There are 18 candidates for nine seats on the East Hampton Town Trustees, which own much of the town’s harbor and bay bottomland on behalf of the public. The trustees are also the town’s enforcers of the Dongan Patent, a 1686 colonial contract assuring residents perpetual right of passage along the shoreline, among other rights. What follows is a series of short biographies of the candidates in alphabetical order. The interviews were conducted by Stephen J. Kotz, David E. Rattray, and Christopher Walsh.
Ira Barocas (1 of 18)
Ship captain, boat owner, sailing instructor, and scuba trainer are on Ira Barocas’s résumé. Since retiring, the New York City native has served as president of the Duck Creek Farm Association in Springs.
Though running as a Democrat, Mr. Barocas said he is apolitical. The trustees, he said, “ought to use the bully pulpit. I see them as the conscience of East Hampton in protecting the environment.” He pointed to shellfishing, aquaculture, and clean water as priorities.
The trustees’ relationship with town boards and departments, such as the zoning and planning boards, has become adversarial and must be improved, he said. “If we cannot coordinate between ‘secular government’ and the traditional government that the trustees represent, we are shooting ourselves in the foot, paying two sets of legal teams to fight something that doesn’t require a fight.”
Tim Bock (2 of 18)
Tim Bock, a Republican, Conservative, and Independence Party candidate, is seeking his fifth two-year term as a trustee and said he is dedicated to “saving the reason why people come out here — the beaches. Without them we wouldn’t have anything.”
Mr. Bock’s father was a bayman, and he said he worked the waters himself when he was young. “It’s how we grew up,” he said. “We hunted here, we fished here. I want to see it stay the way it was when we were children. I want to see access available to everyone. I don’t want to see beaches where you have to pay to park.”
Like his fellow trustees, Mr. Bock said defending the public’s beaches against suits brought against them is paramount. “That and revetments are probably the two biggest issues facing this town now,” he said. “If you have revetments everywhere you are going to lose the beach. The soft approach is best. Let nature replenish what’s been there for hundreds of years.”
Mr. Bock said he was a staunch defender of beach driving. “I’d never vote against that,” he said. “I can’t see any reason unless something really dramatic happens, and there’s never been a reported incident ever.”
Mike Bottini (3 of 18)
For Mike Bottini, the outdoors has been both his passion and his profession. He was an environmental planner for the Group for the South Fork and has taught at St. Lawrence University, Long Island University, the City College of New York, and the Ross School.
He is a nature columnist for the Press News Group and has written several guides to local trails and waterways, including “The Walking Dunes: East Hampton’s Hidden Treasures” and “Exploring East End Waters: A Natural History and Paddling Guide.” He was the chairman of the town-appointed Springs Citizens Advisory Committee from 1999 to 2001 and is a member of the East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue squad.
Mr. Bottini is a frequent leader of educational paddle outings for such organizations as the South Fork Natural History Museum. He appears on Tuesday’s ballot on the Republican, Conservative, and Independence Party lines.
Brian Byrnes (4 of 18)
A longtime East Hampton resident, Brian Byrnes, who has been endorsed by the Democratic and Independence Parties, is the foreman superintendent for the Windmill I, Windmill II, and St. Michael’s affordable senior citizens housing developments. He is also a member of the East Hampton Disabilities Advisory Board and a volunteer at the East Hampton Food Pantry.
In their endorsement, Elaine Jones and Pat Mansir of the Independence Party praised Mr. Byrnes for his “working everyday knowledge of the waters surrounding us, and the trustee-owned roads, creeks, and breeding estuaries.”
An outspoken advocate for affordable senior citizens housing, Mr. Byrnes has also cited the housing needs of younger local people who want to continue living here. Mr. Byrnes, who ran unsuccessfully for trustee in 2005, promised, if elected, to be “an advocate for our community and a truly dedicated trustee.”
Tom Cooper (5 of 18)
A ninth-generation resident, Tom Cooper, running on the Republican and Conservative tickets, attended East Hampton High School and went on to graduate from Skidmore College with a degree in biology and chemistry. “I moved back and started my own business,” Mr. Cooper, a contractor, said.
He served on the East Hampton Village Zoning Board of Appeals while a resident of the village, and now lives outside village limits. He is a lieutenant in the East Hampton Fire Department, a member of the East Hampton Presbyterian Church, and has coached youth sports teams.
Trustee, he said, “is the one nonpolitical job” in East Hampton. The present board of trustees has done a great job, he said. The trustees are “nonpolitical to the extent that they all work together as residents, and preserve the land and our waterways for the people of East Hampton — not for individual homeowners, per se, but for the entire community.”
As a lifelong resident, Mr. Cooper said, “you grew up enjoying our beaches. You grew up fishing in Gardiner’s Bay. You grew up going for walks in the Montauk dunes, going to see the seals come in. Those are things that are part of our childhood, part of our community. That’s the one thing that everybody can agree on, I think: to preserve and to cherish.”
Dennis Curles (6 of 18)
“Someone has to make the tough decisions,” Dennis Curles, a lifelong resident of Amagansett, said of his campaign for trustee on the Republican, Conservative, and Independence tickets.
Mr. Curles graduated from East Hampton High School and then spent four years in the Navy. He worked for the town for 33 years, retiring five years ago as crew chief at the town’s recycling center.
“From the time I was a boy we were always on the water. We scalloped, we clammed, we enjoyed all the things that there were to enjoy,” he said. “I have the time, the energy, the passion, and would like to be involved with the trustees for all the good work and projects that they do. I want to make sure that generations to come will have the same opportunity to enjoy what I have.”
Mr. Curles said that erosion, water quality, and beach access were among the top issues trustees must address. His neighbors in Amagansett, he said, are “working people who have 12 weeks to enjoy the beach with their families and kids. So be it.” At the same time, he supports a common-sense approach to vehicles on beaches, such as the controversy over trucks parked on “baby beach” at the mouth of Three Mile Harbor.
The trustees’ job, he said, is a thankless one. “I don’t think they’re appreciated for what they do,” he said. “It’s something we take for granted, but someone has to take some heat.”
Afton DiSunno (7 of 18)
Afton DiSunno believes that the education of young people and the general public about the natural world the town trustees are responsible for is a top priority. Ms. DiSunno comes from a legal-services background. She has been involved in a range of community groups, including the Ladies Village Improvement Society, the League of Women Voters, the East Hampton Early Learning Day Care Center, and the Anti-Bias Task Force. She has also been involved with church youth ministry and has taught Sunday school.
“Our community, waterways, and beaches are very important to me,” she said. “I would like the chance to make a difference, and would also like to get youth more involved. It’s important for them to know about this place and how to keep it healthy.”
Water-quality monitoring, public access, and hope for a renewed partnership with Town Hall are among her goals should she be elected as a trustee. She said that the trustees’ sewage pumpout boats’ season and locations could be improved to better protect the town’s harbors.
She became an East Hampton resident more than 20 years ago, when she married a member of the DiSunno family. She is backed by the Democratic Party.
Stephanie Talmage Forsberg (8 of 18)
Stephanie Talmage Forsberg is seeking her fourth term on the Republican and Independence lines. Ms. Forsberg, who has a doctorate in marine science from Stony Brook University, led a trustee effort to establish a water-quality testing program in East Hampton waters this year. The trustees are working with Stony Brook and plan to summarize the results of the testing at a public forum later this year. The program is 100 percent funded by the trustees through mooring fees and other permit revenue.
Ms. Forsberg has served as assistant clerk of the trustees for four of the six years she has been on the board and says the trustees have faced more than their share of challenges, from lawsuits over the ownership of sections of the ocean beach at Napeague to a suit against a recent decision of the town’s zoning board of appeals.
“We do what we believe is right,” she said. “At the end of the day, we can’t go wrong with that.” She said it has been a “humbling experience to be elected by my peers” in the community to help manage the public’s beaches and waterways.
Ms. Forsberg teaches biology and a science research class at Hampton Bays High School. “It’s a challenging career,” she said, “but I’ve been loving every second of it.”
Edwin Geus (9 of 18)
Edwin Geus, a licensed real estate broker with Brown Harris Stevens in East Hampton, is running for town trustee as a Democrat. Born on a cattle ranch in California in 1938, Mr. Geus spent summers on rangeland in Nevada. He settled in East Hampton with his wife, the former Averill Dayton, in 1968. He worked as an electrician for two years before entering the real estate business in 1970.
Erosion is a serious concern, Mr. Geus said, but adding hard structures like revetments, as some beachfront property owners are attempting to do, is counterproductive and should not happen. “I lived in Wainscott from 1968 to 1971. At that time, the jetties that were installed in the village, especially in front of Juan Trippe’s house, caused erosion there,” he said. “The best thing to do, frankly, is retreat. Build a nice, safe dune, and stay behind it.”
Mr. Geus also feels that the trustees should be more aggressive in protecting beach access and the public’s use of the property under their jurisdiction. “They are trying to do more, but I don’t think enough is being done to protect the water quality, and to protect the fact that a lot of people use the beaches. I strongly believe that everyone has a right to use the beach, but I also think it’s a privilege and that you have to use the beaches with care. I also think that we’ve got to work on water quality in Northwest Harbor and Three Mile Harbor.”
Deborah Klughers (10 of 18)
Seeking a second term on the Democratic and Working Families lines, Deborah Klughers holds a bachelor’s degree in marine science and sustainability studies and a master’s degree in marine conservation and policy from Stony Brook University.
The main issue facing the trustees is the fight “to keep the public lands public and not allow encroachment by private property owners or other levels of government,” she said, adding that the trustees have been finding success when their rights are challenged by lawsuits. “We are being reaffirmed and reaffirmed,” she said of court decisions.
Although the trustees typically have a limited budget, Ms. Klughers said their designation as a municipal corporation allows them to purchase land, and she would like to see the board play an increased role in the public acquisition process.
Ms. Klughers expressed her concerns to the State Department of Environmental Conservation about the high number of pesticides showing up in the groundwater and surface waters. “I’ve asked them to do something, to take a stand,” she said. “I asked them how can I do my job when they don’t do theirs.”
While the trustees operate two pumpout boats that provide free service to boats in local harbors, she wants to see more marinas with pumpout facilities and believes the trustees can help them obtain state grants and put pressure on them to do their share.
Stephen Lester (11 of 18)
Stephen Lester, who served as a trustee for 10 years before losing his seat in 2009 only to win it back in 2011, is seeking re-election on the Democratic slate. He comes from a family that has lived in East Hampton Town for more than 300 years, many of whom have made their living on the water.
Mr. Lester said a chief concern of his is getting the town board, zoning board of appeals, and other town agencies to acknowledge the trustees’ authority. “We’re having a hard time with the Z.B.A. recognizing us and with all the hard structures they’ve given to people,” he said.
“The whole thing with beach erosion is you have people trying for hard structures and we’re against that, especially on the bay side,” he said. “Once you put in a hard structure, you lose the beach and the neighboring property gets destroyed.”
Mr. Lester said he was committed to “keeping the beaches open to the public and all the trustee properties open to the public.”
He said he was happy with a new program introduced this year for the trustees to perform their own water testing. “It’s great because the D.E.C. doesn’t come out here much. I guess they don’t have the funding,” he said. Improved testing should allow the town to avoid unnecessary closures of local water bodies to shellfishing, he said.
Like his fellow trustees, Mr. Lester said the group operates as a body of one. “I can’t take credit for any one thing,” he said. “We all work well together.” He is running on the Democratic and Independence lines.
Sean McCaffrey (12 of 18)
Sean McCaffrey, whose father, Jim McCaffrey, was a long-serving trustee, is seeking his second term on the board and has been endorsed by the Republican and Independence Parties.
During his first term, the biggest issue was Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath, he said. “Sandy threw a lot of work at us,” he said. “You had people trying to build things who didn’t have permits, and we had to work fast, trying to get permits for those people who came to us and wanted to rebuild before summer.”
Despite the heavy workload, he said he was satisfied that the trustees “did a good job trying to preserve the public’s land and let people protect their homes.”
Mr. McCaffrey said a key issue for the future is getting better enforcement on the public’s beaches. “Marine Patrol is good, but they just don’t have enough people to be everywhere at once.”
He said the trustees would continue to fight to allow beach driving and protect the public’s rights to beaches. “We’re confident,” he said of the board’s outlook on suits challenging the ownership of Napeague ocean beach. “We’re doing everything we can to fight, but it’s well worth the fight.”
Major issues likely to face the board include protecting water quality and dealing with coastal erosion, he said.
Diane McNally (13 of 18)
Diane McNally is the trustees’ self-appointed clerk, an administrative role that has grown to be a full-time job. She is the first woman in the trustees’ three-centuries-plus history to serve as clerk.
Ms. McNally began her involvement with the trustees as its secretary in about 1983, winning election for the first time in 1989. She became clerk, or presiding officer, two years later. “At this point what I have been trying to do is be the teacher, the mentor, on the board.”
She said that a perennial struggle for the trustees was assuring that other parts of government did not try to bypass their authority. “We have to assure that the trustees have input,” she said. Among her concerns are shoreline management, making sure watershed development does not harm the marine environment, and pressing for upgrades to commercial and residential septic systems that may impact waterways.
Ms. McNally lives in East Hampton and comes from a long line of residents; she is a 12th-generation Bonacker with roots in the Bennett family.
Nat Miller (14 of 18)
Nat Miller, whose family has been in East Hampton for 14 generations, is one of the few remaining full-time baymen in town. He is seeking his second term on the Republican and Independence tickets.
During his first term, he said, he concentrated on “trying to reintroduce many of that laws that have been on the books for years but have been forgotten or pushed aside, whether it be mooring grids or size-limit rules.” As a result, he said, someone who wasn’t happy with his efforts sabotaged his fishing and boat equipment several times this winter. Mr. Miller said he would not be intimidated. He argues that townspeople must adopt a new spirit of shared responsibility for its natural resources.
“This whole town is running wild, from every aspect of code enforcement to illegal housing and structures on the beach,” he said. “If something is not done soon . . . I don’t want this place turned in to the Rockaways. It’s time to get a grasp and figure out where we are as a community and where we want to be.”
Compromise is the key, he said. While he adamantly supports beach-driving rights, he said those who do it need to be respectful of the rights of others as well. He added that the same holds true for the beach at Maidstone, where there has been conflict between families and vehicles. Many of the problems could be rectified by beefed-up enforcement, he said. Referring to Indian Wells Beach in Amagansett, which has become party central, he said, “I don’t think the right to have alcohol on the beach should be taken away just because a bunch of hipsters come out and drink excessively.”
One of the biggest problems facing the trustees is erosion, he said. “I take the soft approach, or retreat,” he said. “It’s proven when you put hard structures up on beaches, the beaches get washed away.” Mr. Miller said he was confident that the trustees would prevail against property owners who have sued over the ownership of portions of the beach at Napeague. “If you pay taxes in the Town of East Hampton, you have every right to use the beach.”
Brian Pardini (15 of 18)
Brian Pardini is a land surveyor and bayman. He is married and lives in Springs and has a daughter who goes to the Springs School.
Like several other candidates in this year’s election, he is part of the Amagansett DiSunno family, going back four generations on his mother’s side. For him, public access to beaches, trails, and woodlands is a top priority, as is educating newer residents about respecting and taking care of the ground and surface waters. He studied horticulture and computer-aided design at the State University at Morrisville.
Mr. Pardini said that his fishing and scalloping gave him a good understanding of what is going on in the water, and surveying meant that he had “stepped pretty much on every part of East Hampton.”
He said that improved enforcement of waterways and beaches regulations would be an interest of his should he win Tuesday. Working to let new residents, including those for whom Spanish is the primary language, know about the rules and local traditions was an interest of his as well, he said. He has Republican, Conservative, and Independence backing.
Cate Rogers (16 of 18)
Cate Rogers, a full-time resident of Springs since 2002, grew up on Great South Bay and saw that once-productive body of water fall apart. She got to know the South Fork in the 1960s with her parents, who kept a boat in Sag Harbor.
She is making her first run for town trustee after serving on the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals from 2004 to 2010. As a member of the Z.B.A., she said in an interview this week, she learned how things were done in town government. She cited the day-to-day permit review on that board as valuable experience she could bring to the new post.
Ms. Rogers, who is running as a Democrat with Working Families backing, ran her family’s business, a 7,500-seat arena in Commack, before moving to the South Fork. “It’s just a feeling that this is where you belong. It’s a special place to me,” she said. “That’s one reason I’m running for trustee.”
She said her top areas of concern were water-quality testing and protection, assuring trustee jurisdiction over trustee lands and waters, and open access to trustee holdings. She has been involved in the Cornell Cooperative Extension horseshoe crab study as site coordinator, during which, she said, she was alarmed at their low numbers in the places she looked. While supportive of shellfish aquaculture, she said she was hesitant to back anything that blocked recreational and commercial harvesters from using trustee bottomland.
Ms. Rogers strongly opposes new hard structures on the beaches for erosion control. As an all-seasons paddleboarder, she said she has seen the damage seawalls can do and personally noted the refracting wave action they create.
Loretta A. Sears (17 of 18)
Loretta A. Sears is making her second run for a post on the East Hampton Town Trustees. She grew up in Amagansett, spending time on and around South Fork waters, and attended the Amagansett School and East Hampton High School. Professionally, she has been a painter and paperhanger, and for many years she has been the dockmaster at the Montauk Lake Club.
“I would like to keep this area for everyone to enjoy as I did,” she said in an interview on LTV earlier this year. She appears on the Democratic line.
Bill Taylor (18 of 18)
Bill Taylor, running for trustee as a Democrat, has been making his living on the water since 1977. Born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island, he moved to East Hampton in 1989 when he was hired as a harbormaster for the town. At present he serves as the town’s waterways management supervisor.
Mr. Taylor was active in the implementation of beach-driving regulations and was involved in the effort to have local waters designated no-discharge zones by the federal government. He also spent many years working on the town’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program.
Mr. Taylor favors a greater emphasis on local regulations. “A first priority should be keeping local waters pristine, and then that the neighboring waters are pristine. But it all comes together.”
The trustees “have to stand up as the people who protect the public’s rights.” The town board and the people it has appointed to zoning and other boards “have gone complete