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Official election results: Koch to lead new board of trustees amidst multiple Village departures

Village by: Joanne Kountourakis, March 17, 2022

Northport Village Hall on election day. 1,714 residents turned out to vote; 131 absentee ballots were received.

The Northport Village election results were certified at yesterday evening’s board of trustees meeting, the last meeting for three current board members – Mayor Damon McMullen and trustees Ian Milligan and Tom Kehoe. Three winners from Tuesday’s election are scheduled to be sworn in on April 5; Ernest Pucillo, who won the race to fill the vacancy left when Mercy Smith resigned from her position, was sworn in last night, and immediately took his position on the board.

The winners and their vote tallies from Tuesday’s election are as follows:
Mayor: Donna Koch with 1015 votes. Fellow mayoral candidate Dave Weber brought in 799 votes.
Trustees, four-year term: Meghan Dolan with 1034 votes, and Joe Sabia with 983 votes. The third candidate for trustee, James Izzo, received just ten votes less than Mr. Sabia.
Trustee, two-year term: Ernest Pucillo with 880 votes. Michael Bento received 716 votes.

Mary Louise Biunno received 1274 votes and will return to her position as Village Justice. Robert Polizzo, who launched a last-minute campaign for Justice, received 177 votes as a write-in.

The turnout
According to Village officials, 1,845 people voted in this year’s election. That number includes 131 absentee ballots. While higher than turnout in 2018 (1,532 voters) and 2020 (1,624 voters), the March 15, 2022 election failed to come close to a record turnout in 2004, when 2,777 people voted.

Newcomer, and perhaps the freshest face to Village politics, Trustee-elect Meghan Dolan brought more voters to the polls than any other candidate in the mayoral or trustee races. “I am so honored and humbled to have received the most votes of any candidate on the ballot in a contested race,” Ms. Dolan said in a written statement to the press. “It was a very strong message of support from the community and I am excited to get to work.

“I would also say that the campaign, being in our community, with my family and friends, and meeting so many residents was a highlight of the whole process,” said Ms. Dolan, adding that she looks forward to meeting even more community members and working hard over the next four years to keep an active connection to all residents in Northport Village.

Ms. Koch also pulled in a sizable win over Dave Weber in the race for mayor, bringing in over 200 more votes than the current trustee. Ms. Koch did not immediately return requests for comment but posted on her Facebook page the evening of her victory a photo of herself on Main Street with the caption: “Thank you to everyone who voted for me. I will make you proud.”

Northport Village Clerk Amy Grandy swears Ernest Pucillo into his position on the board of trustees. Also pictured, from left, are Dave Weber and outgoing board members: Mayor McMullen, Trustee Ian Milligan and Trustee Tom Kehoe.

Also notable
The March 16 board of trustees meeting, where the certification of the prior evening’s vote took place, included many other mentionables:

Trustee Pucillo
Ernest Pucillo was sworn in as trustee less than 24 hours after the polls closed. He began his two-year term immediately, taking a spot at the table next to outgoing trustees Ian Milligan and Tom Kehoe, both whom did not run for reelection.

Rain gardens
After serving two consecutive terms, Trustee Ian Milligan used his last meeting to applaud the taking off of a rain garden program he worked on with the Village. “It took a long time, but it is really nice to see that the first project is going to get done,” he said. The Village will be installing three other rain gardens that will happen this year, he added. “It’s exciting, I think it’s a really good thing for the Village, and I think once we start building them we’ll realize that it’s a really economical way to control water runoff with the huge benefit of helping pollution in the harbor,” Trustee Milligan said. “I’m glad that… in the tailend of my term, I got to see it actually get off the ground.”

Friendly farewells
Trustee Milligan shared in the feelings of gratitude, from both other board members and members of the audience, during what was the final meeting for himself, Trustee Kehoe and Mayor McMullen.

“It’s been a great experience, I really enjoyed it, I learned a lot, I feel that I made a difference… that I was able to contribute and I feel that I am a better person coming away from it,” he said. After congratulating the new board, Trustee Milligan thanked all the Village employees and board members, singling out an emotional Mayor McMullen for his “tireless” work.

“I really don’t think people realize how much he did for the Village. He was not the one that went to the ribbon cuttings or was out kissing babies,” said the trustee. “He was here working, he treated it like a full-time job. The term he oversaw saw hurricanes, nor’Easters, a major theft from an employee, a minor theft from an employee, Covid, Trump rallies…” Despite this being one of the hardest terms that this Village has gone through, continued Milligan, the mayor made huge strides to “make the Village a better place for everyone, a better place to work, an easier Village to manage and run for the future boards coming.”

A shift in mood
Dave Weber, who lost the race for mayor but retains his spot as trustee, thanked his fellow board members before their departures, publicly noting, despite occasional differences in opinion, his respect and admiration for Mayor McMullen. He also applauded Village Treasurer Len Marchese, Village attorney Stu Besen and Village clerk Amy Grandy, as well as Village Administrator Roland Buzard and Don Tesoriero, assistant to the mayor, for their work. Things turned, however, when Trustee Weber expressed disapproval of what he called “smirks in the audience,” and took a stance against recent election coverage in print publication, The Observer.

“The reason why I’m sitting here is because I have the respect of enough people out in the community to come up here and put my life right here in this seat because they know I am going to do good,” Trustee Weber said. “I have dedicated my life, my family has dedicated their lives to the Village of Northport, it’s just what we do. I don’t expect anything from it, but I do expect a little bit of respect.”

A visibly affected Mr. Weber criticized local coverage of the election, referencing what he described as “a lot of innuendo, and hearsay and outright lies written in the paper.” The public reproach elicited responses from Mayor-elect Koch, as well as The Observer writer and editor Dave Ambro, both seated in the audience, before multiple board members called for Mr. Weber to move on.

“I’m trying to get the community to come together because that’s what this community is about… and we discussed that,” Mr. Weber said, nodding to Ms. Koch. “Over the next two years, I would really like for our community to come together and work together.”

A retirement
Treasurer Len Marchese opened his report to the board by announcing his retirement after over close to 15 years with the Village, noting what he felt was a turning point in his work and career. “I think it’s time for me to kind of move on. I’ve been 35 years in public service, so I think I’ve earned it,” Mr. Marchese said. “I’ve had a good run, the Village has been really good to me, and I love the place.”

Mr. Marchese applauded the Village for being fiscally responsible in both normal times and in times of catastrophe, like Covid. “We don’t have to go scrambling for money, we have our money, we have our reserves…. We’re the last resort here. When I say we need reserves, it’s not because I want to hold people’s money, it’s because I am being the most responsible person in the room.”

Having had a “really good conversation” with Mayor-elect Koch earlier in the day, Mr. Marchese said he looks forward to working with the board over the next couple of months to enable a smooth transition. “I talked to Donna, I’d like to work with the transition to try and figure out who will be a great new treasurer,” he said. “I don’t want to drop the ball. We built a lot here.”

A resignation
Northport Village Clerk Amy Grandy announced earlier today that she will be resigning from her position effective later this month. With the Village for one year, she said in a conversation with the Northport Journal that she’s enjoyed her work environment very much, and spoke fondly of her coworkers and the current board members. She does feel she’s leaving with unfinished business – things were just getting started, she said. But when incoming Mayor Donna Koch would not guarantee her position as clerk past six months, Amy said, she had to go with job security and accepted an offer to return to her former employer, Signature Bank. Her last day is March 29, 2022.