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Jun 11, 2019 1:36 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Sandra Schroeder And Kathleen Mulcahy Compete For Mayor Of Sag Harbor Village

Kathleen Mulcahy.
Jun 11, 2019 3:54 PM

Mayor Sandra Schroeder is seeking reelection to a third term, and Kathleen Mulcahy is challenging her in the Sag Harbor Village mayoral election, which will be held on Tuesday, June 18, from noon to 9 p.m., at the Sag Harbor Firehouse on Brick Kiln Road.

There will also be a four-way race for two Village Board seats on Tuesday.

Ms. Mulcahy said that, if successful in her first bid for elective office, she plans to work on a comprehensive long-term planning study to map out the threats and opportunities that Sag Harbor will face in the next five, 10 and 15 years. She plans to tap into the creativity of residents, and the expertise of county and state experts, she said, as well as discuss issues and create relationships with neighboring towns and villages to identify the best ways to maximize opportunities and protect against threats regarding climate change, water quality, parking and housing issues, to name a few.

In addition, if elected, Ms. Mulcahy said she plans to make the board more transparent to the community with more open dialogue with local newspapers, quarterly board meetings on weekends and in larger venues, and the airing of public input before board votes are taken. She also said she would revamp meeting agendas and minutes to make it easier to include input from the public and other stakeholders and to broadcast selected board meetings.

On a recent Wednesday morning, Ms. Schroeder, the incumbent, was sitting next to Sag Harbor Village Board member James Larocca in the Municipal Building sorting through and stamping paperwork.

A lifelong Sag Harbor resident, Ms. Schroeder explained that her biggest concerns are water quality and groundwater, noting that the Village Board adopted legislation for upgraded septic systems just a few months ago. Ms. Schroeder has been communicating with the superintendent of public works about re-evaluating the current stormwater runoff plan for the village, she said: Stormwater picks up and carries a number of pollutants such as pesticides, sediments, nitrogen, bacteria, oil, grease and trash, into the waterways.

Ms. Schroeder said the board is in the process of hiring engineers to advise and create a professional plan regarding stormwater runoff including the possible addition of more catch basins and wells for the water to flow into.

“Water is rising. We have to start addressing it now,” she said, adding that residents’ cellars and basements have been flooding. “These things are going to happen. You can’t stop water, but if we can redirect it in a better way, and keep as many of the pollutants out of the bay, that will help.”

Another item on Ms. Schroeder’s agenda if reelected is to expand the use of the sewer district, and possibly create a reclaimed water plant to convert wastewater into water that can be reused for other purposes, such as irrigation, agriculture, or replenishing surface and groundwater.

Ms. Schroeder explained that she’d rather see the sewage treated and sent back into the ground, rather than into the bay: Currently, 1 million gallons of treated sewage is pumped into the bay each month, she said, adding however that it is safe, having been tested by the State Department of Environmental Conservation and other entities.

However, Ms. Schroeder stressed, “we’re running out of drinkable ground water,” adding that by 2030, studies show that Sag Harbor will be at a level that is 40 percent less drinkable water than what they have now.

“It’s a major concern,” she said. “We’ve desalinated the bay doing what we’re doing now … If we put the water back into the ground, Mother Nature does a wonderful job of cleaning. It’s not a total win-win, but it’s an awful lot better than what we have now.”

Ms. Mulcahy said water quality is one of her main concerns as well. If elected, she said, she plans to clean up Havens Beach and look into the addition of rain gardens to control stormwater runoff and pollutants.

Two years ago, Ms. Schroeder ran for reelection unopposed, Ms. Mulcahy recently pointed out. “It’s not good for democracy to have people running unopposed,” she said. “If nothing else, I’ll create some conversation.”

Other than the water quality issues, Ms. Schroeder explained that the current board has worked hundreds of hours to acquire land for the John Steinbeck Waterfront Park, and that the board is waiting to secure ownership of the park, which should happen in the upcoming weeks, she said.

“We’re looking to add walkways and benches,” Ms. Schroeder said, adding that the board would like the park to be a peaceful area to read a book, watch the sunset or eat lunch. “We’ve gotten so many neat ideas from different groups, and even kids.”

Ms. Schroeder’s grandfather was a police officer in Sag Harbor after World War II. “My family’s been here forever,” she said. When she was a child living on Oakland Avenue, she said, there were only four houses in the Redwood area of the Sag Harbor. Now, it’s a regular neighborhood with houses on every corner.

“Suffolk Street had maybe two houses,” she recalled, adding that things have changed, but that people are willing to work with the board on maintaining the village’s historic character.

Ms. Schroeder started as a village receptionist, later becoming the village’s clerk administrator. Altogether, she’s worked for the village for 31 years. She retired in 2010 and was elected as a member of the Village Board in 2014. In 2015, she ran for mayor, and she has served two two-year terms since then.

Ms. Mulcahy has been visiting the East End her entire life, she said, and bought a home in Sag Harbor in 1995. In 2001, her family permanently moved to Sag Harbor, and both her children attended schools in the district and graduated from Pierson High School.

Ms. Mulcahy’s first interaction with village regulatory boards was in 1995, when she began renovating her 200-year-old home in the historic district of Sag Harbor Village near Havens Beach, where she currently lives with her two children and their cat.

Ms. Mulcahy was a marketing executive for most of her career, managing Pepsi-Cola’s and Frito-Lay’s accounts, handling $200 million budgets, long-term strategic planning, sales promotion solutions and a team of over 250 managerial staff, she said.

After giving up her commute from New York City to Sag Harbor in 2014, Ms. Mulcahy continued to work as a consultant for major marketing firms, and she became the manager of the gift shop at Guild Hall. In 2017, she received a real estate license, and she currently works with Brown Harris Stevens on Main Street in Sag Harbor.

With a larger population come parking issues, which the village has been dealing with in recent years. Ms. Schroeder said unless someone donates a piece of property for additional parking, the village will have to work with what it already has.

“I would tell you we don’t have a parking problem, we have a walking problem,” Mr. Larocca chimed in, as Ms. Schroeder nodded in agreement. “No one wants to walk.”

Ms. Mulcahy explained that she doesn’t have an answer for the parking issue, but she’d like to speak with other villages to see how they’ve handled similar problems.

If elected, Ms. Mulcahy said, she’d like to increase visibility and transparency by holding meetings at more convenient times, and open communication between the mayor’s office, local groups and the Sag Harbor School Board.

Ms. Schroeder agreed with Ms. Mulcahy’s statement about the board not having enough public meetings and work session, saying that she’d like to include more work sessions in the village’s schedule.

However, Ms. Schroeder said she didn’t agree with Ms. Mulcahy’s idea of adding a village manager or administrator.

“They’re used to running private businesses,” she said of candidates and people who’ve inquired about hiring a village manager. “Government is not a private business. We have laws and rules that we have to follow … It’s a Civil Service position,” she said.

In regards to the Long Wharf restoration project, Ms. Schroeder said that Aidan Corish, a current board member who is up for reelection, has been applying for grants. Overall, the project will cost about $4 million.

“It’s cracked and it’s washing out underneath. It’s a money-maker for the village. There is a great deal of revenue there,” Ms. Schroeder said.

“My biggest concern really is water,” she concluded. “We’re a waterfront community—without it, we’re nothing.”

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