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Campaign Already Has Supe Feeling Like Punching Bag

Bill Wilkinson felt slighted by comments at Larry Cantwell's candidacy kick-off.

Outgoing Supervisor Bill Wilkinson isn't running in the upcoming election, but he was taken aback by what he described as manipulative, political attacks aimed at him and his administration.

Wilkinson, a Republican who has served for four years, fired off at Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and supervisor candidate Larry Cantwell at a press conference where Cantwell announced his bid for town supervisor on Friday. He hopes to get the Democratic and Independence nominations.

Thiele, a member of the Independence party, did not mention Wilkinson by name in his speech, though he said East Hampton Town needed a new leader.

"East Hampton Town used to have a leadership position on the East End of Long Island. Whether it was land preservation or zoning or the management of the government, East Hampton was first and other towns would look to see what it was doing. That's not the case anymore. That's not the case at all," he said. The reason, he believes, is a fundamental quality he said is missing too often in government: "Not to tell them how smart you are, but to listen."

"We need to bring East Hampton back to a leadership position," he said, mentioning past supervisors whom he said demonstrated that type of leadership; Judith Hope, Cathy Lester, and Tony Bullock.

Notably missing from the list was not only Wilkinson, who was elected after the town's financial mishandling during the Bill McGintee administration came to light, but also Jay Schneiderman, a former Republican supervisor, now a member of the Independence party and a county legislator, who turned down the Republican nomination for town supervisor just last month.

"There was no reason for this attack," Wilkinson said. "You attack the town supervisor who has been an ally up to this point?," he said. "Larry Cantwell has support. Bill Wilkinson is not a threat. But this is what politicians do — the political chameleons come out."

Wilkinson called it a "manipulative and orchestrated" move. "Are they still worried about Bill Wilkinson being a candidate?"

Thiele, however, said his speech on Friday was more about Cantwell than it was about Wilkinson. "It certainly wasn't my intent. I've endorsed him twice. He needed three or four different pieces of legislation to restore the town's finances — we gave him everything he asked for. I've said it before, I think he did a remarkable job repairing the town's finances," Thiele said on Monday.

"I was there to support Larry Cantwell. I really think he's the person to be supervisor," he said. "Obviously, there were references to the fact that this particular town board hasn't gotten high grades for playing well together. "But elections are about the future, they're not about the past. I think Larry is someone who is a consensus builder, who can bring people together."

Wilkinson said he also took exception with comments he felt were targeted at either him or Councilwoman Theresa Quigley, though he attributed them to inexperience.

At his announcement, Cantwell said: "The public is rightfully disgusted with the lack of civility from some town board members. This must change. We must stop trying to find ways to disagree and start finding ways to agree."

Cantwell declined to comment on Monday.

"I do believe that the comments were directed at me and Bill, and I believe it's part of a campaign that's been going on for three years now — painting Bill and I as people who are destructive to the town," Quigley said. "I believe it's unwarranted."

She said she feels doing so is counter productive. "Why can't it be about issues that are facing the town? But it always turns into personal attacks and I find it discouraging."

laszlo Lowenstein April 15, 2013 at 04:18 PM
Oh snap! The reason the comments stung is because they have an element of truth in them. And many of the people of East Hampton are ready for a change. Leading is about more than simply balancing the books left by your predecessors. Wilkinson, a guy who has a reputation for not listening, got the message this time. If you can't stand the heat ...
East Ender April 15, 2013 at 05:27 PM
I'm afraid that this will only be the beginning of commentary like this. My EH acquaintances almost all share the sentiments expressed by Thiele and Cantwell. If Wilkinson and Quigley would stop for a moment and pay attention to what the community feels about their leadership styles, they would each have the opportunity to become more effective leaders in the future. Getting angry about the message they are hearing will only marginalize them further.
election2013 April 15, 2013 at 10:15 PM
Bottom line is Wilkinson saved the Town and now it is time to pass the torch. Cantwell is a good recipient. There is no need for Thiele to dwell on anything but the fact Wilkinson did a "remarkable job" as he himself says above and that Cantwell is the best bet to continue to move the town in the right direction. Anything beyond that is gratuitous and is really unnecessary and unbecoming of Mr.Thiele. Why say what he did - especially about someone who he has worked with and who he supported (twice) and who supported him? It obviously is just personally hurtful to Mr. Wilkinson, who I would guess is done with public life after being willing to come out of retirement to take on a true municipal mess and make difficult decisions and take the heat for those decisions. In the end, as Thiele says, the job Mr. Mr. Wilkinson dis was "remarkable" - so let's move forward with the thought Wilkinson did what was needed to save the Town and it is now Larry's job to lead into the future. Not too difficult to understand.
lutheranliar April 16, 2013 at 12:31 PM
Time to get some grownups who remember how to play nice together to return as our leaders. I have been very disappointed in Wilkinson's 'I know best' leadership style. I voted for him, but as Supervisor, not as King.
Moni April 16, 2013 at 05:05 PM
Boo hoo, Bill's feelings are hurt, and as usual Teresa thinks the problem is with others who focus on her sytle rather than the issues. I don't recall either of these bulies worrying about anyone elses feelings at board meetings. Too bad about 'em.
Lady L April 16, 2013 at 07:43 PM
The trouble with "playing nice together" is it could often mean capitulating to the aggrieved parties. Can you imagine the patience it takes to constantly be barraged by criticism of every move you make? I applaud the current team for their excellent work on saving East Hampton's financial rear end, though I do wish they'd been allowed to liquidate more non-essential property to lower our taxes and debt, rather than financing the debt with a long term loan.
lutheranliar April 17, 2013 at 12:50 AM
Um, perhaps "playing nice together" was a bad choice of words. (misplaced levity; entirely my fault) What I am yearning for is a Board that does not capitulate to anyone, but is measured in its discourse, intelligent, respectful, adult, and open to dialog and cooperation.

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