DeBenedittis tops Shannon in EW vote

DeBenedittis tops Shannon in EW vote

A campaign season of surprises in the Willistons ended with another unexpected turn on Tuesday as independent candidate Caroline DeBenedittis was the top vote getter in an election for two seats on the East Williston Board of Trustees.

Attorney Bonnie Parente also won election to the village board on the Community Party ticket, while her running mate for trustee, Robert Shannon, lost in what observers viewed as something of an upset. DeBenedittis drew 479 votes, while Parente drew 407 votes and Shannon drew 319 votes.

Trustee David Tanner, running unopposed for mayor on the Community Party ticket, received 476 votes.

In Willliston Park, Trustee Barbara Alagna drew 236 votes to challenger Jim Bumstead’s 125 to win a race for a one-year term on the village board.

In the voting in Mineola, newcomer George Durham Mayor and Mayor Lawrence Werther both won seats on the board as running mates on the New Line ticket, with Durham drawing 834 votes and Werther getting 691 votes. Independent candidate Christopher Wales pulled 501 votes in a losing bid.

Leading the New Line Party ticket, Strauss tallied 973 votes as he ran unopposed for the mayor’s office.

DeBenedittis, who has a high profile in the village as chairperson of the East Williston Recreation Committee for the past seven years, was an unanticipated late entrant into the East Williston trustee race.

DeBenedittis had talked during the campaign on the disadvantage she felt she had in running as an independent, and both Shannon and Parente had received the endorsements of outgoing Mayor Nancy Zolezzi and Deputy Mayor James Daw Jr.

Tanner decided to run for mayor after Zolezzi chose to not run a fourth time for the post. Daw also decided not to run for re-election. Since Tanner’s term as trustee was expiring, there were two open seats on the board.

“I am honored to have the support of the community behind me as I look foward continuing to work for the benefit of the village,” DeBenedittis said.

As president of the Chamber of Commerce of the Willistons and a private contracting company, Shannon enjoyed a high profile among voters.

“I’m very happy for Bonnie. Everything will work out fine,” Shannon said.

Parente congratulated DeBenedittis on her victory and expressed her thanks to the voters and her running mates in the campaign.

“I am looking forward to the challenge and I fully accept the responsibilities bestowed upon me,” Parente said.

Alagna, who was making her first bid for election, said she appreciated the turnout in Williston Park.

“I’m happy that I won and I’m pleased with the number of voters who participated in the election. I appreciate it and want to say thank you to everybody who voted. I’m glad I’ll be able to continue the productive work I’ve been doing for another year,” Alagna said.

Alagna had been appointed last year to fill the seat vacated by Beth Swenson-Dowd last year when Swenson-Dowd was appointed associate justice. Alagna had expected to run unopposed for to fill Swenson-Dowd’s remaining year on the board. But Bumstead filed to run against her at the last minute, in part because he said he felt that no one should run unopposed.

Alagna pushed her candidacy on the theme of fiscal responsibility. Bumstead flagged concerns about the condition of streets in the village and improved snow removal, but ultimately his one-man campaign – fueled by handing out flyers as he traverse the village on foot – fell short.

In Mineola, a New Line that was late in getting put together but managed a sweep in the voting, led by Strauss.

“I’m excited. I’m looking to roll on and continue on the road we’re on. Its a real good day for us,” Strauss said.

Durham said he was pleased with the result and said the number of votes Strauss received validated his run for mayor.

“It feels good, I was happy to be the top vote-getter. It validates my selection as a trustee candidate,” Durham said. “I’m ready to start serving the resident of Mineola when the board convenes.”

Durham, who coaches girls softball in the village, thanked the members of the Mineola Athletic Association and the Mineola Fire Department who he said came out in big numbers.

Durham also commended Wales for the “honorable” campaign he ran and said the board should appoint him to a position where he would have an opportunity to serve the village.

After being elevated from deputy mayor to mayor when Mayor Jack Martins won election to the state senate, Werther initially said he intended run for the office in the election. But he subsequently changed his mind, citing work commitments, and deciding to run for re-election to his seat as trustee on the village board as Trustee Scott Strauss threw his hat into the open ring.

Strauss was appointed to the board last December to fill the vacancy created when Werther was elevated from deputy mayor to mayor after Martins won election to the state Senate, vacating the mayor’s office.

Wales emerged as a dark horse candidate, filing a petition on the last day possible to challenge incumbent trustees Werther and Thomas Kennedy, who were running mates with Strauss in the New Line Party.

Then one week after candidate petitions were filed, Kennedy told his running mates that new job responsibilities would prevent him from seeking another term in office. Durham then entered the race to replace Kennedy on the ticket.

Durham had previously run unsuccessfully for a trustee seat in 2006.

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