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Aug 5, 2009 11:29 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Challenger fires the first salvo in supervisor race

Aug 5, 2009 11:29 AM

By Brian Bossetta

With the political party nominations now set for November’s general election, the much anticipated battle for Southampton Town supervisor between incumbent Linda Kabot and Town Board member Anna Throne-Holst is on.

While the two have sparred in the past, it appears that Ms. Throne-Holst has fired the opening salvo in what is likely to be a hotly contested race centering on the state of the town’s finances, and who is better equipped to lead the municipality during a flagging economy.

Ms. Throne-Holst, who is heading into the election with the Democratic, Working Families and Independence parties’ nominations, recently sent a letter to town residents announcing her campaign platform and criticizing Ms. Kabot, who is seeking reelection with the Republican Party nomination.

“I don’t have to tell you Southampton Town is a mess,” Ms. Throne-Holst states in her letter. “The current administration (in fact, the last few) has had neither the will nor the capacity to address the economic, environmental and social challenges afflicting our town and our local government.”

Ms. Kabot, who is running for reelection on her many years of experience at Town Hall, has said that the town’s financial troubles stem from “budgeting gimmicks” and mistakes made under the administration of former supervisor Patrick Heaney, which is why Ms. Kabot said she challenged him for supervisor in 2007.

The current supervisor argues that she is uncovering some of these past problems and correcting them, and that she is the one most qualified to continue that work.

“From day one as supervisor, I have made such necessary improvements my number-one priority,” Ms. Kabot said, “beginning with truly stating the financial condition of the town with operating deficits and the need for corrective action and open, honest discussion.”

But Ms. Throne-Holst, who was elected to the Town Board in 2007, argues that Ms. Kabot isn’t up to the task of turning things around in Southampton.

“The supervisor, as the chief administrator and chief financial operator of the town, is supposed to understand how government works and how to run day-to-day operations,” the councilwoman wrote in her letter. “Our current supervisor has demonstrated little or no capacity to do either.”

Ms. Throne-Holst also takes a swipe at Southampton Town Republican Party leadership for its handling of its nomination for supervisor, which was initially denied to Ms. Kabot and then given to her after an agreement was reached between party leaders and the supervisor.

“To make matters worse, the Republican Party, after trying to oust their own incumbent, has drastically changed course yet again and decided to endorse the supervisor they’ve been publicly trying to dump,” Ms. Throne-Holst said in her letter. “Clearly, this isn’t a person or a party capable of running town government.”

Ms. Kabot acknowledged the party friction, which she said was made worse by “certain political figures within my own party” that kept matters involving the town’s fiscal distress “close to the vest.” Still, Ms. Kabot said, there are some silver linings.

“Although the Town of Southampton is under severe financial distress, there are several positive factors to consider,” she said. “Many of which I spearheaded as supervisor with key town administrators.”

The supervisor highlights an upgraded bond rating, which increased from AA to AAA in 2008, a positive 2008 Comprehensive Annual Financial Reporting, or CAFR, report, mid-year budget cuts that she sponsored and moderate tax increases to help pay down deficits. She also pointed to the hiring of a new comptroller to lead the town’s financial department, and ongoing audits and updated financial policies aimed at not repeating the failed practices that, she said, were commonplace under the prior administration.

But Ms. Throne-Holst states that much of the unearthing of the past problems and the turning around of the ship is due to her initiatives, such as calling for forensic audits, restructuring the comptroller’s office and proposing her own series of budget cuts.

“As you know, I’ve uncovered problem after problem and exposed them to understanding coverage in the local media,” Ms. Throne-Holst stated in her letter. “But still we’ve gotten nothing but finger-pointing and slow going from Town Hall.”

The councilwoman, who said she is running “as a team” with fellow nominees Town Board member Sally Pope and Sag Harbor attorney Bridget Fleming, said she needs a majority on the Town Board to address the financial issues facing the town. “Town government is leaderless and none of the needs are being effectively addressed,” she wrote.

Regardless of who the voters elect in November to lead the town for the next two years, both Ms. Kabot and Ms. Throne-Holst agree that more needs to be done in order to pump up the town’s revenue stream, balance the books and clean up the financial mess.

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Thank you Linda for all your years of service - and goodbye!
A solid, capable, fresh team is needed to unravel the unholy tangle that was fueled in good part by prior supervisors with the express permission of the inactive and generally slothful go-along-to-get-along board members. Does anyone really think that those people who created the mess are the ones who are going to put their full energy into resolving it? Remember the classic definition of insanity is repeating the same behavior and ...more
By barberosa (39), Watermill on Aug 5, 09 6:35 PM
2 members liked this comment
Anna is the one to lead us out of this mess. From the day she entered town hall (as a rookie member) she was on to the financial problems created and hidden by Republican administrations. Good luck to ATH, Sally and Bridget
By number19 (111), Westhampton on Aug 5, 09 9:47 PM
1 member liked this comment
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Aug 6, 09 5:03 PM
Go LINDA! So proud of you!!
By Sam (252), Westhampton Beach on Aug 9, 09 7:36 AM
Chris Nuzzi is the real person who needs to be re-elected in Southampton. Nuzzi is the one with the steady hand and the experience needed in Southampton. Regardless of who wins the supervisor's race, Nuzzi is the one person that Southampton ABSOLUTELY needs on the town board to provide the balance leadership that is so basly needed.

Rumor has it Anna might be willing to support some type of town wide level school tax rate. That means everyone living in the Southampton, Sag Harbor, Sagoponack, ...more
By truthinbonac (46), Amagansett on Aug 12, 09 11:23 PM
I thought this article and posts were about the Supervisor race. Guess not. And so long as another door is open we might want to question why the last 3-1/2 years have seen almost no activity from Mr. Nuzzi? He's only gotten political religion in the last couple of months now that it's election season and he's fighting for headlines. Ya gotta think that when he does something good there's another reason for it.
By barberosa (39), Watermill on Aug 13, 09 11:37 AM