Larry Cantwell made it official on Friday; He's running for East Hampton Town supervisor this November.
While he doesn't have a major party nomination yet — the East Hampton Democrats, won't announce their slate until early May and the East Hampton Independence Party will only begin screening candidates next week — Cantwell announced his decision after months of speculation during a press conference at the Highway Diner & Bar in Wainscott.
Surrounded by his family and longtime friends and supporters, such as former Republican town supervisor Bruce Collins, Village Deputy Mayor Barbara Borsack, and former Judge Roger Walker, Cantwell said he is ready to take on "critical issues" facing the Town of East Hampton.
A public servant for 37 years, Cantwell was the youngest elected bay constable and elected twice to the town board. For the past 31 years, he has served as the East Hampton Village Administrator, a position from which he will retire this summer.
When he first announced his retirement back in October, he said he hadn't intended on running for supervisor, a position currently held by Bill Wilkinson, a Republican who is not seeking re-election. The Republicans first choice, current County Legis. Jay Schneiderman, declined the nomination.
However, in the months that followed he received a groundswell of support, and it became apparent, he said, that "To resolve these critical issues we need a leader now more than ever who is a concensus builder."
Assemblyman Fred Thiele, I-Sag Harbor, introduced Cantwell on Friday. Thiele, a friend of since high school, said the Town of East Hampton needs to a leader like Cantwell.
"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, such as Judith Hope, Cathy Lester, Tony Bullock.
"We need to go back to the future — back to the future for East Hampton and to do that we don't need a Delorean. We don't need a flux capacitor, we just need a new leader."
As the chief financial officer of the Village of East Hampton, he guided village finances to an accumulated surplus every year for three decades. "I am prepared to manage town finances with the same vigilance."
He thanked Congressman Tim Bishop in securing $20 million to restore the beach and protect downtown Montauk. "If the implementation of this project is left to the next supervisor, I want to assure the people of Montauk that that will be a top priority for me," he said. He said the town needs to adopt a town-wide mitigation and recovery plan to protect our shoreline and residents from coastal erosion.
"We need a strong consensus to maintain a small and safe airport and a clear strategy to reduce noise impacts on residential neighborhoods," he said referring to the often contentious issues surround the East Hampton Airport.
Other aspects of town government he plans to take on are upgrades in technology to make it more efficient, longterm capital planning to address deteriorating infrastructure, quality of life, and supporting planning and zoning, while also supporting business, which he said do not have to be mutually exclusive.
He said he also wants to bring civility back to Town Hall. "The public 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. I will treat my colleagues on the town board and the public with dignity and respect," he said. He also said, "a negative cloud hangs over town workers and permeates government. This must change."
"Our quality of life is threatened is threatened by huge parties on public beaches and some town leaders who have supported rock concerts on busiest weekends in the middle of summer. This must stop," he said. "If elected, I will lead party politics outside the front door at Town Hall."