Saltaire Election Preview 2019

By Danielle Lipiec ~ The polls will be open yet again this year for Saltaire’s general election this Friday, May 24, 2019, between the hours of noon and 9 p.m., at the Saltaire Village Hall. On the ballot will be a chance to vote on one village justice who will serve a four-year term, and two trustees who will serve two-year terms. While current trustees Nat Oppenheimer and Hugh O’Brien run uncontested, residents reserve their right to visit the polls and place their ballot.Here is a little information about the two candidates.Nat OppenheimerBorn and raised in New York City, Oppenheimer first found himself on Fire Island in 2001, alongside his wife’s family, who had frequented Saltaire for the prior 20 years. After two children and a few more years, he rooted himself in the community and bought a home of his own. Oppenheimer immediately became involved in the issues and affairs of Saltaire, which eventually led him to his first term as a trustee in 2017.As a senior partner at the structural engineering firm Silman in New York City for the past 31 years, Oppenheimer has acquired some experience with a variety of issues involving complicated building projects. This experience is what inspired his interest in ongoing debates and discussions in Saltaire regarding proposed buildings, among other matters.“A big part of the joy I get in my career that I’ve carried over into being a trustee is my ability to find consensus among big, complicated projects and groups,” he says. “When I was running for my first term, I saw the trustee position as a way to challenge my abilities.”Oppenheimer’s abilities have been put to the test time and time again, specifically in matters involving building and rebuilding. He has been a present resource in the community’s continued recovery from Hurricane Sandy, in matters such as the debate over whether a wooden or concrete boardwalk should be built at Lighthouse Promenade. As the deciding vote in the controversial matter, he expressed confidence both in his decision to go with wood, and in his delivery of his reasonings.“The feedback I got from people who were opposed to wood was that they appreciated my cogent explanation, and while they may not have agreed, they appreciate that I took a very reasoned stand,” he says. “I think I’ve proven over the last few years that I approach matters like these in a thoughtful manner. I’m able to articulate my opinion without demonizing those who disagree, and have produced good decisions across the board, not only on construction site matters.”In his second term, Oppenheimer hopes to gain more wisdom and looks forward to helping in making proactive decisions with community members.“Saltaire is a very appreciative community, which makes this sometimes thankless task a lot easier,” he says.Hugh O’Brien Veteran Saltaire Trustee O’Brien has been a part of the Fire Island community for longer than he’s been alive; with his family visiting Fire Island for the past 110 years and his parents meeting somewhere between Ocean Beach and Seaview, it seems O’Brien was fated to end up somewhere on the island eventually.He has inhabited Saltaire for the past 60 years, and has spent 26 of the past 32 years serving as a trustee. O’Brien says the time and experience he has accumulated in this position has helped him over time to better serve the community and understand its wants and needs.“I know the community very well and I’ve kept involved in most aspects of it, so I think I understand the dynamics and issues of the community very well,” he says. “Having grown up here most of my life and being on the board for some time, I’ve seen a lot of changes. I think I’m a resource in that sense because I can give a historical perspective, and I have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t work.”Along with this, O’Brien and his wife spent 2010 to 2012 living in Saltaire year-round. These two years and the amount of time he still spends in his Saltaire home in winter months, he says, has given him a good understanding of the needs of the year-round community.O’Brien has spent much of his recent term focusing on the issue of public safety in Saltaire, and looks forward to continuing the recruitment of quality candidates to the community’s public safety force.He believes he plays an important part in other issues as well, including the ongoing rebuilding in wake of Hurricane Sandy. “This sort of thing is an area where I have a very good sense of what we need and what we don’t need,” he says.Outside of his trustee position, O’Brien has made efforts to involve himself in broader Fire Island matters as well. He formerly sat on the Saltaire Yacht Club’s board of governors, and spent two years as commodore. He also once stood as chairman of the Saltaire Citizens Association. Currently, he serves as the second of three vice presidents of the Fire Island Association, as he has since 2011. As of last month, he has been re-elected for another two-year term. O’Brien also serves as the Saltaire community columnist with this publication, since the year 1974.