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Candidates screen for Huntington Town Board Part I

Arlene Gross
Keith Barrett, Joe Dujmicand Ed Nitkewicz

Part I of a two-part story on the many contenders for Huntington Town Board. Here's a look at the first batch of candidates, what issues are dear to them and why they think they deserve your vote. Next week, we'll cover the remainder of the would-be contenders.

In addition to the two incumbents, 18 new hopefuls have screened with either the Democratic or Republican parities for a seat on the Huntington Town Board.

This November, Democrat Councilman Mark Cuthbertson, and Republican Councilman Mark Mayoka are up for re-election and both have announced their intention to run.

In addition to Mayoka, eight candidates have screened for the GOP nod, said Toni Tepe, chairwoman of the Huntington Republican Committee. They are Anthony Paolano, a trustee of the Cold Spring Harbor Board of Education; Alissa Sue Taff, president of the Civic Association of Sweet Hollow; Nick Chiappetta, Michael Brown, Peter Dennin, and Josh Price, all attorneys; Robert Lifson, a former judge and attorney; and Robert Conte, a businessman and brother of late Assemblyman Jim Conte.

On the Democratic side, 10 potential candidates, in addition to Cuthbertson are under consideration, said Huntington Town Democratic Committee Chairwoman Mary Collins. They are: Jim Kelly, a retired Nassau County Police Department Emergency Medical Technician supervisor; Tracey Edwards, a Verizon executive; Ed Perez, director of relations for Suffolk County; Keith Barrett, president of the Huntington Station Business Improvement District; attorneys Patricia Flynn, Kathleen Casey, Joe Dujmic, and Ed Nitkewicz; Michele Martines, president of Greenlawn's Frazer Park Civic Association; and Michael Kiesel, a hedge fund manager.

Democratic hopefuls

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson
Having served on the Town Board since January 1998, Cuthbertson said he is running again on his record, which includes, among other things, "having held taxes to an average of about a half-a-percent increase in the past four years while maintaining a AAA bond rating, and still improving our infrastructure, parks and open space."

If elected again, Cuthbertson said, "We want to maintain our outstanding fiscal rating and keep the fiscal discipline that we've shown and try and leverage technology to keep costs down and deliver services better."

Cuthbertson and his wife Michelle, live in Greenlawn. They have two sons, 14 and 10 and a 12-year-old daughter.

Tracey Edwards
The region president for Verizon, Edwards noted that she is one of a number of qualified people that screened for the Democratic nomination.

"If chosen, I would be honored to run for office so that I can utilize my community service, school board, civil rights and overall business experiences and background to effectively listen [to] and serve the people of Huntington to the best of my ability," she said.

Edwards and her husband Walter live in Dix Hills and have two sons, 32 and 30, and a daughter, 29.

Jim Kelly
Having lived in Huntington Station for many years and served on planning committee Vision Huntington — now known as Vision Long Island —Kelly has observed much talk about revitalization in the area but very little action. "That will be one of my goals, to motivate some more action on that and perhaps actually put some shovels in the ground and make it work."

Important issues to Kelly are mitigating duplication of government services and addressing crime in Huntington Station more aggressively.

What sets him apart from other potential candidates is the fact that he would work as a full time councilman who would be totally accessible, he said.

"I'm retired. I don't have another job. I don't have a law practice. I don't have any other infringements to bar me from being at Town Hall during business hours or at night."

In light of the recent hurricane, Kelly said he would put his experience in emergency management to work.

Kelly, 62, and his wife Pat have a 25-year-old son.

Ed Perez
Having served as special assistant to former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy for eight years as director of office of minority affairs and director of community relations, Perez has already worked extensively on Huntington Town issues and worked closely with community members and helped develop civic organizations.

When it comes to government, Perez noted that he is not a "Johnny come lately."

Noting that he has an economic development plan, Perez said, "I think that we could form more public/private partnerships, which would bring more projects to our town so that we could protect our tax base."

Serving on the town's Board of Zoning Appeals, Perez said he's very aware of the existing laws that help protect businesses and residents alike.

Perez's platform is centered around four basic quality of life issues: public safety, economic development, protection of the environment and holding down taxes.

Through his experience navigating various levels of government to forge relationships, Perez said he would be the best candidate to "bring back the resources that are needed at the town level that have been promised to us as we send tax money to Albany and the county."

Perez and his wife Neida live in Huntington. They have two daughters, 34 and 31 and a son, 29.

Michael Kiesel
What makes him different from every other candidate, Kiesel said is the fact that he is the only Ivy League graduate – University of Pennsylvania – and that he could raise several million dollars simply by making a few phone calls.

"There's no other candidate who can do that," Kiesel said.

Aside from his access to money, Kiesel said, "We need somebody who's going to analyze the budget in the [town] of Huntington and who's going to control the overtime cost of the employees of the town."

Contending that nobody else has the capacity to do so, Kiesel said his campaign manager, a CPA, has already analyzed the town budget twice and found lots of wasted expenditure on overtime payments.

Kiesel and his wife Lina live in Northport and have a 19-year-old daughter and 17-year-old son.

(editor note)... Since this article was published, Kathleen Casey, Joe Dujmik and Michele Martines have withdrawn.