Popeleski, Stone face off in Manorhaven mayoral race and trustee slates

Popeleski, Stone face off in Manorhaven mayoral race and trustee slates
Mayor John Popeleski (right) and Trustee Jeff Stone (left) will face off in Manorhaven's mayoral election on June 18. (Photos courtesy of the candidates)

Manorhaven Trustee Jeff Stone is challenging Mayor John Popeleski in a bid for the village’s mayoral seat and leading a slate of two newcomers opposing two incumbent trustees for their seats in an election on June 18.

Nancy Rozakis and Robert Swerdlow have filed petitions to challenge Deputy Mayor Harry Farina and Trustee Monica Ildefonso, who are seeking re-election.

The Village of Manorhaven will hold the election from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m.  Polling will occur at Village Hall, 33 Manorhaven Blvd.

In their bids for mayor, Stone and Popelesi are clashing over village transparency.

“I wanted to pull the curtains back and let people see what is going on so that we could have more sunlight coming in,” Stone said. “After all, sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

Popeleski contends that he is overseeing the most transparent Manorhaven government to date.

“I am not afraid to answer anything,” Popeleski said. “We are a very transparent government. I’m not hiding anything.”

The Village of Sands Point will also hold an election on June 18 from noon until 9 p.m. at Village Hall.

Trustee Sloan Ackerman, Trustee Danny Khazai and Village Justice Alyson K. Adler are all seeking re-election in uncontested races.

Popeleski joined the board as a trustee in 2016 and was elected mayor in 2022.

He said he is seeking another term as mayor to continue the projects he has been working on and bring some to fruition.

This includes projects involving the village’s aging infrastructure, such as relining its sewers, finishing the preserve, working on the dog park, and upgrading equipment for the Department of Public Works.

Popeleski said he also wants to restructure the village’s taxes.

Popeleski touted as accomplishments during his mayoral tenure keeping the village clean, the village’s sewer maintenance program, phase one of the village’s preserve trail project, installing a new generator at the village’s pump station, purchasing new equipment, and establishing a new office trailer for the village Department of Public Works.

Popeleski said if re-elected for another term, he plans to replace the sewer force main line, a long-term effort that may take multiple years, and secure grant money for multiple projects.

“Because if I don’t have to float a bond, it’s saving the taxpayer money,” Popeleski said.

Stone, a local mental health and substance abuse advocate and a licensed real estate agent, was elected to the board as a trustee in June 2023.

He said he is running for mayor to establish an open and transparent government, rebuild fiscal responsibility and foster integrity and honesty through “clear and strong government.”

Despite his efforts, Stone said he has been unable to contribute to the board of trustees as he intended when first elected because he was excluded by the other board members.

Disagreements and fighting have been evident at board of trustee meetings over the past few months between Stone and the other four board members.

Popeleski blamed Stone, saying he disrupted meetings multiple times when asked to discuss building developments in the village.

Stone said he has been treated poorly since joining the board, which motivated him to run for mayor.

“I didn’t want to start out in a fight like this, but I’m not going to shy away from a fight,” Stone said. “But I can certainly behave in the best interest of the village.”

Popeleski criticized Stone for seeking his job after serving for less than a year on the board. He said Stone does not know how the village’s government operates.

“He should learn how to be a trustee and understand village government first before jumping into a mayor’s position,” Popeleski said. “A mayor’s position in this village is almost a full-time job.”

Popeleski also said it is a “lie” that he and the village are not transparent.

To bolster transparency, Stone suggested that meeting agendas and minutes be posted on the village’s website in a timely manner and that a livestream option be offered for its meetings.

An agenda for the village’s board of trustees meetings has not been published on its website since October, but meeting minutes have been put online since December. All meetings are only held in person.

Popeleski said the village website has been slow to be updated because the village does not have a clerk.

Since the last clerk was removed more than a year ago, the village’s deputy clerk has taken over responsibility, Popeleski said, which has created a heavy workload for the deputy clerk.

Popeleski said the village had to let the clerk go due to an internal problem and is not able to hire a new clerk due to a court order.

He said plans are in the works to redesign the website, which may help improve communication with residents.

Popeleski said his goal is to serve village residents and he has an open-door policy in communicating with them.

“I’m here for the people,” Popeleski said.

Stone expressed the same purpose, saying he, too, is running to serve the residents of Manorhaven.

One idea Stone offered is to establish committees so that residents can better voice their concerns to the village. This could include committees on the environment, local infrastructure, or finances.

“So I want to get the best people within the village to contribute,” Stone said. “I want to make them feel like they have a voice that can be heard and will be heard. I want to work with everyone, I want to hear everyone’s comments, opinions.”

Stone cited a diminished quality of life, large local developments without community input, limited government transparency, and infrastructure that needs upgrades as his focus.

“I want people to enjoy living here instead of just living here,” Stone said.

Stone said he wants to improve infrastructure like the village’s sewers, promote the local environment, support local businesses and increase communication with residents if elected.

Stone is hopeful about Manorhaven’s future and has seen some progress. But, he said, he wants more.

He encouraged residents to get involved in Manorhaven’s government, saying he wants to work together with them.

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