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Nov 4, 2009 12:06 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Longtime hopefuls finally earn wins as highway superintendent, Trustee

Nov 4, 2009 12:06 PM

Two veteran also-rans on the Southampton Town political scene finally got their moments in the spotlight on Tuesday night, snatching victories for the Democratic Party in two offices the party has not held for decades.

Democrat Alex Gregor easily beat Republican John McGann for the town highway superintendent’s position. Bill Pell, a frequent candidate for Southampton Town Trustee, finally earned a seat on that ancient and historically Republican-dominated board, becoming the first non-GOP candidate to do so in more than three decades. He is joined by four of the five incumbent Trustees, with Brian Tymann the odd man out.

The unofficial Suffolk County Board of Elections results show Mr. Gregor with 6,572 votes, or 55 percent of the vote, while Mr. McGann talled 5,348 votes, or 45 percent.

Mr. Gregor, endorsed by the Democratic, Working Families and Independence parties, kept a low profile during Tuesday night’s election watch at the Democratic rally in Southampton Village. Once he learned that he had secured the highway superintendent’s office, he enthusiastically thanked his supporters and family.

“Nine years to get here,” he said. “Perseverance pays off.”

Mr. Gregor had run for Town Trustee in 2003, challenged outgoing supervisor William Masterson—who is retiring at the end of this year after 20 years on the job—for the highway superintendent post in 2005, then ran for Southampton Town supervisor in 2007.

“They wanted to keep this from us,” he said. “But we showed them what hard work can do.”

Mr. Gregor may be the first Democratic highway superintendent in the town’s history. Mr. Masterson, a Republican, has held the post for two decades and said his Republican predecessors had held it for at least 25 years before that.

“He may well be the first ever,” Mr. Masterson said. “I congratulate Mr. Gregor. He ran a good campaign. I will do everything possible to make the transition smooth.”

During closing remarks at Republican headquarters in Hampton Bays, Mr. McGann, taciturn and disappointed, stood to the side of the crowded stage. Citing wins by fellow Republicans, Mr. McGann called his loss “bittersweet” and thanked his supporters.

“It’s, of course, disappointing,” Mr. McGann said after all the party’s candidates had made their thank-you speeches. “I think for a first-time candidate, we ran a good, honest, straightforward campaign.”

In his third attempt to break the Republican Party’s stranglehold on the five seats of the Board of Trustees, Mr. Pell garnered the fifth-most votes, 508 votes more than incumbent Trustee Brian Tymann.

Mr. Tymann was running in his first reelection campaign. He was appointed to the Trustees in August 2007 after Scott Strough resigned. He won election to the board a few months later.

Though the Republican Trustees campaigned as a united slate, they are on the ballot individually, and the top five vote-getters earn seats on the board. The Democratic Party, after years of scratching together five-candidate slates to challenge the Trustees, chose to fight for small victories this time around and offered only two candidates for the Trustees race this year.

“It’s a long time coming,” Mr. Pell said at the Democratic Party rally in Southampton Village on Tuesday night. “It took 36 years for a non-Republican to be sitting here.”

According to unofficial results from the Suffolk County Board of Elections on Wednesday morning, Mr. Pell, a commercial oyster grower who ran unsuccessfully for Trustee in 2005 and 2007, received 6,043 votes. Mr. Tymann, who runs SunStream USA, a renewable energy company, received 5,535.

The four other incumbent Republicans on the Trustees cruised to easy wins. Ed Warner Jr. was the top vote-getter with 7,756 votes, followed by Board of Trustees President Jon Semlear, who got 7,503. Eric Shultz received 7,289, and Fred Havemeyer received 6,294. The other Democratic candidate, political newcomer Chris Garvey, received 5,461.

Mr. Semlear said on Wednesday morning that having Mr. Pell on the board will have little impact on the way the Trustees do business. “The way we operate here is, you leave the politics at the door, and you get in there and everybody works together,” he said. “I don’t think it will be any different than it was in the past. I look forward to working with Billy. He’s anxious to get to work and I’m confident that he will be a welcome addition to our board.”

Mr. Pell agreed. “I don’t look at it as a Democrat and Republican thing,” he said. “We represent all the town people and we have to have their interests in mind.”

Mr. Tymann had only two lines on the election ballot, the Republican and Conservative. His Republican running mates each had at least three. Mr. Warner, Mr. Semlear and Mr. Shultz had four: Republican, Conservative, Independence and Working Families. But Mr. Pell and Mr. Garvey got the Independence Party’s other two nominations. Mr. Havemeyer had the Republican, Conservative, and Working Families.

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Way to go, Bill. Finally!
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Nov 4, 09 12:06 PM
Good job, Bill!
By fcmcmann (417), Hampton Bays on Nov 4, 09 12:27 PM
If there were ever a town position that should be filled by an appointed professional, selected from a group of qualified individuals with prior experience, with no greard to policital party affiliation, it is that of Highway Superindentent. And after that comes Town Supervisor.

There is a reason that both Southampton and East Hamptown are in a mess - well intentined amateurs can seldom deal with the complexities of managing towns of this size.
By Sag (54), Sag harbor on Nov 4, 09 12:40 PM
1 member liked this comment
Bill will surely be missed. Alex taking over is like ametuar hour.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Nov 4, 09 1:26 PM
1 member liked this comment
Masterson will be missed like a bad case of hemorrhoids. Morale has already doubled among staff.
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Nov 4, 09 9:23 PM
Alex will do as good a job as Bill...which isn't saying much! Bill is one heck of a nice fella, but politics runs too high on his list of priorities.
By Dodger (161), Southampton Village on Nov 4, 09 2:31 PM
Congratulations and best of luck to Bill and Alex.
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Nov 4, 09 2:51 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By slamminsammy (104), East Moriches on Nov 5, 09 9:40 AM
Congrats Bill!
By SH Local (8), Southampton on Nov 5, 09 9:50 AM
Way to go Gregor and Pell! You have taken on and won against the machine. The GOP power brokers out here must be steaming mad.
Well Done!
By SHNative (554), Southampton on Nov 5, 09 11:12 AM
I don't like the way this town is run. too much development.
By deKooning (106), southampton on Nov 5, 09 3:03 PM
Only for the last 40 years ...
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Nov 6, 09 9:01 AM
Start up the unimproved road program. Its time that the town charging everyone for maintenance on unimproved roads, take them into the highway system and repair them. Its taxatiion without representation and is unfair. Seek federal monies and make our roads the best there is. Its time for a change and thats why you were voted in.
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Nov 7, 09 7:09 AM
SSDD we will see alex stuffing political fliers in my door.been trying to have lighting repairs done on my street for 3 years running deaf ear program.depends who you know or who you $^&W.business as usual.
By asurest (117), easthampton on Nov 7, 09 8:45 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By hb61 (2), Hampton Bays on Nov 7, 09 9:06 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By SHNative (554), Southampton on Nov 7, 09 10:38 PM
Alex Gregor becomes the first non-Republican Highway Superintendent in memory, and Bill becomes the first non-Republican Trustee ever, as far as anyone knows. Momentous stuff, but that's all politics -- the real question is, are they any good? Most people would probably concede that Bill Pell's credentials are at least equal to those of any present Trustee, so that it sort of does come back to politics, in the sense that it can't be a bad thing to have some mix in the group, all other factors ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Nov 8, 09 4:36 PM