Candidates Profiled: Saltaire 5/22/15 Trustee Election

By Katherine KlahnSaltaire, NY – Residents in the Village of Saltaire will once again have the right to cast their votes in the Village’s May 22 Board of Trustee Election to be held at Village Hall, 103 Broadway, from 12 noon to 9 p.m. Trustees serve a two-year term. This year, two incumbents (Ann Connolly and Alex Chefetz) and one Challenger (Hugh O’Brien) will be running for the two seats.Ann Connolly (Incumbent)Ann Connolly is one of the incumbents in this election, having served her first two-year term in office. During that period, the Harvard Business School Graduate focused on the board working on the restoration of Saltaire after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy by finding ways to fund capital expenditures such as the Saltaire market and revising the Village zoning code to meet to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) mandates dealing with home elevation, access ramps and stairs.Connolly works as a management consultant for TIAA-CREF, which she describes as a not-for-profit that provides asset management and retirement services to those who work in “education, healthcare, and charitable foundations.” In this capacity she helps leaders in business improve productivity, resolve issues and develop capabilities for the future.She considers Saltaire’s biggest issue to be financing.“The biggest issue we face in the next year is to decide on a plan to finance our long term capital commitments,” Connolly says. “Specifically we must determine a mix of debt financing, sale of Village assets and potential cash assessments that appropriately balance the needs of current taxpayers while preserving flexibility for future generations.”She also considers “short term cash flow needs” to be among the Village’s financing issues until it “receives reimbursement for FEMA approved projects” that the Village performed because of new requirements.The lifelong Saltaire resident spent her summers in the Village playing with four brothers as a child and considers service as a Village trustee to be a place where she can display her skills in leadership, “healthy debate” and a commitment to the Saltaire community. “I am interested in giving back to the Village I love. Serving on the Board of Trustees provides an opportunity to do so,” she says.Hugh O’Brien (Challenger)O’Brien may be this Election’s challenger, bur he is no stranger to serving this office. He eleven terms in office as Saltaire as Village Trustee for between the years 1987 and 2013. During that time he worked on 23 Village Budgets, negotiated municipal contracts and revised the Village Code.The issues that O’Brien presently considers crucial to Saltaire include the construction of the Saltaire market and possibility of a new Village Hall.“We must bring these proposals to more realistic proportions so that we can prudently assess our actual needs…and other long-term financial consequences,” O’Brien says.O’Brien added that the Village Board needs to listen to the public before “pushing” forward with any of the projects Saltaire is slated for.“I believe no voice has been raised on the Board to seriously question the plans that have been put forth. I think it’s crucial that there be a more independent voice…one that offers reasonable and informed alternatives…and keeps in mind the fiscal health of the Village,” O’Brien says.O’Brien currently serves as President of the Saltaire Volunteer Fire Company, where he has also been a firefighter, ambulance driver, radio specialist and elected secretary from 2013 to 2014. For the past fourteen years, O’Brien has served in the Fire Island Association, where he is currently the 2nd Vice President.The retired real estate manager is a lifelong resident of Fire Island and has lived in Saltaire since 1959. Public service is in his blood as his grandfather served as a Trustee in the Village of Ocean Beach, while his father served as a Trustee and Mayor of Saltaire.O’Brien considers serving the public a reward, “I believe it’s important for people to work to make their community better while preserving its heritage. Public service to me is a reward in itself,” O’Brien says.He believes residents should vote for him because of his background, knowledge and differing opinion.“Today, the village is on the verge of several crucial decisions that will affect the nature of our community and impact its finances in large and potentially critical ways,” stated O’Brien.Alex Chefetz was contacted by Fire Island News, but declined comment.Saltaire Citizen’s Advisory Association will be hosting a Candidates Forum on Saturday, May 16 at the Saltaire Library beginning at 1 p.m. Ann Connolly and Hugh O'Brien. Editors Note: Candidate Hugh O’Brien is a contributing columnist with this publication, however Fire Island News takes no position of endorsement in the Saltaire Village race.