Port Washington incumbents face no challengers in upcoming village elections

Port Washington incumbents face no challengers in upcoming village elections
Baxter Estates Mayor Nora Haagenson, Port Washington North Mayor Bob Weitzner and Flower Hill Deputy Mayor Brian Herrington are just a few of the incumbents who won re-election on Tuesday. (Photos courtesy of the candidates)

Incumbents are the only candidates running for re-election across the Cow Neck Peninsula March 19 with three villages holding uncontested elections.

The villages of Baxter Estates, Flower Hill and Port Washington North each have three officials seeking seats on their respective boards for another two years.

Village of Baxter Estates

Nora Haagenson- mayor, two-year term

Haagenson is running for her third term as mayor. She served on the board as a trustee for two prior terms.  She retired after a 35-year career as an English teacher in the North Shore School District.

Charles Comer- trustee, two-year term

Comer has served on the board since about 2001, he said. He serves as deputy mayor and is the owner and operator of a wealth management firm.

Chris Ficalora- trustee, two-year term

Ficalora is seeking re-election for his third full term.  He was appointed to the board in 2015. Ficalora is retired after serving as the chief operations officer of a large logistics firm.

Residents can cast their votes at the village hall at 315 Main St. March 19 from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Haagenson, Comer and Ficalora are all running on the Oak Leaf Party ticket. The three officials said they were proud of the board’s ability to maintain minimal tax increases, as well as a reduction in spending while prices have continued to rise.

Ficalora said the board was able to rein in spending by 7.5 percent in 2017-18, by 6 percent in 2016-17 and by 14 percent in 2015-16.

Another source of pride for the three officials is their ability to negotiate and pay off the bond for the village hall.

Haagenson said that with the completed payment of the bond, village officials have been able to reallocate that spending to the village’s capital fund.

In the upcoming term, the candidates said they plan to address the decaying retaining walls and to continue with beautification efforts by planting trees and cleaning up the parklands.

Haagenson said serving as the mayor of Baxter Estates has been one of her greatest joys and she hoped to continue to make the village better for all of her residents.

During her time as an official, she said, she has “brought the village into the 21st century.”

Haagenson said she has worked on the village’s efficiency through staff changes and bringing the village up to speed technologically.

She also sought to improve the village aesthetically with the creation of a village flag and a logo.

Haagenson said her administration has been the first to go after grants, which she said has helped the village tremendously. The village was recently given a grant to update the village court with security equipment, a new podium and a microphone system.

Her next project, she said, is working to stabilize the village’s beach and when completed she plans to work on its beautification.

Comer said one of his favorite accomplishments as trustee was serving as the village’s emergency management officer during Hurricane Sandy. He said Baxter Estates managed far better than anyone else on the Cow Neck Peninsula in the superstorm’s aftermath.

He attributed the village’s performance to having followed the techniques he learned in his emergency training from the county.

He also said he prided himself on preventing the “McMansionization” of the village.

Comer said the board added provisions that said properties could not be built from “lot line to lot line.”

He said this type of building did not match “the character of our village.”

Comer along with Ficalora negotiated the sale of the village hall for ownership by the village of Baxter Estates.

Ficalora is in charge of village finances, which includes calculating the budget.

He said that over his tenure he has revamped the village’s accounting policies, which has brought the board huge savings compared to previous years.

Ficalora noted the state’s stress report, which ranks villages in terms of their financial status. He said most villages of their size score in the 38th percentile.

Baxter Estates is in the top 10 percentile for its financial accountability and financial effectiveness, Ficalora said.

He said he has also been tasked with disseminating information to village residents, which has resulted in a huge increase in information flow.

Ficalora said his goal in the upcoming term is for the village to stay well below the tax cap of 2 percent and build up cash reserves for the highway fund and capital projects.

The highway fund is used to update and renovate the village roads.

Village of Flower Hill

Brian Herrington- trustee, two-year term

Herrington is seeking election for his third full term. He was appointed as the village’s deputy mayor in January 2017 after serving on the village board for two years. According to his LinkedIn profile, he currently serves as the director of government affairs at the Hawthorne Gardening Company.

Jay Beber- trustee, two-year term

Beber began as a trustee after being appointed in 2014. He is running for his second full term. He was in the printing business for 40 year and opened New York City’s first store that focused solely on Apple computer products for use in desktop publishing. He retired a few years back.

Frank Genese- trustee, two-year term

Genese is running for his second full term after he was appointed to the board in December 2016. He is employed as an architect.

The election will be held March 19 from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. at village hall located at 1 Bonnie Heights Road in Manhasset.

All three trustees said they think Flower Hill is an extraordinary place to live and want to aid in maintaining its excellence.

Herrington said he joined the board because he loves to serve his community and in Flower Hill he is able to engage with residents from Port Washington, Manhasset and Roslyn.

He said he considers the enhancement of the Flower Hill County Park as one of the board’s greatest accomplishments during his tenure.

In his next term, he said he would like to address the concerns about traffic safety in the village.

Herrington said the board is reaching out to the state to have them improve traffic flow on Port Washington Boulevard, which is a road that Flower Hill residents use almost every day.

Another area of concern is the general traffic safety around residential roads in the village, Herrington said, which board members are trying to tackle with a right of way committee which will work to implement measures to restrict obstacles that interfere with the village’s right of way.

Beber said his mission as a trustee is to keep residents informed while saving money doing so.

He said with the help of his experience in graphic design, he has spearheaded the redesign of the village website with the goal of making village information as easily accessible as possible.

“My background gave the village access to great services and great pricing and my availability as a retiree lets me design and produce the communication pieces we need to keep residents informed,” Beber said. 

Beber also creates the village newsletter in which he incorporates one of his pet projects by sending out useful information to residents.

Recently, he included a section of the newsletter that listed all of the emergency numbers in and out of the village for residents to cut out and put on their refrigerators.

When sending out the newsletter, Beber said he implemented a program from the U.S. Postal Service that has cut the cost of mailing by more than half.

Six months ago, Beber said, he helped create a visual database that documented all of the construction that was currently occurring or had been completed in Flower Hill over the past year.

In his next term, he looks forward to tackling the challenges and opportunities that the incoming 5G mobile network introduces.

The 5G network is expected to have higher speeds and be more cost-effective than its predecessor, 4G.

Beber would also like to improve the village’s good neighbor policy to ensure that older residents are accommodated in the case of a village-wide emergency.

Genese said serving in village government is important to him because he loves his community and wants to ensure that it continues to be a village that future generations will want to live in.

As a trustee, Genese said some of his favorite accomplishments have dealt with upgrading village infrastructure and beautification efforts.

He said the board has added playground equipment to Flower Hill County Park and has worked to beautify the village’s traffic triangles and entrances into the village.

“I think we’re looking forward to continuing to be very much a resident-friendly village where the residents really are No. 1 and we try to do everything we can to provide the best service for them,” Genese said. 

He said the village staff strives to build personal relationships with residents, which aids in developing their trust.

Village of Port Washington North 

Bob Weitzner- mayor, two-year term

Weitzner has served as mayor of Port Washington North since 2005. He first joined the board as a trustee in 2002. In his professional life, he is the Town of North Hempstead’s commissioner of finance and human resources.

Sherman Scheff- trustee, two-year term

Scheff is running for his sixth term. He retired from working in the manufacturing industry six years ago.

Matthew Kepke- trustee, two-year term

Kepke is running for his third full term on the village board. He was appointed by Weitzner in 2014 after former Trustee Michael Schenkler resigned. Kepke is a lawyer.

Voting will be held March 19 from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the village hall located at 3 Pleasant Ave.

All of the candidates are seeking re-election as members of the Port North Party.

Weitzner has been a major player in the creation of Port Washington North’s Bay Walk Park, a $2.8 million project to beautify the waterfront area on Manhasset Bay that was unveiled in July 2017.

He said as mayor he enjoys bettering the life of everyone in Port Washington through initiatives taken in Port Washington North, such as the beautification of the Bay Walk and new businesses moving into Soundview Marketplace.

The mayor said in the next term, he is going to focus on improving the village’s infrastructure. Roadways, sidewalks and street lighting were some of the amenities that he noted.

He said the village is conducting a road survey with a grant from the Town of North Hempstead which will take inventory of roads from fire hydrants and street signs to trees. The survey will also help identify areas of the road that are in need of repair.

While in the next term Weitzner said he plans to shift the focus from park to infrastructure, village officials will continue to enhance the village’s parks.

He said they are adding a fan to the gazebo in Bay Walk Park as well as making the gazebo handicap accessible.

Not only that, he said village officials are constantly seeking out new art installations for the parks and have already pre-funded three additional amenities which he will announce after the election.

He said he plans to keep pouring art and other additions into the park until it sinks, but he promised he would stop when he noticed that happening.

“We will not have an aquarium in the Village of Port Washington North,” Weitzner said.

He commended the other superstars on the board who make the village run cohesively.

“It just feels so great to be able to come into the boardroom and be able to talk with a sense of connectivity,” he said.

Kepke said in an email to Blank Slate Media that some of his greatest accomplishments while serving on the village government have been the expansion of Bay Walk Park, bringing new businesses to the village and working on the restoration of Robert H. Dayton Park with residents, the local Boy Scouts Troop and the Port Washington Fire Department.

He said he was also proud to be a part of one of the first local governments to implement a law limiting the sale of tobacco products to people 21 years of age or over.

Kepke said there is still more work to do in the village, citing the village government being stretched every year in order to maintain existing infrastructure with limited resources and increasing costs.

He said he hopes that board members are able to finalize the sale of village-owned land that would provide funds to enable the administration to complete infrastructure improvement projects.

He said he is excited to be running alongside Weitzner and Scheff for re-election.

“Over the past several years, the board has acted cohesively and we are able to gain consensus on new matters where we often are able to act unanimously,” Kepke said.

Scheff has said in past interviews that he joined the board to represent residents of Mill Pond Acres Condos, where he lives.

He said it is an honor and a privilege to serve the people of Port Washington North with Weitzner and the trustees.

The trustee said that the board’s accomplishments can be seen throughout the village with their work at Bay Walk Park and improving the Soundview Marketplace.

Scheff said that when the board members make a decision, they take into consideration everyone in Port Washington, not just their village.

He said in the next term he wants to continue doing good work for the village with the Port Washington North Board of Trustees and the popular mayor.

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