a feather in the cap of those candidates that are working and campaigning.”
Mr. Mott says that he is trying to “hit each of the hamlets,” dividing his time between greeting voters at grocery stores and post offices and walking the streets of the various neighborhoods. He has earmarked Springs for the next couple of days and is trying to attend as many citizens advisory councils as possible. “I’m trying to get my pretty face shown,” he said with a laugh.
With all the events the candidates participate in as the election approaches, Mr. Mott said the boundaries of their various stances and solutions to the town’s troubles begin to blur.
“It’s hard to come up with a new, creative idea because we all meet so often and there are six of us,” he said. “You get to know all your opponents so well. I see them four times a week, and a lot of us have the same thought process.”
Born and raised in East Hampton, Mr. Mott graduated from East Hampton High School in 1968 before joining the Navy for four years, serving in the Vietnam War as a plane captain. His first tour of duty involved reconnaissance missions up and down Cam Ranh Bay.
“Upon returning, the squadron I was in was decommissioned and they sent me to back to Memphis to jet school,” he said. “After six months there, I was reassigned to a squadron on Whidbey Island, Wash. I arrived Friday afternoon and we deployed Monday morning again to Vietnam, this time on the U.S.S. Midway in the Gulf of Tonkin. I oversaw everything.”
Mr. Mott followed up his service with a two-year stint at the Grumman Aerospace Corporation, and in 1980, he took a job at Pulver Gas in Bridgehampton. He says it was a natural decision becuase of his mechanical background and understanding of engineering. Mr. Mott has worked there ever since, and has been a sales manager since 1990.
He believes his 30 years at Pulver have helped prepare him for a town board position. In his job now, he has to listen to the concerns of everyone from home and restaurant owners to contractors and builders. “I deal with people every day,” he said.
Mr. Mott and his wife of 35 years, Mary, have three grown children, all of whom live nearby, and three grandchildren. Outside of work he golfs, clams, and fishes.
That, and his background as a town trustee, seem to have formed his political platform. His top issue, he said, is the protection of the beaches and public access to East Hampton’s rare environmental beauties. He is concerned that a lawsuit against the town by private property owners who claim they own a stretch of ocean beach on Napeague could threaten that.
“We can’t afford to have our beaches privatized,” he said. “Our biggest source of income are the second-home owners and the tourists. We have to start enforcing what we have on the books. The laws are already there.”
It has been several years since the East Hampton Independence Party ran its own candidates for town board, as opposed to endorsing those nominated by the Republian or Democratic Parties. Mr. Mott is sharing the Independence town board ticket with Marilyn Behan of Montauk.
“I feel like Marilyn and I have a good shot at this,” he said. “We cannot have an all-Republican board,” and that fact, he said, gives the Independence candidates “a leg up on the Republican candidates.”